Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
File storage is far from sexy, but it's a technology that's grown increasingly essential with the recent rise of remote work. Dropbox is looking to inject a sense of life and purpose into typical digital storage by expressing how some files and folders — and the stories they hold — make up a person.
The file-saving and -sharing service launched a campaign entitled "For All Things Worth Saving" on Aug. 5 in a bid to make online storage more personable. Dropbox's effort transforms real users' files into nostalgic and romanticized assets by zeroing in on the stories and people behind them. The campaign marks the first work based on a refreshed creative platform — including a simplified visual identity — that will underpin all of Dropbox's marketing for the next several years.
"We really wanted to get back to a foundational truth about the value Dropbox brings to their customers," said Jack De Caluwé, creative director at Instrument, the agency that developed the campaign. "When we talked with customers, we realized that their experience wasn't so much about the product itself, but what they were doing with it. That was what gave it value."
Core to the campaign's concept is how users rely on Dropbox to power their passion projects, creative ventures, work tasks and personal archives.
"This first campaign focuses on file storage, but seeks out the humanity in it — emphasizing the emotional value of our digital files and artifacts," De Caluwé said.
Time capsules of life
Dropbox's new campaign runs through September in major cities like Austin, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco across both print and digital billboards, kiosks, wallscapes, connected TV and social media. Posts on the company's Instagram account will further bring to life the stories of real Dropbox users featured in the campaign, from one woman's cache of voicemails from her father to a graphic designer who digitized her ancestors' letters and photos, capturing their shared Mexican heritage for future generations.
The campaign is the first from a new five-year partnership with creative agency Instrument. Behind "For All Things Worth Saving" and the brand's broader new platform was the goal of emphasizing Dropbox's value by accentuating the human aspects of its products. In early brainstorming sessions, Instrument and the brand's internal agency mulled over prompts like "What was the first file you saved to Dropbox?" and "What was the biggest or latest?," De Caluwé explained. Those questions led the team to thought-provoking anecdotes that spurred the basis of the campaign's concept.
"It was really that moment that got us excited early on. This idea that files are so much more than just files. They're memories, knowledge, resources, and they all have a story to tell," De Caluwé said.
From that point, the team interviewed several users to discuss their most important files and folders rather than focusing on their experiences with the file-saving product.
"Those conversations were always intriguing and, at times, peculiar. People weren't used to talking about their files or being asked questions like 'What is your most important file?'" De Caluwé said. "There was something really intimate and raw about the process. When you ask someone to share their life stories, oftentimes you get the big milestones, but these files seemed to serve as little time capsules for the finer, more nuanced details of life."
Dropbox in the past has taken a different approach to its creative strategy, centering efforts around a single video with one message to support a timely goal, according to Dani Hussey, head of brand marketing at Dropbox. Last year, the company's campaign showed how people used Dropbox as they adapted to new ways of life and remote work during the pandemic's early days. That more product-oriented tactic helps with raising awareness around file-saving capabilities, but now, this refreshed creative platform is designed to broaden users' imaginations for what they can do via Dropbox.
"When you ask someone to share their life stories, oftentimes you get the big milestones, but these files seemed to serve as little time capsules for the finer, more nuanced details of life."
Jack De Caluwé
Creative director, Instrument
This platform marks a shift in how Dropbox engages with its customers, connecting its file-saving technology to its human benefit. A longer-term partnership with Instrument will allow the team to build on consistent messaging over the next several years, potentially strengthening the brand's marketing focus around cohesive storytelling.
"For All Things Worth" will be followed by a deeper product campaign and content marketing strategy to support the broader platform refresh, per Hussey.
Extending the refreshed brand identity, Instrument, Dropbox and agency Collins assembled a design system to unify all marketing activations and creative elements. The goal was to simplify the brand's design language with cleaner visuals, simplified fonts and a reduced color palette that appears less busy.
The system had to be adaptable and scalable to work well on both digital and print channels without compromising on quality or uniformity, according to De Caluwé.
"We also really wanted our system to be flexible. While there's a benefit in consistency, we wanted to make sure there was the space to leave footsteps in the concrete and tailor the creative to [each] story," De Caluwé said. "To enable that, our system flexes between story-led, file-led, folder-led or brand-led — four visual constructs that allow us to emphasize and elevate different aspects of the stories we [are] telling."