Is branded film the future of content?

As brands from consumer-facing industries all over the world look to increase the expansiveness of their content marketing activities, there comes a point where there will be more relevant content available than consumers can reasonably be influenced by on their purchase journeys.

One huge challenge for brands now is producing content that can cut through the noise – content that’s powerful, engaging, and persuasive enough to influence the perception of a brand or product in the minds of consumers. The future winners of the content marketing game could be those brands that can capture and thrill consumers with stories that possess such qualities.

Storytelling is more than just communicating the crux of a brand’s value propositions

Storytelling is more than just communicating the crux of a brand’s value propositions, it’s also commanding those messages across the multitude of channels in which consumers experience media, maintaining consistency, and providing for the many needs and touchpoints of a user’s brand journey.

Enter Branded Film

Branded film has the potential to be one of the most powerful kinds of media to communicate and champion a brand’s core values. With technology such as digital distribution and online streaming, the immersive, emotional, and inspirational contexts of cinematic storytelling can be brought to consumer screens with persuasive and meaningful impact.

Storytelling via film offers businesses the ability to talk about about themselves in a way that isn’t self-indulgent or irreverent; instead it allows for opening an honest and engaging conversation with audiences on how a brand can fulfill a genuine relationship with consumers that complements their lives – something an advertisement, a commercial, or a marketing campaign often fails to achieve.

The Success Of ‘Somer’s Town’

One notable recent example of how the medium can be utilized by a brand can be found in the Eurostar-funded feature length film, “Somer’s Town”.

The 2008 film had an estimated budget of £500,000 and grossed £566,616 in box office earnings. However, the real value was achieved through the artistry and talent of the production.

Having a world-renowned director in Shane Meadows meant the film reached an international audience, screening at numerous festivals, and winning the esteemed Michael Powell award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Accolades enabled, no doubt, by granting Meadows full creative control of the film’s story and production.
What About ROI?

The success of “Somer’s Town” is clear. However, the question-mark on the minds of marketers will be whether this subtlety of approach can ever ensure value and return on investment. Branded film doesn’t push an clear advertorial message, nor does it offer a direct call to action that can be used as a justifiable metric.

What branded film offers is authenticity, art, and long-term engagement.

“Somers Town” offered a simple story about an unlikely friendship between two teenage boys, a mutual coming-of-age that culminated in a trip to France. Their meeting and eventual journey is enabled by Eurostar, but the brand’s presence is tactfully felt and naturally placed.

The underlying message that the film promotes is the spirit of connection, continental friendship, and the empowering qualities of travel. In other words, Eurostar’s brand values brought to life by elements of storytelling within the cohesiveness of film.

More Successful Examples Of Branded Film

Other successful examples include “The Lego Movie”, perhaps the most notable example of a branded film to date, and BMW’s “The Hire”, a series of cinematic shorts directed by internationally-renowned directors.

Sony Ericsson, Schweppes, and Prada (see below) have also invested in the branded film. In each case, the brands reap the benefits of international reach, achieved through the universality of storytelling and the film medium.
Communicating Core Brand Values

The world’s most respected brands are recognized because they have ingratiated themselves with universal values that people find relatable. Coca-Cola’s grand vision for the brand revolves around the concept of happiness, and Nike’s “Just Do It” captures a sense of primal impulse that has come to embody their brand values.

John Montgomery, CEO of Threshold Interactive, the L.A.-based digital agency behind the Nestle-sponsored “Butterfinger the 13th” told Momentology that branded film experiences are powerful because they emotionally connect with people.

“Branded films have the ability to transform an audience unlike any other audio visual medium by connecting with people for a very long time around a specific theme,” Montgomery said. “Powerful themes from film can be born from the DNA of a brand.”

“Film is an incredible storytelling device that allows you to build subtle nuances around a theme,” he added. “Because of that, it’s a powerful tool for brands to use. Documentary films, in particularly, seems like an easy fit for brands to get involved in the stories that people have.”

Brands that want to compete for those core values, and to communicate emotional or inspirational ideas, have the opportunity to instill a perception of those values in consumer minds through branded films.
The Future of Branded Film?

The future of branded film presents exciting, unexplored territory, according to Montgomery.

“There will be more branded films coming in the future,” he said. “More brands will look to experiment and there’s going to be quite a few different types of branded films as the entertainment business looks to overhaul its model and offset development costs in creating long-form content.”

Film has the potential to capture the timeless elements of storytelling that appeal to consumers on a deeper level than that of advertorial messages. It was the late academic Joseph Campbell who said “If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.”

For the ambitious, branded film could be the medium to tell those stories.