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How a branding and marketing agency used GatherContent to create an animated storytelling experience

by , Associate Director, Content VSA Partners

When its 150th anniversary approached, food and agricultural products company Cargill wanted to find an exciting way to celebrate their history and accomplishments. At VSA Partners, a design-driven branding and marketing agency, we helped Cargill create a multi-faceted print and digital content suite in honour of this important occasion. We wanted to ensure that it was not only educational and inspirational, but that the content felt immersive, activated across multiple channels for their broad audiences. GatherContent was an integral part of the process and helped us deliver content on time.

Components for the Cargill 150th anniversary project included:

With the help of Cargill’s communications team and archivists, we created a content strategy centred around Cargill’s core values and industries. Then we developed ideas for 150 stories highlighting Cargill’s rich history and spanning its global reach. VSA wrote and published them on the new 150th anniversary site after doing extensive research with subject matter experts.

Compelling stories – but how to tell them?

As a global food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services provider, Cargill is committed to feeding the world responsibly and helping people thrive. When we researched Cargill’s industries for the anniversary project, we uncovered many compelling stories about how ingredients go from process to final product.

For example, animal science professor and author Dr. Temple Grandin worked with Cargill to develop a serpentine chute that helps cattle feel at ease before harvesting. Cargill was the first to implement Grandin’s approach in the industry. The Grandin story on Cargill’s website introduced the approach, but we saw an opportunity to use more complex storytelling to illustrate how some of the processes worked.

To expand on some of these stories, Cargill asked us to create an animated experience for their employees that would be displayed on 91” touchscreens at their campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Employees would be able to navigate through each step in an ingredient’s journey from process to final product. We’d still create an interactive, storytelling-focused experience—but this time it would live in an immersive physical environment.

Story creation

Our design, user experience, development, and content teams worked closely together to develop the interactive experience.

When we considered how to manage the content, our development lead and I immediately thought of GatherContent. VSA has used GatherContent successfully in the past to manage content for several enterprise website redesigns, and we found that GatherContent’s clear, simple interface was an ideal fit for our needs.

We liked how easy it was to build templates, manage revisions, and collaborate with other contributors. GatherContent’s seamless integration eliminates the cut-and-paste hassle of working with separate copy documents, empowering content leads to be more in control of final content.

Let’s take a look at how we set up the stories and used GatherContent’s templates to corral the content.

Template structure

We created three templates in GatherContent that mirrored the structure of the maps and modals:

The T1 Main Menu template maps to the homepage of the experience where users choose which process they’d like to explore:

The T2 Process Map template mirrors the structure of the animated process maps: introductory copy and explanatory step-by-step bubbles:

And the T3 Modal template is similar to a simple article page in structure:

GatherContent’s templates were ideal for this project because they allowed for easy duplication and instructional copy—two crucial elements. We were able to revise templates as stories evolved and provide plenty of guidance for writers along the way.

Here’s an example of what copy looks like in a GatherContent template:

And here’s what the same copy looks like in the interactive experience:

As with most client projects, Cargill was invested in ensuring the work quality was high, and the content went through many rounds of stakeholder edits. Fortunately, GatherContent’s interface made it easy to revise content right in the templates while still tracking past versions for reference.

Now let’s take a look at how these stories look in the final interactive experience.

The interactive experience

Users begin at a home screen where they can choose from one of eight ingredient stories:

Once users select a story, they are taken to a process map—a high-level overview that includes animation and a step-by-step outline of the process:

From the map, a user can touch any of the bubbles that illustrate steps of the process:

Once the user touches the bubble, a modal pops up:

On the modal, users can read details about this step of the process.

From this modal, users can jump ahead to the next modal, back to the previous modal, or back to the process map. The self-selection architecture and interface design makes it easy and fun to engage with stories and follow the ingredients from their genesis to store shelves.

Wrapping it all up

The vibrant photography, lively animations, and cohesive storytelling combine to create a compelling storytelling experience. Behind the scenes, the templates and infrastructure we built in GatherContent provides a strong foundation for our stories and helps the process-to-product approach come to life.

We hope to explore more interactive storytelling opportunities with Cargill and other clients in the future—and when we do, we’ll definitely turn to GatherContent to help us manage content seamlessly and efficiently.

About the Author

Associate Director, Content VSA Partners

With a background in both editorial and digital content management and strategy, Jackie is at once a creator, planner and organiser of content for modern digital experiences at VSA Partners in Chicago, Illinois. She specialises in finding efficiencies in executional workflows and maximising the use of technology to make it easier for content owners to contribute and create exceptional content. For her work on Cargill’s 150th anniversary site, Jackie shepherded over a thousand assets and hundreds of drafts through a complex group of stakeholders to deliver streamlined content for a responsive experience. Notable enterprise clients include IBM, CME Group, Hyatt, and Avery Dennison.

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