Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

This Is How You Sell Products Now: Low-Budget, Heartbreaking Stories

Field Notes creates a spot for their notebooks that breaks your heart. Are you paying attention, big agencies?

This Is How You Sell Products Now: Low-Budget, Heartbreaking Stories

I recently interviewed the founder of a new production company that specializes in video storytelling for small brands, rather than traditional advertising. Coudal Partners has been making these kinds of films to promote its own in-house brands for a while now, and their slam-dunk effectiveness is heartbreakingly apparent in their latest piece, Red Blooded. Yes, they made it to spread the word about their new line of Field Notes notebooks—but if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re a damn robot.

This is how you sell products now. This film probably cost a tiny fraction of what a standard TV commercial costs, but it’s about 10,000 times more effective. Why? The story, stupid. It’s real, it’s unique, it’s true—and it’s creatively designed with a human touch. "Product placement" always feels irritating because the product being placed is somehow supposed to fly under our radar, but never does. This is the total opposite: The story unapologetically features the product, but it’s in such an organic way—making adorable little projects like Red Blooded's love-letter pop-up book is exactly what someone in the real world would actually do with a Field Notes notebook—that not only do we not object, we feel genuinely moved and inspired by it.

The line between "content" and "advertising" is so smudged at this point that analyzing the taxonomy is almost a useless exercise. Do you even care, when tweeting or Facebooking a piece of media that you like, whether it was paid for by a corporation or was made by some guy in his basement? I know I don’t. All I care about is whether it’s good—whether it connects. And films (Or ads? Or sponsored content?) like Red Blooded are very, very, very good.

[Read more about Red Blooded.]