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Using Film to Create Change: How a Single Mom from America’s Heartland Revealed an Opportunity

A few years back, I was working with one of our major retail clients to help them reconnect with a customer segment they once intimately knew but gradually lost touch with. Our brief: create empathy with and understanding for the myriad challenges rural consumers face. So, my colleague and I packed our bags and traded Boston for America’s rural heartland, having no idea what we’d learn or what stories we’d come back with.

While everyone we met gifted us with insight and perspective into their worlds, one woman in particular stood out among the rest. She was a single mom in her 50s, and she was a survivor in every sense of the word; she had survived brain cancer, several stretches of unemployment, and was the sole caretaker for her adult daughter with special needs. We spent two full days with this single mom, experiencing her life firsthand. She invited us into her home where we sat at her kitchen table and talked for hours. We drove more than an hour with her to the nearest grocery store and then watched her shop. And we walked the main streets of her small town where we were introduced to what seemed like her entire network of family, friends, and neighbors.

On our return to Boston, we had a few flights and airport connections to reflect on the previous 48 hours. I found myself spellbound just thinking about this mom’s determination and spirit. Her story was so powerful; we knew a standard research report would never do it justice. We decided instead to create a mini-documentary on her life. And while the idea of a documentary was nothing new, up to that point, rarely had they been used at big companies to bring consumer understanding to life and inspire change. After watching the short film we created about her life, our client’s organization took immediate action. Her story, and the empathy it evoked, was that powerful. In the months that followed, our client realized a lift in same-store sales in their rural markets.

Since then, we’ve profiled dozens of other customer stories for clients across various industries.

Socializing Segmentations: We’ve created films that have helped companies feel like they’ve walked a mile in their customers’ shoes, enabling the business to see the real people behind personas, not just the data points.

Curating Chatter: We’ve taken hours upon hours of raw, customer-generated footage and distilled it into short films, enabling businesses to hear directly from their customers, in their own words.

Marketing Market Research: We’ve synthesized existing research into films that showcase thought-provoking insights, forcing decision makers and stakeholders to pay attention and lean-in before they’ve even attended a readout or launch event.

Achieving Alignment: We’ve interviewed key stakeholders, associates, and customers to tackle a business challenge from multiple perspectives, creating videos that enable buy-in and push change forward.

When compelling human stories are well-told through film, they often ripple throughout organizations with a sense of urgency. By embracing the power of film, our clients are more effectively influencing key decision makers. They’re also building customers, and empathy for their lives, into the way they work, helping to drive customer-inspired changes across their organization.

I lead our film offering here at C Space in the Americas and am lucky to work alongside a talented team of videographers, creative directors, animators and editors. If you have questions, would like to know more, or just want to see some of our latest work … please get in touch! You can email me at niuliano@cspace.com.

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