Focusing on the Humans: Bonfire Labs

We strive to use empathy to find a way to balance humanity, creativity, and relevance in everything we do.

Chris Weldon
Head of Creative Strategy and Development Bonfire Labs
Bonfire Labs
Marketing/Creative Services
San Francisco, United States
See Profile
 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Bonfire?

I first fell in love with filmmaking while in college, so I started my career in live action production before moving to the agency side for a decade and a half. Looking for a new challenge, I shifted into education content and before long found myself running a business unit for a large online education company, building, running and selling digital platforms and next-gen learning content. It was there as a client that I first developed my relationship with Bonfire Labs when I needed outside help creating long-form content. After a couple of years of an amazing partnership that was so collaborative it never felt “client-vendor,” I realized that my happy place was back on the other side of the table, so in 2015 I joined Bonfire as the Head of Creative Strategy and Development.

 

How does Bonfire define B2H Marketing and how does it differ from typical B2C or B2B work?

B2C and B2B traditionally delineate audiences by their context (outside of work and at work). And though that context is incredibly important in terms of how people make purchasing decisions (more emotional when it’s their own money, more accountable when it’s their company’s), the audience has historically been defined by the channel rather than the channel by its audience. So B2C is geared toward humor and entertainment, sometimes at the expense of helpfulness, and B2B has been stripped of personality and targeted to a faceless dockers-and-golf-shirt persona focused primarily on “speeds and feeds.”

B2H embraces the constraints of either channel and goes one step further by focusing first on the humans behind those decisions and how they feel about the problems they’re trying to solve. Where at its worst, B2C marketing has been an application of unfettered and irrelevant creativity, and B2B has been an application of inhuman practicality. We strive to use empathy to find a way to balance humanity, creativity, and relevance in everything we do.

 

Is there a certain type of client this works best for? Why?

I think brands with complex offerings benefit enormously, whether it’s because they wrestle with the multiple audience dilemma like most sharing economy companies, or whether it’s because their technology-driven products or services are hard to explain. Taking the time to distill the challenge as best as possible into both a business problem and a human truth helps find a path to storytelling that simplifies the complex and opefully clarifies the decision-making process.

 

How does your B2H approach go hand in hand with Rapid Content Creation?

Much of it is this shift from a focus on perfection to a focus on learning. When brands were a one-way communication from soapbox to consumer, perfection was important. Now that brands are a much more visible, ongoing and ever-changing dialogue between companies and their broad constituencies (not just consumers but networks, employees, shareholders, and more), the hard truth is that every bit of communication is a test, but it’s also an opportunity to learn, improve and refine that relationship. Speed becomes more important than ever: if you take too long to craft your message, you run the real risk of looking out of touch by talking about something that everyone has already moved on from.

 

What inspired this approach? What unique challenges does it present?

Not just as content creators, but as humans, software dominates our daily lives these days both in what we engage in and how we engage with it. Software’s true beauty from a creation standpoint is how cheaply and easily it is generated, revised, and distributed. A developer can change a small bit of code and push that live in minutes, not days, weeks, or months. So when it comes to developing creative content, (especially when you’re working with a tech company that is built on software development culture), speed and agility are not only paramount but expected. We wanted to bring some of that mentality to creative content creation.

The unique challenge is that ideas and people are neither objective nor binary. There are waterfall aspects and big moments in what we do -- think a film shoot day or an overnight render for a complex 3D model -- where there’s an unevenly distributed concentration of effort and expense that therefore can’t be treated like software. We do our best to be as planned and prepared for these key moments as humanly possible, allowing the inevitable unexpected moments to lead to inspiration, not exasperation.

 

A big part of what makes Bonfire unique is the combination of creative strategy AND integrated production and post. Talk about why offering both strategy and execution is important to your clients?

In a word, efficiency. For many creative studios, the execution of the creative is often an afterthought, something they don’t consider till later. But Bonfire thinks about the execution as much as the strategy.

 

Any particular work recently that you feel epitomizes Bonfire’s approach from B2H or rapid content creation perspective?

I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the last year and a half for presented this wonderful challenge for us to find a way to differentiate this division and allow it to cast its own light out from under the very large Salesforce.com shadow, a brand we have Salesforce.org. It’s always a joy to work with a mission-driven partner, but it also been intimately familiar with for nearly a decade.

In a matter of weeks, working very closely with their content and brand teams, we were able to synthesize an enormous amount of thinking that had already been established, but not yet codified and set some foundations for the burgeoning brand while simultaneously developing content that would push that new footing into the world and allow Salesforce.org to test it basically in real time. Watching it evolve strategically while in our own small way helping shape its direction with tactical content has been really rewarding. It doesn’t hurt that Salesforce.org is helping trailblazers in the non-profit, education and philanthropic communities advance real change in the world.