In 1984, Steve Jobs played American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in an internal corporate video spoofing the traditional ‘rally the troops’ message. What lessons can we, as marketers using corporate video, take from this newly unearthed gem?

  1. TREAT EVERY VIDEO AS IF IT WERE PUBLIC
    At first blush, the ‘Steve Jobs as FDR’ video seems almost embarrassing.  It’s a poor imitation – he almost seems more like The Penguin from the old Batman TV show than FDR.  But the video was produced for a Sales conference, and was meant to ‘rally the troops.’  Instead of staring into a camera in a studio and delivering weak motivational copy – the typical troop rallying corporate video, it’s a fun take on the concept.  He’s literally rallying the troops.  We see it now, and it’s a fun piece of nostalgia instead of a discarded piece of corporate collateral.
  2. ALWAYS PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
    Where the ‘Steve Jobs as FDR’ video could have become embarrassing is if the production values were low.  Cardboard tanks. T-shirt uniforms.  Too many non-actors trying to act.  Don’t do it.  If you’re going to commit to creating a marketing asset, commit to making it as high quality as you can within your time and budget constraints.  Again, you’re planning on being big someday, and you want this thing to be remembered fondly. If you try to make a fun corporate video and it doesn’t pan out, don’t be afraid to burn all of the tapes, shred the digital files, and move on.
  3. EVERY VIDEO IS AN OPPORTUNITY
    Jobs gets his ‘rah-rah’ pitch out there humorously, and then nails the Apple tagline at the end, ‘Insaaaaaaanely Great.’  It’s a great moment, reinforcing Apple’s 1984 corporate branding in a quick, off-handed, and genuinely funny way.  Now, not everyone making corporate video is going to have a Steve Jobs to pull something like that off (the rest of the video is pretty cringe-worthy), but it’s important to always be on the lookout for little opportunities when you’re producing corporate videos.  How can we enhance our brand here?  Is there a way we can better show off our strengths?  Are we missing an opportunity with this video?  Ask the hard questions, and keep working to hone your video before, during, and after production. In an incredibly brief segment, Jobs nails down SO many ideas.  We’re at war (with IBM).  We’re the good guys.  We will win.  We have positioning.  We make better products.  That kind of message density is seldom by accident, and often requires dozens of revisions, but it’s worth it.  It demonstrates a level of care and attention to detail to your viewers (often your customers) beyond the quality of the video itself.

Have you ever thought about creating a ‘fun’ corporate video?  What are some of the best analogies for your industry, your positioning, and your product/service?  Producing a spoof video can be great for company morale (get everyone involved) and you wind up with a great marketing asset and, hopefully just like the ‘Jobs as FDR’ video, a fun piece of nostalgia to look back on years from now.

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