Our BLOG

Content Production During Quarantine: How Brands Can Keep Creating, No Studio Required

John Degray, Associate Creative Director
Liz Furze, Associate Creative Director
April 30, 2020

High-quality digital content has become a core pillar of marketing for modern brands. It’s how you reach new audiences, engage with your existing fans, hone your message, and express your brand’s unique values and personality. It’s how a new brand emerges from chicken-scratch on a whiteboard as a living, breathing online entity. 

At AMP Agency, social content creation is our bread and butter, so to speak, and we’ve built out an in-house studio capable of producing top-notch stuff for the brands we work with, from follow-along recipe videos to stop motion lifestyle layflats to jaw-dropping beauty product photography. We learned to measure the impact of our work and evolve accordingly; we adapt to the always-shifting landscape of best practices (4:5, no, 9:16, still images, no wait, everything video!). 

Then COVID-19 hit. And all of that changed.

Suddenly, brands across the board have been forced to approach their content strategy from an entirely new angle. In some cases, content created months in advance might now seem irrelevant, or the entire strategy may feel off. At AMP, we’ve been challenged to create the caliber of content our clients have learned to expect from us...but without the tools and processes we’ve become accustomed to. And it’s not just an ‘AMP’ challenge. It’s an ‘everybody’ challenge. 

We’ve learned a thing or two from the last few weeks of coping with this crisis as we strategize along with our clients to deliver content in a whole new way, while our studio remains dark in our Times Square office and our employees are scattered throughout New York City and beyond. Of course, we’ll all continue to adapt as the crisis and its aftermath play out. In the meantime, here are some strategic ways that brands can re-think content production during a time of uncertainty.

Look Back 

In a world of pay-to-play, unless your pockets are bottomless (if you’re one of those clients…call us?) there are plenty of eyes that haven’t seen your content from the past year. Chances are, lots of dollars and time went into that work. This is the perfect time to reflect on your past content calendar, assess your output, and consider how you can adapt it for right now.

We always start by asking a few questions: What worked? Why did it work? Would it work again? What would need to change? 

Sometimes, this solution can be as simple as resurfacing old content and running it again with refreshed copy. For Welch’s Fruit Snacks we were able to update old creative by swapping in new packaging and put the ads back into market with updated, more tonally aware copy.

welchs-4

Or, if your past content doesn’t feel relevant now, simple edits can often help breathe new life into your existing assets—no production required. That might mean adding some updated art cards or a new text overlay. It could also mean experimenting with the ad format—can you translate older Instagram feed assets into Instagram Stories, or update a few existing ads to run as one collections unit? 

When it comes to video, try combining high-performing assets or re-cutting a spot to create a new story arc. We’ve worked with recording houses to do completely remote sessions with our voice over talent to update our scripts on the fly—no sound proofing required!   

Re-using content might not be the solution to all your social needs, but it’s a low-touch way to take what you’ve already done and up-cycle it into something fresh. So before you rush to create all-new everything, take some time to peruse your inventory. Just like going through your closet, you might find a piece from last season that just needs a little re-working to fit your current style.

Look Inward

Okay, but what if your content from last April just won’t work right now? Don’t fret. It turns out there’s a small army of passionate creators right at your fingertips…your own team. 

Right now, depending on your workflow, employees may be feeling restless and eager to find new ways to contribute to business. The internet is on fire with the quarantined masses showing off their newfound love of breadmaking and their perfectly choreographed dance to Blinding Lights. Chances are your staff is discovering new skills, new passions, and new dance moves just like the rest of us. So embrace it. Encourage them. And then feature them.

Has anyone internally expressed interest in creating content for you? Or are they already creating interesting content for their own personal brand? Handing the reins over to your team is an ideal way to champion some of your brand’s biggest fans. Plus, consumers love to know the insider scoop. That might mean sharing a carousel of recipes your employees are making, a video of a makeup look they’re trying out, a snap of their stay-at-home #OOTD, or a blog post on how they’re approaching childcare while working during quarantine.

Feeling adventurous? Go Live. It took a pandemic for brands to really embrace Instagram’s live feature, but it’s having a moment and we are here for it. Live Q&As are a simple way to let consumers engage with your brand in a way that feels bespoke, and get to know the humans behind the brand. For example, for our coffee client Lavazza, we partnered with their in-house trainers to launch a live series around helping consumers elevate their at-home coffee experience beyond traditional drip coffee.

Need more inspiration? TBWA Singapore produced a heartwarming spot for their client Ikea created exclusively with TBWA staff members. Nordstrom has done an incredible job of utilizing their internal team on Instagram TV, showing off a cocktail recipe from one of their store bartenders, a self-care tutorial with one of their beauty directors, and a yoga series with a member of their marketing team. Our own client, Sam Edelman, recently launched a weekly series called Moodboard Mondays, featuring the inspo their staff is pinning in their Instagram saves. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 1.20.18 PMChances are your staff is full of creative minds with diverse talents. Featuring them brings authenticity and humanity to your brand—and will only bring you closer to your consumer. 

Look Outward 

When you’ve got goals for your brand and a distinct vision for your social media feed, sometimes DIY content won’t cut it. But how can you bring outside resources in to help your brand when professional production is at a standstill?

We usually see influencers as a way to reach audiences. But what if we shift to see them as micro production studios? Influencers can be extremely affordable one-person operations, capable of crafting high-quality content with the talent fees baked right in. Creators across YouTube and Instagram are accustomed to working with limited resources, often shooting at home on their own equipment. Try to find lesser-known influencers whose visual aesthetic aligns with your brand’s and partner with them to create the custom content you need.

Alternatively, you might not have the resources right now to create custom content at all. That’s where your fans step in. Asking questions and creating hashtag buzz on social media isn’t just a best practice to engage your audience; it’s a way to generate more content. Take inspiration from clothing brand Maje. They use Instagram Stickers to ask questions of their audience, and then re-posts the answers with a simple image. It’s a low-lift way to show some brand personality and build affinity with their audience, and it’s something they can replicate again and again with success.

Contentproduction

You can also try setting a challenge for your audience on TikTok or elsewhere on social. For our client Just For Men, we launched the #letsgrowtogether challenge around the insight that lots of men are using this opportunity to try out the quarantine beard (some more successfully than others). We cheer them on, and re-purpose the posts we receive across social media and re-post to Instagram.

JFM-2 For Lavazza, we asked fans to share their WFH setup (plus their daily coffee, duh) using #LavazzaAtHome to win bags of coffee. It was a chance for us to collect images to encourage consumers to drink more Lavazza at home. We reshare those images across our channels and give fans some love at the same time.

Lavazza

Finally, when in doubt, curate. In a recent piece on the rise of the curator, Strategy Exec Ana Andjelic writes, “Modern aspiration is not about having money to buy things, but having taste to know what to buy. That’s where human curation comes in, and why it’s increasingly considered both a differentiator in fashion, food, travel, wellness, [and] design...” In short, curation is an expression of your brand’s point of view and distinct niche. Re-posting found images and video from other sources allows for brand storytelling and can help you develop an atmosphere around your brand. 

Woman-focused coworking space The Wing does an excellent job of this, posting stills from films or shows that evoke the image of a well-rounded, culturally savvy woman with a wicked sense of humor, no doubt their intended audience. See also the oft-hyped Supreme, which solidifies its NYC cred with gritty photos and footage pulled from history

Look Good - But Not TOO Good

As Creative Directors, we’ve spent years trying to elevate our brands. We labor over the minute details, from lighting to props to pantones, all in pursuit of perfect visual consistency. But that desire for spot-on perfection has been replaced with a greater need. We’re all craving authenticity, vulnerability, and honest connection more than ever. Looking at the world through brand marketing goggles feels insensitive and, frankly, inappropriate. And as a gesture of solidarity with our collective feelings of fragility, the content your brand releases right now doesn’t have to be so polished—and in fact, it shouldn’t be.

Consumers have become forgiving and are willing to look past less professional production in hopes of seeing a greater impact or a more human message. If your brand is doing something important to help those affected by COVD-19, don’t be afraid of putting out an awareness video that’s not up to your normal audiovisual standards. Your audience won’t mind. At AMP, we’ve turned employees’ kitchen pantries into makeshift studios to record voice-over so brands can update their messaging quickly in the ever-evolving landscape. Sure, the sound quality isn’t flawless, but in the era of COVID, the greater sin is appearing tone deaf. And in fact, it can be really refreshing to see brands release content that has a more personal feel.

Across social media, we’ve been inspired and delighted to see our favorite Sesame Street characters take to Zoom playdates (filmed on an iPhone), or the Bon Appetit gang moving from the glossy BA Test Kitchen into their own home galleys. We loved the moving montage that Facebook put together using both user-generated and photojournalistic footage to intro the Facebook Community Health Platform. This content feels all the more impactful because it reminds us that we’re all in this together—we’re all stumbling through the novelty and the inscrutability of quarantine and doing the best we can. So as a brand, don’t be afraid to let your guard down. Shoot on an iPhone. Record on your laptop. Show your consumers you’re right there with them. 

And Above All…

This is, admittedly, a tough time for brands—because it’s a tough time for everyone. And while we sometimes forget it, there are humans behind every brand who care and want to do right by their product, their consumers, their employees, and their society all at once. 

Our ultimate advice: be genuine and provide value. Consumers are seeking meaning and action due to the heavy nature of our current cultural climate. If your brand can’t make a big splashy contribution to relief efforts, or if COVID-19 messaging just isn’t really relevant to who you are as a brand, remember it’s okay to be quiet on social media right now. Take a step back and orient your efforts toward where you can truly create impact for your brand and your consumers. That might mean focusing on customer experience or employee relationships rather than content. Just remember: if a tree falls in the woods and you don’t post an Insta story about it…it still fell. 

Doubtless, the situation will continue to evolve, and so will the way we communicate as brands. Embrace the uncertainty. Let your teams be creative. Loosen the reins. And above all, be true to the soul of your brand. If you’d like to talk more about how your brand can navigate the presently murky waters of content development, we’re excited to continue the conversation. After all, murky as those waters are, we’re all floating in the same boat.

Related Posts

Community Service Ideas For MLK Day 2021

This Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Observed on the third Monday of every January, this holiday celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and the legacy he leaves behind. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service, encouraging people to volunteer in an effort to help improve their communities. Considered a “day on” instead of a day off, many of us at AMP are dedicating today to helping support our communities – and we encourage you to do the same. Here are some of the ways you can give back to your community this MLK Day. Volunteer or Donate to a Food Bank or Organization Want to help folks in need?  Try volunteering at your local food bank to help feed the people in your community. If you’re not able to volunteer in person this year, think about collecting some food to donate.  These organizations below are great places to get started: Feeding America Meals on Wheels Donate to a Charity Organization  Looking for something you can do from home?  Consider making a donation to a charity of your choice. There are a number of excellent causes and organizations that you can donate to this MLK Day, including these non-profits: MLK Community Hospital Children’s Trust  Movember  Participate in a Neighborhood Clean Up Interested in helping improve your community?  Gather a small group of neighbors and lead a neighborhood clean up. Your group can pick up litter, plant trees and flowers, and help neighbors clean their yards. Be sure to observe social distancing and wear a mask and gloves.  Walk in an MLK Day March Want to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?  Search for local MLK Day marches and celebrations that you can safely attend. Encourage friends and family to also attend or volunteer at events and organizations around the country. If you’re interested in learning about more service opportunities, check out this directory.   

Google Search Trends Insights December 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for December 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. The Last Month of 2020 It’s been quite a year, eh? After November with all of the election query volume, we weren’t sure we’d have the energy to craft another examination of Google Trends data. Thankfully, if we learned anything from this year, we know that we are more resilient than we ever imagined and we have the strength to write as many articles as needed to close out the year. Even though December didn’t have an election, there were plenty of things that people found interesting and turned to Google to find more information. Here are the highlights from the data we collected from Google Trends. December Doodles The keyword phrases with the most queries were all attached to Google Doodles in December 2020. They were the only phrases reported as having 10 million plus queries. Sudan the last male northern white rhino - 12/19/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries Winter Solstice Great Conjunction - 12/20/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries New Year's Eve - 12/30/2020 - 10,000,000+ queries Each of these phrases were connected to a Doodle that sat at the top of Google.com. Every click on the Doodle drove users to the Google result page with the phrase populated in the search box. The case and the punctuation are copied exactly as they are reported in Google Trends so if the phrase has multiple words in lowercase, that’s what we report here. The first keyword is related to the ongoing rhino conservation efforts and the dangers of extinction. With Jupiter and Saturn appearing close to each other in the sky, there was a Doodle created to celebrate a vision that has not been seen in almost 800 years. Lastly, Google had a Doodle up for NYE. The AMP team finds it interesting that the days of the query volume are shifted one day ahead of the actual event (Example: New Year’s Eve is December 31st, not December 30th). This shift in the data may be due to how Google Trends is measuring the beginning and ending of days. An earlier start time could account for this shift. Holidays December is known for its holidays. Here are the phrases that we categorized as Holiday terms. Best Buy - 12/14/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Santa Tracker - 12/23/2020 - 5,000,000+ queries Merry Christmas wishes - 12/23/2020 - 500,000+ queries Merry Christmas - 12/24/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Restaurants open on Christmas - 12/24/2020 - 500,000+ queries Happy New Year 2021 - 12/30/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Ball Drop 2021 - 12/31/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Best Buy made the list because they had sold out of gaming consoles and were restocking on the 15th. The Santa Tracker is a perennial favorite, but is the popularity waning? Search query volume for this phrase peaked in December 2018. Santa may need a little more PR next year. Along with the other Christmas phrases, we saw the utilitarian phrase of  “Restaurants open on Christmas” made the top 3. We hope that restaurants received more orders this year as the pandemic has taken a large toll on the industry. Finally, there were more New Year’s Eve queries including one related to the famous ball drop. What Are We Going To Watch? We saw a good number of queries related to streaming video content. Here’s the list of shows and movies that were noteworthy in December. Selena Netflix - 12/3/2020 - 500,000+ queries Mandalorian - 12/18/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Mandalorian - 12/18/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries The Midnight Sky - 12/23/2020 - 500,000+ queries Soul - 12/24/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Wonder Woman 1984 - 12/25/2020 - 5,000,000+ queries The Mandalorian’s Season 2 finale was so popular that it made the top 3 twice (somehow) on the 18th. Glitches like this one are not new to the AMP team, but we report them just the same.  The big winner appears to be Wonder Woman 1984, which received the most query volume of any video content related phrase. Broadcast TV drove queries too, but at smaller volumes.  Timothee Chalamet - 12/12/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Who Won 'The Voice' 2020 - 12/15/2020 - 500,000+ queries LeAnn Rimes -12/16/2020 - 500,000+ queries There were a couple of celebrity names queried because of their appearance on shows.  Timothée Chalamet hosted Saturday Night Live and LeAnn Rimes won this season’s The Masked Singer competition. People also wanted to know who won The Voice this year, but clearly the winner’s name wasn’t that important. Gaming and Tech News There were some notable keywords that are related to video games, for good and bad reasons, that made the daily top 3 in December. Fortnite Season 5 - 12/1/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Cyberpunk 2077 - 12/7/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries Cyberpunk 2077 - 12/7/2020 - 500,000+ queries Cyberpunk 2077 - 12/9/2020 - 1,000,000+ queries On December 1, Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 5 launched and is set to end on March 15, 2021. Cyberpunk 2077 had a large promotion and made the top 3 twice (again, somehow) on the 7th.   The game launched on the 10th of December, but news of glitches and poor performance on game consoles drove queries even higher. Beyond video games, there were other tech related keywords that made our list. Spotify - 12/1/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Airbnb stock - 12/9/2020 - 500,000+ queries Bitcoin - 12/16/2020 - 500,000+ queries Spotify’s yearly release of “Your Top Songs” has been gaining popularity over the years. Take a look at what this feature does for search interest in the brand every December. AirBnB went public and Bitcoin hit a record high last month (and it keeps increasing)! Fall and Winter Sports Our last section of the year is focused on sports. Just over a third of the queries that made the daily top 3 were related to sports, which is typical of pre-Covid months. The list of the 2 Million plus queried phrases includes mostly NFL-related keywords. Russell Westbrook - 12/2/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Steelers - 12/6/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Cowboys vs Ravens - 12/8/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Browns - 12/14/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Raiders - 12/17/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Alabama football - 12/18/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries NFL scores - 12/19/2020 - 2,000,000 + queries Steelers - 12/21/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Dolphins vs Raiders - 12/26/2020 - 2,000,000+ queries Maybe when we can attend live games, we’ll see this sports-focused distribution more often in our monthly reports. Check out Google’s Year in Search 2020 if you haven’t already. It is powered by Google Trends so if you have been reading this series regularly, much of it won’t be news to you. Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, we invite you to learn more about our SEO services. Until next month.

AMPlifier - Social Media Industry Update - Week of January 11, 2021

Welcome to the AMPlifier – a spotlight on the latest and greatest industry updates. Whether you want to learn more about this week’s marketing trends, the newest updates to your favorite social platforms, or simply what meme is currently taking the internet by storm, then read on. You never know what you might learn. INSTAGRAM TESTS NEW STORIES LAYOUT ON DESKTOP Instagram is testing out a new format for the display of Stories on the desktop version of the platform, which is designed to make it easier to scroll through the various Stories from the profiles you follow on the bigger screen. Read More SNAPCHAT RELAUNCHES PARTNER SOLUTIONS PROGRAM TO PROVIDE MORE ASSISTANCE OPTIONS FOR ADVERTISERS Snapchat has re-launched its marketing partner program, which redefines its two partner categories to better clarify the types of assistance and guidance options available. Read More LINKEDIN ADDS NEW 'PRODUCTS' TAB ON COMPANY PAGES TO HIGHLIGHT SPECIFIC PRODUCTS LinkedIn has announced a new 'Products' tab for Company Pages, which will provide a dedicated space for businesses to showcase their product offerings, and highlight key features, via their LinkedIn presence. Read More That’s a wrap on this week’s feed. Stay tuned to see what happens next.