March 18, 2020

From 0 to 10M Views: Growing a Youtube Channel with Educational Videos

illustration showing a man observing a rock through a magnifying glass

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." This quote by Albert Einstein summarizes the reason behind each animation of Iluli's Youtube Channel. Curiously, it was also one of the things that sparked the project's idea for Mike Lamb, a guy passionate about futurism, technology, online security, self-development, and education.

Back in 2018, Mike contacted us to talk about his idea of making videos that could turn complex subjects into simple and easy to consume contents. We loved the idea because we knew how powerful animation could be for the kind of storytelling he was looking for. The only thing that got us on our feet was this briefing requirement: Publish five-minute animations every month. It sounded hard but definitely the kind of challenge we like. Also, having worked with Mike before on a shorter project, we knew there was a mutual trust already established that would allow things to move fast.

Dealing with the production challenges

As expected, the project was a great challenge for us in terms of production because we initially considered that a longer animation like that was basically several smaller ones combined, but that math only works on paper. In practice, it means that you may watch the individual videos and like them, but when you combine everything, you'll feel that the rhythm of the story doesn't keep you engaged or curious enough for you to continue watching it. The big-picture view in a project like this is essential to guarantee an engaging rhythm to the story.

To deliver everything on time, we had to come up with several production tricks that enabled us to move faster both in the production and the revision. Some of them were:

  • Developing multiple(usually three) animations at the same time, in different stages.
  • Developing a system in our project management software that allowed a clear vision of all the steps and requirements to keep the adjustments and revisions to the minimum.
  • Focusing on narrative-oriented reviews and alignments of both storyboard and animation while still in draft. It guaranteed a faster analysis of the overall feeling of the animation before the final and more detailed review happened.
  • Building teams of different sizes depending on the complexity and the speed required to develop each project.

Fast-forwarding to March 2020, Iluli's Youtube Channel is turning one-year-old and we couldn't be happier about it! 

In one year, Iluli's Channel has grown from 0 to 24.700 subscribers, has 17 animations published that total up to almost 1 hour and 21 minutes (nearly the length of a feature film), totaling up 10,062,027 views so far.

Keeping this growth while guaranteeing a high-quality output required so far twenty-five people across the entire project to make it work. One of the vital ingredients for this success was our focus on getting both the script and concept right for each topic. They play a big part in it because one of Mike's initial desires was that the script had a conversational tone, almost like you could feel you're sipping an excellent cider while he's explaining all of this to you. Because of that, most of the animations explain a topic by making connections to situations that are ordinary to most people, simplifying messages and concepts in a way that makes everything easily understood.

Launching Iluli's rocket to mars

We know that one of the worst moments of a rocket launch is the initial combustion that allows the engine to run and the rocket to fly – which is quite similar in social media. Knowing that, the videos were promoted as targeted ads on youtube, and the overall response was impressive. Viewers weren't expecting to face such engaging and high-quality content without forcing them to buy anything. 


Quickly, people started to get glued to the screen, waiting for the next month's video.

It's essential to highlight that the channel's investment in ADs only paid itself because of the quality of the animation. If people skipped it, Iluli wouldn't have had such a steep growth in the fanbase, which means that keeping people engaged for 5 minutes straight was the real challenge of the marketing campaign – and we succeeded. 

Another thing that helped the video's view to skyrocket was how time-sensitive most of those topics are. We were able to share most online security videos as responses to actual news headlines that talked about the themes – from Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran losing nearly $400,000 in a phishing scam to Twitter's CEO suffering a SIM Swapping attack.

All of this allowed the animations to spread online, reaching unimaginable places like conferences, events, security training courses, and companies of all sizes. Even more surprising than that is when the inventor of a business method recognizes the content you created as the best introductory resource available online about the topic – and the community itself highlights it by adding a massive video on their website.

Being able to touch and teach so many people with our work is one of the things that move us. Doing relevant work was an objective we set way back when starting MOWE, and projects like these make everything worth.

Great ideas developed by amazing people, with a unique outcome and expansive reach. Those are the projects we love.

December 16, 2019

Reanimate: Breathing New Life Into Brands

Illustration for the header of an article talking about reanimating brands.

Effective communication is the main challenge of every brand. How to connect with their audience, how to send a message, how to make people buy… all those challenges brands and marketing departments face every day in order to stay alive and profitable. However, great communication is a lot more than just staying in front of people. It’s about connection, adaptability to the new media and most important: it’s about emotion.

Standing out in the middle of the noise

In today’s world, it’s not that hard to face a lot of ads during the day — it’s actually a lot harder not to. And what happens to all those ads that look the same? They become noise. We, as humans, learned how to avoid noise. We skip commercials to focus on the things we enjoy; we get immersed in our headphones to avoid the street’s or office’s noise; we also scroll even faster when an ad pops in our Facebook feed…

Everything looks and feels the same, and since they are put in front of us constantly, we instinctively block them in our heads. But, when something in the middle of that looks “weird”, or just different, we tend to pay closer attention.

Usually, the “weird thing” can be a piece full of colors, a fun character, or something full of movement. That’s the power animation has in the middle of all the noise. When everything looks the same, when you can’t differentiate one brand from another anymore, animation is the smartest solution for brands to be noticed and heard.

Animation brings life into the noise, and bring attention back to brands.

Develop stories that connect

How do we do that? First, I have to warn you that it’s not easy. If it was, everybody would do it. For a story to connect, a ton of work must be done, including the research of the topic, the audience, and the media’s possibilities.

Animation is an incredible media because of its multidisciplinary nature. It mixes visual, sound and movement, creating experiences in a way that no other media can. That’s the real power of it.

By living in a world full of possibilities, animation has the power to create memorable pieces as no other content can. Hard themes can be treated more ludic, “cold” tech products can breathe life, and we can always make someone smile or feel that little warm in their hearts.

We all grow up surrounded by animations. They were first presented to us as the morning cartoons. Those were the reasons for us to wake up so early on Saturdays. The joy, the happiness, and excitement we felt with each one of them have an important place in our minds and hearts.

As adults now, what if we could bring the same feelings back again to our audiences and the brands we represent?


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October 14, 2019

How to stay accountable to yourself in a remote environment

illustration of a person working from home

For many people, working from home or their favorite coffee place sounds like a dream, a life’s accomplishment that seems so distant and unreachable. For others, the fear of not being able to execute without the “pressure” of traditional offices, is what holds them back. Nowadays, working from home is not just a dream but a reality. However, the concern about productivity is what blocks a lot of people from going down this road.

Dealing with distractions

When they sell you the idea of working from home, freedom is a word often used. Yes, your sense of freedom and the extra time you save from commuting to work is incredible. However, this new “freedom” also comes with many distractions. The fact that our home offices are so close to our well… home, means that everything around us is an invitation to cut productivity.

What we need to keep in mind is the protection of our work time. It’s important to set up a specific place for our work-related tasks that is different from our “fun, relaxing time.” This way, from routine and repetition, our mind will put us in the right state for focus and work mentality, when needed.

A different dynamic from brick and mortar offices

One of the biggest differences in a remote office is that the classic 9–5 hours not always apply — and I don’t think they should. With the freedom to have offices a few steps away, we should adapt our work-time to when we have the most energy, fewer distractions around us, and with proper breaks.

I know people who love to start working at 5 am and end the day early in the afternoon. Others see the end of the day (or evening) as their most productive time.

A great outcome that home offices bring is the self-reflection we need to do every day to understand better who we are and how we can be better.

Depending on where the rest of your team is based, changing the time you’re available may be an option to deal with different time-zones. At the same time, we shouldn’t think of work hours as straight eight-hour sessions. If you stop to think about your day, the time you’re most productive is probably the time when there isn’t anyone in the office, no distractions, just you and your responsibilities. The freedom you gain from this way of work also allows you to take some breaks during the day, refresh your thoughts, and get back later.

If you want an example, by the time I’m writing this article, I’m doing it in the morning, before my team — that are a few hours behind — is awake, so I know I’m in a distraction/requests-free zone. After working on this, I’m going for a run to put my thoughts in place and prepare myself for the rest of my workday.

See? I understand when I can be at my best and what I need to do to make it happen. I define my work time around that instead of forcing a “traditional schedule.”

Staying on track

The best way to keep yourself accountable is to rely on people around you. Home offices can be solitary spaces, especially if you’re focused on a task that doesn’t require you to engage with others daily. Still, make sure to share with your colleagues what you’re trying to accomplish and use them to keep you accountable.

Be transparent and open with your family, as well. Let them understand when you need “alone time” to complete some hard tasks but ask them to point out when you may be “overworking.” This brings us to the last point I want to talk about…

Protecting your greatest asset: you

One of the biggest backlashes of working from home is that we do this to have more freedom, but it’s easy to work a lot more then we would do in a traditional work environment — especially if you’re a business owner. Without a strict structure of time and because we are so close to work (usually it’s on our pockets?), we can easily work extra hours, forgetting to take time to preserve our minds and body.

It’s necessary to find time during the day to go for a walk, to exercise, and just see the world around us. We can only do what we do because of our brains, so we need to preserve it to keep doing our best work. Getting a great night of sleep is extremely important, as well. Never change your sleep hours for work hours. A well-rested mind is capable of solving problems a lot easier and faster than a stressed one.

Remember that you are responsible for the quality and efficiency of the work you put out. If you don’t give margin for yourself to “recover” and build a healthy mind and body, there’s no work-environment that will save you.


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August 29, 2019

3 reasons why we moved part of our creative studio 8500km away

illustration for the blog of a bird flying through the UE flag

For a creative studio, determining where to be located can be a daunting and complicated topic. The importance of it is unquestionable as it affects everyone involved: the staff, the vendors, the business and the clients.

At MOWE, we see location as a vital characteristic of our studio. Throughout the years we considered the multiple ways it can affect us as a remote business and learned how to use it as a tool for different aspects of our business. We discussed this topic a lot internally during the last months due to our decision to expand into Europe — as part of a plan to explore new lands and opportunities outside of the USA.

Since this topic might resonate with you, I would love to guide you through the 3 aspects behind our decision-making process.

1. Using timezones in our favor

One of the biggest challenges of producing creative work remotely is working across a wide range of different timezones.

An example of this was the challenge we had while making an animated commercial for an event-focused software development company from Australia. Since at the time MOWE was based in Brazil, our biggest struggle on the project was overcoming the 13-hour time difference between both teams. Even though it didn’t end up being the best experience for us as individuals because we had to endure a crazy schedule for a month or so, at the end of the day the project’s development was smooth and the result was great. This experience was the first time we noticed that our creative studio ’s location could be a real challenge.

Now, living in Barcelona, I see how this whole experience could have been waaaay different. The previous 13-hour timezone challenge would be today a much more feasible 8-hour difference — and based on our experience, 8 hours is the most distant you can be from someone without requiring big changes to your work routine.

Being in Barcelona gives me a strategic advantage and allows me to be:

  • 8 or fewer hours behind Australia.
  • A few hours behind or ahead of most countries in Europe and Africa.
  • 6 Hours ahead of New York
  • 9 hours ahead of Los Angeles and Vancouver.

Using timezones in our favor allow us to do our best work for the best businesses and with the best professionals we can find around the world — all of that without big compromises to our work hours or lives.

2. Immersing ourselves in a multicultural Creative Field

It’s unquestionable how many talents Brazil exports — there’s a great chance that you either know or met a great Brazilian professional in other big agencies or creative studios. Still, the creative field in Brazil isn’t truly valued neither by the government nor the businesses. One of the results of this is a culture of overworking and underpaying workers, which most of the time results in frustration and burnout from those professionals. This lack of support and respect were some of the reasons why we did our first big change in terms of business, stepping out of Brazil and going to the USA.

Another result of this lack of support for the field is the small number of events and conferences for the area, especially when you compare with places like the USA and Europe.

Even though the United States has a strong creative industry with many events and amazing professionals, compared to Europe it lacks the diverse cultural background that the latter has to offer. Whenever you go to a conference in Europe you can experience the local culture of the country and its creative field, as well as the culture of each individual that came from a different country. This diversity can sparkle amazing discussions and insights capable of opening your eyes to different points of view and experiences that you never thought about.

As professionals and business owners, if we want to innovate and think differently, it’s essential for us to see and understand the distinctive perspectives and practices of different cultures.

3. Being face to face with clients

As my business partner already explained in his article about the importance of being more in-person when you work remotely, even though remote work is the future of the work environment, online interactions aren’t perfect. That’s why we have team trips every year where the whole team can all hang out for a few days, discuss a bit about the studio’s future and most of all, enjoy ourselves as individuals outside of our jobs and daily tasks.

In a fast-paced world like the one we live in right now, it’s really easy to just get a briefing, do it and move on to the next one. On the other hand, building a strong relationship with a client allows you to do way more and way faster. How do you do that? You can exchange emails, chat on slack, discuss ideas on video calls but nothing will develop more your relationship than real interaction.

As our Revthinker friend, Joel Pilger, always says to his clients: “Experts travel”. My business partner and I have been doing this a lot more since 2018 and we were able not only to meet new potential clients but we got closer to those who already have been working with us. Expertise isn’t something you can find in any corner so if a client trusts you, they will do whatever they can to have you leading the way while you protect them from the problems that might lead to failure down the road.

On one of our most recent experiences, a client asked us to be available for two entire days during their process of script reviews, test reads and voice-over recordings. They desired our support and expertise in animation to provide them with insights, ideas and general directions on how the process could be improved to result in better videos down the road. It was an amazing experience with many great outcomes: The new videos came out great and a lot of small changes occurred in the project’s process due to that two-day experience together.

Having real interactions that lead to stronger relationships with our clients allows our projects to be more successful — Knowing more about their problems, branding and marketing goals, gives us space to try new things and push new boundaries.

But that’s not all…

Even though being in Europe allow us to travel and engage way more easily with our clients, it’s also important to highlight something really important for us. Back in the day when we started MOWE, we had 3 main motivations behind the whole idea of building our creative studio.

  • We knew our work was capable to benefit businesses around the world and not only the Brazilian market
  • We wanted to do great work with great people, no matter where they were.
  • We had specific dreams in life and we wanted to have the freedom to live the life we wanted.

Relocating to Europe allow us to be true to our business principles as it helps us to achieve each one of those goals we set up. Our plan is to continue our path as a global business — with a mix of talents from Brazil and the rest of the world, the business being operated from the USA and with my partner and I being present in Europe, traveling to meet the best clients and connecting with amazing people in all kinds of events in the field.

If I had to leave you with a simple conclusion about this topic, it would be this:

Location is an important tool in the remote world and people need to think of it as a strategic advantage instead of a fixed point on a map.


If you live in(or plan to visit) either Lisbon or Barcelona, invite my business partner(felippe@mowe.studio — LIS) or me(raff@mowe.studio — BCN) for a coffee, juice, gin, beer,… we love to discuss everything business or animation-related.


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July 11, 2019

The Key for Winning in a Remote World is to be More In-Person

illustration of two people talking to each other

I know you can easily see the paradox in the title. Being a remote company — or just working remotely — comes with many advantages: a more flexible lifestyle, the ability to work wherever we want, and the easiness of connecting with clients and peers around the world without leaving our desks.

Honestly, I can’t complain how impactful going remote was to me in both personal and professional aspects of life. I can work with the people I want to without the need to live next to them. I can visit my family and be there when they need me, without needing to ask permission to do so or even worrying about missing some days in the office — as long as I maintain a nice balance with my job.

The “perks” we live in

The remote work environment is full “benefits,” but to succeed in this world, we can’t forget the human touch.

It’s not difficult nowadays to transform all our social interactions into screen interactions.

We change in-person meetings for video calls; handwritten notes for Whatsapp or SMS messages; seeing a friend for liking and tagging their pictures on Instagram; etc.

I won’t lie, we all do that, and I’m not here to condemn Social Media or the “evolution” of human communication. I confess I love it. We are more connected than ever and we can reach those we love whenever we want to with a single device in our pockets.

However, in a world where technology allowed us to be more connected, whenever we can be “in-person,” more memorable these moments are.

The impact of a handwritten note

When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? Actually, have you ever received any? Even though these primordial means of communication seem to be fading away, they are more vigorous than ever.

I don’t have a backup of the messages I exchanged with my wife during all those years we’ve been together, but I keep all the letters and notes we wrote to each other.

Although it creates excellent memories in a personal relationship, it’s not exclusive to that. The same applies perfectly to business.

In a world where both us and our clients are dealing with emails and text messages every day, being able to leave — for example — a personal handwritten letter turns it into a remarkable experience.

The ”long-term friend effect”

Even better than leaving notes and letters, is to be vis-à-vis with someone. We spend so much time of our days face to face with a screen that we miss this human connection. Yes, we can do a lot by email and messages in a Slack channel, but I don’t remember a single time I had a blast sending an email, I just remember the many coffees I had with interesting people I met in-person.

Transforming a digital connection into an in-person meeting creates what I call the “long-term friend effect.” When you are chatting with someone online for months — or even years — and you have the experience of meeting her in person, the described effect happens. Even with just a few months-long relationships, talking in person with someone you only knew online creates the same effect as when we go back to our hometown and see our childhood friends again.

These encounters can make any relationships even stronger, and because the conversation started online, when you’re face to face with the other person, it seems you know each other for many many years.

The same applies to business

The remote work environment made it easier for us to talk in a matter of seconds to many clients and team members in different states and countries. It’s tricky to believe email is all it takes to nourish relationships. The truth is that in business, everything I said here is even stronger.

With the constant efforts of many companies to stand-out, most don’t realize that to be on top, you need to be in front. In front of your prospects. In front of your clients. Face-to-face.

Just “being in town” and grabbing a coffee together creates an impact thousands of emails could never achieve. While all your competitors are emailing, texting and calling your clients you should be there in front of them, enjoying some time together, and creating experiences. It’s hard to stick in our memories the texts on an email or the voice over the phone when compared to real experiences lived together.

Working remotely doesn’t mean you need to be absent. It’s a matter of choosing to be 100% present whenever possible.

To thrive as a remote worldwide business, we need to be more human. Instead of dealing with screens, texts, and numbers on a daily basis, create human, warm connections.

The key to success here is to bring humanity to the (sometimes) cold, remote world.


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June 5, 2019

The story behind MOWE and its remote way of working

Photo of our team's retreat

Do you know when you make a great decision in life but you only notice it a few years later? That’s exactly what I’ve been experiencing lately. For those who don’t know about me, I’m the Art Director and Co-founder of a completely remote Motion Graphics & Animation Studio called MOWE Studio.

Felippe Silveira and I created this place with the dream of working from our own offices at home, with the professionals we liked and admired, and with the clients that valued our work the most. And I’m really glad to say that it’s happening!

I’ll be telling a lot more about our path until where we are today, but we would like to start with the first thing people always ask us: Why did you decide to build a remote team?

Why MOWE is a remote company?

I consider this decision to be a mix of reality, curiosity and opportunity.

Reality

Felippe and I have always worked really far away from each other — when we started to consider building "something" together, I was living in Toronto, Canada and he was living in Barcelona, Spain. Eventually, we went back to Brazil but that didn't change anything since we were still an 8h car drive away from each other instead of a 10h flight like before — For those who don't know Brazil, it's huge! This means that the distance between two countries in Europe can be way smaller than the distance between two neighboring states in our big country.

Curiosity

If we have something in common, it's definitely the fact that we’re curious. Since we had that initial drive to make this "remote thing" work somehow, we started to question the whole structure of work that we were used to, like the simple fact that we needed to be together in the same physical space to do great work. Eventually, we noticed that we could replicate or improve many of those workflows and situations.

Opportunity

I honestly think that we were in the right place, at the right time. Firstly, there was no other way to work together since we were living in different countries. Secondly, Slack had just been released and together with them, we had tools like Skype, "Google Apps for Work"(aka. G Suite) and Dropbox to support with other needs we had. We truly believed we had a chance to build “something” remote with those tools…and we did it.

Being a tool nerd as I am, I remember I almost forced Felippe to join Slack with me and that’s actually one of the reasons why I’m a HUGE slack fan. It would have been way harder for us to start our business the way we did and it would probably be even harder to manage everything today without it — we have more than 15 channels of different projects and subjects where we discuss on a daily basis.

Screenshot from our account history. It seems that we took almost 9 months of incubation until Felippe became an Administrator of our Account — probably because it was the time we hired the first sound designer to work with us through slack.

The evolution from 2015 to 2019

We definitely added a lot of tools to our tool belt since we started, at 2015, but the biggest change in the business is actually related to the people that work with us and how we see this whole thing.

Working as a remote team is way less the tools you use and way more the people you choose to work with and how do you value their abilities, time and life.

At the beginning of 2019, we had our first team travel and it was a unique experience for us all. We flew everyone to the same city to finally meet each other face to face and everyone had an amazing time. One of the unique aspects for us, owners of the business, was seeing how important it is to define and incentivize a powerful internal culture of empowerment, friendship and partnership, even more than in non-remote companies.

Other than culture, remote work is all about routines, workflows and pipelines. Things have to be organized so everyone can know where to go or who to contact whenever they have a problem.

Being constantly challenged by projects, clients and professionals was a great way to develop a structure that goes beyond our initial believes of what was possible to achieve. For example, for someone used to doing 01:30 to 02:00 videos, 4 years later we’re delivering 5-minute animations on a monthly output, with:

  • No delays
  • Great quality
  • Happy professionals
  • Happy client
  • Almost no adjustments since communication is always clear and constant.

2019 and beyond

Four years after we started it all, MOWE is open and running from the USA and not from Brazil as we initially expected, we have a team spread through multiple countries and cities and we're all hungry as *#[email protected] to create amazing work!

We still have a lot to learn and improve but we would like to take you as well in this journey since we know there are other professionals and businesses interested in joining the "remote revolution" — at least that's how I heard someone say it. To me, it's only a smarter and modern way of working.

Silly things people do when they get together

Thanks for following me on this small journey. Since we receive so many questions about our way of working and how we can achieve a lot of things in this day and age, I have already a ton of topics and things organized that I would like to talk about. Follow our publication if you would like to know more about MOWE, remote working and how Animation and Design can make huge positive impacts on businesses.


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