The Sundance Film Festival, designed around storytelling that delivers fresh perspectives, serves as an annual showcase for independent film makers and other content creators to bring their media to new audiences. During this year’s event, Zappos collaborated with online creative community platform HITRECORD to empower creativity among shoppers.
The Zappos-HITRECORD partnership is centered on a shared belief: that while the final product is important, the experience of creating together is everything. The companies partnered to host two livestreaming events, on Jan. 24 and 26, to spotlight creative unfinished projects that community members are leading, and enable attendees to contribute to the projects in real time. Viewers that didn’t attend Sundance could still access the livestreamed events on the HITRECORD web site and mobile app.
During the events, the companies aired 10 “mini documentaries” that aligned with Zappos’ 10 Core Values, such as “Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded,” “Be Humble,” “Embrace and Drive Change” and “Create Fun and A Little Weirdness.” Via the HITRECORD platform, which has more than 850,000 users worldwide, the companies crowdsourced content to create the videos, with various contributors answering questions that were filmed on camera, taking photos, writing their own prompts and submitting art, design and music ideas.
“Embrace and Drive Change” video included here:
Zappos And HITRECORD Partnership Is More Than Marketing
One of the major benefits of these collaborations is that they are built authentically, in ways that typical marketing campaigns or even UGC campaigns don’t always achieve, according to Tyler Williams, Head of Brand Aura at Zappos.
“It’s good content in that it’s not some marketing team in a room coming up with this brilliant idea and hiring an amazing film studio,” Williams said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It’s not that at all. It’s groups of people churning out a lot more organic-type content. Now it’s about doubling down with the HITRECORD community and doing a lot more projects with them. For us, the biggest learning takeaway was that you can get better content even faster when you open it up to that crowdsourcing mentality, instead of just working with boutique agencies and paying a bunch of money to create a polished piece of content.”
Williams pointed out that the collaboration with HITRECORD was such a natural fit because of Zappos’ focus on community-driven creativity.
“I believe that user-generated content, and collaborations of people online where they’re creating something, is a lot more meaningful than a brand just filling up your news feed with promotions to sell shoes,” said Williams. “We don’t get excited about that kind of promotional marketing. We get excited about talking about our core values, things we believe in in the world or as a company. We felt HITRECORD curated a community of creative people that check all the boxes of what we’re looking for when it comes to creating content.”
Zappos and HITRECORD are also aligned in their brand positioning. The retailer doesn’t see itself as a company that sells shoes, but rather as a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes, according to Williams. Jared Geller, who co-founded HITRECORD alongside actor and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, shares these beliefs, saying that his company operates as a creative platform that just happens to make music, animation and documentaries.
“We see a lot of commonality there,” said Geller in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It’s really about the experience of the creative process, whereas Zappos has been about the experience of good customer service. The other commonality we had was that Zappos didn’t just want to talk to their consumer, they wanted to collaborate with them. We had a whiteboard session dedicated to figuring out ways to collaborate with their consumer to create music, short films and holiday stories, and make that a wonderful experience.”
Zappos Inspires ‘Core Values’ Within HITRECORD, Seeks Collaboration With Site Experience
The Zappos collaboration, particularly the 10 core values, even served as inspiration for Geller, Gordon-Levitt and the rest of the HITRECORD team. They felt encouraged to create their own set of values for how HITRECORD will carry out its own projects going ahead.
“The ‘A-number-one’ core value for HITRECORD is ‘Community First,’” Geller said prior to the festival. “Every time we’ve gone to Sundance in the past, we’ve just presented finished work. This time, we’re going to be presenting some finished work with what we’ve done with Zappos. But in the spirit of Community First, we want to shine the spotlight on community. So we’re introducing a lot of works-in-progress — these are the projects that are currently being worked on by members of the community that started these projects. We’ll be interviewing the people all over the world who’ve started these projects, and hopefully inspire people in real time to contribute either at Sundance or around the world.”
Zappos hopes to continue the partnership by implementing content within its own site experience that has been developed by the HITRECORD community.
“We’d love to find a way to integrate that kind of collaborative feedback through Zappos.com and our own traffic,” Williams said. “Consumers often come to the site with the idea that they’re going to buy their next pair of shoes or their next dress, but if we can start to have that two-way collaborative relationships with our customers as well, that would be amazing. We want to add an element within the Zappos site experience where our customers can tell stories, review products and film videos, all by leveraging the tech that HITRECORD already has created.”