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Filmmaker Tommy Talley Explains The Value of Storytelling For Brands

Baton Rouge filmmaker and master storyteller Tommy Talley believes compelling stories are all around us just waiting to be shared — but brands have to discover them and tell them in creative ways.

“I think the stories are usually right in front of us in some way,” says Talley, who founded Echo Tango, a Baton Rouge-based branding and film studio that helps brands tell compelling stories. “It’s just about the perspective and the way you tell them.”

Talley and his company have carved out a successful place in their industry by crafting captivating videos for nonprofits, agencies and individuals in Louisiana and beyond that deliver key messages through storytelling.

He recently shared his insights into storytelling and branding at the Celtic Media Centre with participants of Success Labs’ Leadership Coaching Series, a development program for talented managers preparing to take on higher-level leadership roles. These concepts of storytelling and branding were covered during the series to challenge these leaders to discover their own brand and voice.

Coming Home

Talley says he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker when he saw writer-director Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” in the late 90s. He immersed himself in film in the early 2000s and moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a director of photography, camera operator and story producer for reality television programs, including the MTV hidden-camera show “Punk’d.” He would later work as a producer and camera operator for the Louisiana-based History Channel reality hit “Swamp People.”

Talley returned to Baton Rouge in 2009 and two years later opened up tommysTV, a full-service video production company. Since then, he’s won multiple ADDY awards for his work and has produced content for major brands such as Raising Cane’s, Louisiana Economic Development, Dow Chemical, Louisiana Culinary Institute and Louisiana Travel.

After he founded his own company and opened up shop in Baton Rouge, Talley says a major launching off point was a video his company created for Louisiana Economic Development’s marketing campaign highlighting professionals who returned to Louisiana after living in other states. “Because we had the privilege of working on this, the entire landscape of my company changed,” he says. Watch the video below:


Telling Your Story

The Echo Tango team has experience producing and creating television, music videos and feature-length films — expertise they use to help companies create beautiful, effective videos for marketing and promotion. “We want you to focus on your brand and how you tell the story of that brand,” Talley says.

Talley says their medium of choice is video because it’s the most efficient way to tell a story, and the production and distribution costs are coming down dramatically thanks to the internet. “Nowadays with free distribution to the web it’s cheaper than it’s ever been, because the distribution used to be the hard part,” he says. “Now all dollars can go towards the creative.”

Tally’s brand-development philosophy is centered around the idea that a company’s brand is much more than merely a mark or logo but “every feeling or thought” someone has when they see or hear your name. “You’re building something much larger, which is why we think story is important,” he says. “Because if you don’t tell that story, other people will.”

Creative Problem Solving

Talley says younger consumers are less receptive to traditional advertising, which means brands must rely on more creative approaches to break through. “I think Millennials are tired of having brands shoved down their throats,” he says. “They like organic, beautiful stories being told.”

He suggests organizations need to mine the compelling stories they encounter regularly, then collaborate over time with creative people either inside or outside the company. He refers to the process has “creative problem solving.”

“You just have to find the best way to get it out of your head, then surround yourself with those folks — whether that’s someone who’s already on your own team, whether that’s a friend, or finding the most talented college kid at the College of Art and Design,” he says.

Talley says when undertaking a creative project, it’s vital to find a way to share ideas and give direction without dramatically limiting the options the creative team have to tell ultimately tell the story. He says giving people the room to play and trusting them is key creating a successful story.

Strive to give your creative team the “biggest sandbox” possible, he says, by offering a rough idea and a feeling that you want to create with that idea, along with an ultimate goal. “The easiest way to choke out a creative team is to make them land on this tiny helipad,” he says.

Talley’s creative branding approach is on full display in a 2016 video he and his team created for his friend Lance Peytavin, who was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to create a music video featuring his talented daughter Kate.

The video, which was released to coincide with Father’s Day, has garnered more than 8.7 million views and helped jump start an acting and singing career for Kate. Watch the tear-inducing video below:

The video and its impact are a perfect example of the power of creative branding — and an excellent lesson for the participants of our Leadership Coaching Series to take away as they continue to discover and cultivate their own brands and voices.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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