The Today Show

Debuts The Thank You Project

November 2014 by James Spradlin

Earlier this morning, The Today Show (yes The Today Show!) debuted our latest story “The Thank You Project” on NBC before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We want our work to make the biggest impact possible and reach the most people possible — and so to be given this opportunity to release a story on a National level, well, it’s pretty awesome (big thanks to Shannon for helping make it happen!).

From the beginning, it was Kellie’s desire to inspire many other people to go back and say “thank you” to their nurses and doctors. After today, we are pretty sure she will get her wish. The fact that we didn’t originally plan to release it on Thanksgiving Day, and on such a massive level, makes the whole story of creating the story even more special.

From a branding standpoint, it’s really hard to beat having your brand lifted up on this level and in this way. 

But one of the best parts about this story is its true sincerity.

It didn’t begin with a group of branding geniuses brainstorming their way towards a well crafted brand messaging opportunity.  The Thank You Project was not a result of new theories in content marketing. This story was being written long before we ever became involved. We just tagged along, so to speak.

And this is why the story feels different as a branding piece: it is sincere. Sincerity is not a strategy for us. It’s not a label we hide our self promotional manipulative intent with. It’s who we are. It’s who Arnold Palmer Hospital is.

At the same time, we aren’t naive feel good hippies that ignore business objectives must be met — or that we are usually paid out of marketing budgets. We are very aware of the financial impact we are able to make and we always stay anchored there.  Even for mission based companies, they need continual funding to exist — so that they can continue to care for others.  If a business doesn’t exist, it can no longer provide value to society. And if we don’t exist, we can’t provide value either (which is why we charge for our services).

Contrary to most content marketing strategies, when we look at the value of a story — we don’t start with the business objectives and then design towards being believable.

We don’t start with how to drive the needle.  We have to temporarily put this to the side and circle back much later.

With this story, we started with the potential value each viewer would receive. We dreamed how it could positively impact their lives, perhaps giving hope, encouragement, or even awareness to go back and thank those who have sacrificed for their benefit.

We truly wanted to honor Kellie (and everyone else’s) story — then the positive brand impact easily followed suit.

Emotionally, we know people will think of Arnold Palmer Hospital more fondly after watching the film — because we are giving a glimpse into who the brand is when no one is looking.

The Thank You Project proves that a brand’s true essence is who they are before marketing guys like me get involved. Ten years ago, the team of heroes had no idea they would ever be thanked (and filmed) for the care they were providing. 

And, my guess is that they had no idea millions of people would be inspired by their sacrifice.

Note: check out the project page for behind the scenes extras.