Don’t you just love when an idea several years in the making finally comes to fruition?

Back in 2017, the team at Optimum Productions saw a growing need in the industrial, manufacturing, and supply chain industries–– and this was three years before the pandemic, mind you. But even then, we could see that standard sales pitches and low-quality video content were rampant in the market… as well as pretty darned ineffective.

Even before 2020 rolled in and shook up the world, we already knew: every company out there, industrial or not, needs to treat themselves as a media company. They need more than just brochures and whitepapers: they need to share good stories to keep their audiences’ attention.

This vision was one of the major factors that drove Optimum Productions to create IndustrialSage: a Buzzfeed-like platform where industrial and manufacturing companies could come to both produce and consume genuinely helpful, user-centric content that would be based in both thought leadership, but also storytelling.

And that platform is one of the resources that came to the aid of Schneider Electric, when the $28 billion-dollar company decided that they needed a better way to connect with their audiences… who were also sick of the same old sales pitches.

Schneider is a giant in their industry: a $28 billion-dollar company, specializing in digital automation and energy management. Their technologies can be found in all sorts of buildings–– from common homes, to data centers, and all sorts of business facilities in-between.

And yet… the company felt like their public image and reputation was lacking.

The solution that IndustrialSage offered them was a daring strategy, but one that would ultimately prove out its effectiveness through measurable analytics: a story-based video series. Before the second quarter of the series would even begin, Schneider would already see 380,000 video views of the new content… and their ads would achieve almost triple their industry’s usual view-through rates.

SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC WANTED TO CONNECT WITH VIEWERS IN A NEW, INNOVATIVE WAY.

Despite their worldwide reach and pervasive presence in the electrical field, Schneider’s target market in the industrial automation space has not always recognized them as a major player, or as the most sustainable corporation in the world. They wanted to set themselves apart with something innovative that would shine the spotlight on their OEM partners… something that would help both their existing and potential clients to see Schneider as a group of real people, working alongside them to advance humanity.

The company knew that video would be one of the most effective methods of communication to change this perception… but there’s a vast selection of video styles and messages to choose from.

The solution they settled on with IndustrialSage was a story-based, documentary-style video series… but there was a slight catch.

The videos would be entirely focused on Schneider customers, and Schneider’s products and company wouldn’t actually be mentioned by name.

THEY CHOSE TO TELL STORIES… BUT ABOUT SOMEBODY ELSE.

Sounds pretty counterintuitive at first glance… but not after you look at today’s market.

To call modern prospects “sales-savvy” would be a gross understatement. The average American encounters 4,000 to 10,000 ads on a daily basis today in 2022.

As a result, today’s audiences are extremely adept at tuning out ads left and right. They can sniff out a sales pitch from a mile away. They’ll ghost any brand that tries to interrupt their valuable time. Slick flattery doesn’t work on them (we’re looking at you, LinkedIn cold-messagers). They know when someone ultimately views them as mere money machines, and they won’t have any of it.

So how can companies like Schneider earn and keep their attention?

Storytelling was the ideal first step. Human beings are naturally story-driven creatures–– that’s an easy concept to understand. But when it comes to video ads, mere storytelling isn’t enough anymore either. Audiences are (once again) already swimming in story-based ads.

Setting yourself up as the hero of your own story is a self-serving tactic that your audiences are getting wise to, just like they are with other selling styles.

Your prospects have seen the brave knight (read: your product) save the helpless peasant (that is, the audience) a hundred times. Engaging? Sure. But it’s also old hat, and predictable.

Instead, Schneider chose to highlight the stories of their customer companies: clients who are doing cutting-edge, future-facing work.

And, by employing online platform IndustrialSage to distribute the series, Schneider was able to use the credibility of third-party experts to provide additional marketing assets, promote the videos beyond just their own audiences, and collect in-depth, measurable analytics afterwards.

THEY MADE THEIR CLIENTS INTO HEROES, AND ACCEPTED A SUPPORTING ROLE.

By daring to focus on others in their storytelling videos, Schneider Electric accomplished a wide variety of goals.

Firstly, industrial and OEM businesses that might not otherwise have funded such productions about themselves were effectively treated to a free promotional video, with Schneider footing the bill. Schneider invested an impressive amount of time and money into storytelling for these existing customers, and set those companies up as the heroes within the narrative.

They shared how one material handling company is using computer vision and AI to increase the speed and accuracy of parcel sorting processes. They highlighted a packaging company that has been “going green for the last sixty years,” in an industry where plastic is increasingly taboo. And in a stirring finale to the series’ first season, they featured a startup that has invented a modular generator which can provide clean, renewable energy by using biowaste and plastic waste as its fuel source.

Each and every one of these companies might be using Schneider products in some small way here or there throughout their facilities, but those technologies are barely glimpsed throughout the videos. In these stories Schneider Electric is merely the supporting player, providing the tools their customers need to accomplish the truly incredible, lofty goals that the cameras are focused on.

Schneider has made themselves into a herald for their clients: cheering on those companies as the true heroes of the future.

Altruistic, yes, but also intentional. After all, Schneider wanted to prove to their customers as well as to the rest of the world that their company genuinely cares about sustainability, innovation, and future-facing technologies. What better way to prove that than to invest extensive time and money into a video series promoting those values?

Furthermore, as part of the production process, Schneider Electric’s teams were able to connect with the existing customers that they featured in the video series. Collaborating on these mini-documentaries together was an organic way to strengthen their relationships, spend time getting to know one another, and achieve a goal together (one that didn’t involve a half-dozen dollar signs on the client’s end, either).

THEY FOUND A WAY TO MAKE THEIR BRAND… BINGE-ABLE.

People may not binge-read ebooks, but they sure do binge-watch Netflix. Why? Because that content has been made into good, easy-to-devour stories.

Good storytelling is enough reason to set aside a bit of our time and engage, whether we ultimately end up buying from the storytellers in the end or not. And in Schneider’s case, the analytics monitoring their video series were able to confirm and support this endeavor.

Whereas most industrial marketing campaigns on social media only garner an average engagement rate under 4%, Schneider Electric’s storytelling series earned a whopping 18% engagement rate across four different platforms combined.

The series garnered over 380,000 views within the first three months of its launch, with its sponsored ads achieving a view-through rate of 89% (where the standard industry benchmark rarely ever reaches 30%).

Needless to say… talk of future syndications and seasons is already underway. Even though Schneider’s company nor products were ever directly mentioned in their Industries of the Future series, the numbers speak for themselves–– and they’ve proven out that selfless storytelling just might be a better sales tactic than anybody might have guessed.

Check out the first season of the Industries of the Future docuseries, and see the videos for yourself.

Industries of the Future, Presented by Schneider Electric: Watch the All New Monthly Series Now!