How one look changed a brand
Updated: Aug 13, 2019
La Trappe invites us to understand each other without words.
When we reflect on an experience, one moment tends to stands out. Usually it's the best moment or the worst, or the end. Or the most special. But what is special? What makes memorable moments memorable? And what makes them effective? To learn about impact, I study moments that stay with you. Here's what I've learnt from Moses' Look.
A young brother fighting his demons.
The look occurs in the final frame of the first episode of Open La Trappe, a video series profiling a Trappist monastry. We've been following a young brother fighting his demons. He resembles the actor Adrien Brody. As he gazes up to a rose window, a soaring stone church behind him, we hear him say: "I got the name Moses when I was ordained. It sounds a bit pretentious, Moses. But he's a humble person, who wants to go somewhere. And the end of the story is that Moses has pointed towards the land and seen it, ..." He turns from the window, and looks at the open space: "...but never tasted it."
The brand's tagline appears: Taste the Silence.
La Trappe is a trappist beer brewed within the walls of Koningshoeven Abbey in the south of the Netherlands. Its international popularity has been rising in recent years, with
fans traveling from as far as Brazil, Japan, Russia and the United States to visit the monastry. Monastic life and Trappist beers can be seen as stuffy and inward looking, but today's Koningshoeven is a vibrant community that each year receives more than 150.000 guests. To sustain this, I was asked to communicate the openness and inclusiveness of La Trappe.
We decided to film a range of community members as they open up about their struggles and ambitions. The first eight mini-documentaries are expected to be released early 2020.
We no longer see him as a monk.
Brother Moses works as a cheese maker in the monastry. His episode tells the story of someone with ideas and vision, but without power to change the system. By the time he looks away in silence, we no longer see him as a monk. Just as someone struggling to accept a fact of life, like the rest of us. That's an impact we hope the video will have on the audience. But the video has also impacted the brand, by changing the meaning of Taste the Silence. What was a slogan about awareness (“be mindful when savouring”), is now also about an inclusive means of communication. With that final look Moses says without words: "My heart says to keep fighting, but my head says it's better to accept the way things are."
An invitation to understand each other without words
"Show, don't tell" is a cliché in writing and filmmaking, but in this case it worked wonders to solve a brand strategy puzzle that had been on the table for almost 20 years. What does Taste the Silence actually mean? And why should people care? And how is this actionable?
Through making these videos we found that Taste the Silence is an invitation to understand each other without words. By becoming a fan of La Trappe, you join an inclusive global network of beer lovers. And then you may realise that you can sometimes feel different and alone, like Brother Moses, but that we all speak the universal language of La Trappe.
Summary: Investigative filmmaking is a serendipity engine
When you are looking to find your voice it is quite normal to spend years in the process. For example: before we invented the Supporter of Clean platform in 2013 (now a permanent feature of public life in the Netherlands), the national anti-litter campaigns had for more than 20 years ran with counter-productive messages. But there is a way out of the woods.
Moses' Look shows that investigative filmmaking is a serendipity engine, even when it's done with a very light touch. It produces unplanned findings with a liberating effect on your brand. So if you're still sweating on your communications platform, here's what you could do:
1. Identify a range of people invested in your brand. These could be employees, clients, users of services, suppliers, fans or other community members.
2. Agree on an investigative hypothesis. In this case our hypothesis was: "People's most intimate and personal dilemmas will turn out to be the most universal and recognisable."
3. Go out to verify or disprove this hypothesis and film the process.
4. Keep an open mind and a keen eye on everything you find. Don't just focus on your project goal, which is to produce investigative videos about your brand community.
This is how a serendipity engine works. By seriously investigating one thing, you are very likely to also discover things you weren't looking for - but perhaps did hope to find.