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How the Stories Told in Movies are Just Like Your Brand's

Matt Peters
November 20, 2018

Branded films are a key way marketers capture the attention of their target audience in an indirect and engaging way. This post will discuss how brand storytelling and movie style intersect to tell segments of brand story in an artistic and engaging way.

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Read on to learn about the different types of brand films, examples of what works, and how each type can help you meet your brand story goals.    


What Is a Brand Film:   

Brand films are videos that are created in order to indirectly talk about aspects of brand story. Although these movies are usually only a few minutes in length, they are approached stylistically as a short film. Brand films can be useful to marketers as a means of engaging a target audience. It’s a method of connecting people to a brand through a story that the target audience is interested in.     

The first thing to consider when making a brand film is what your brand goal is when creating a brand film.


Are you doing it to connect with your audience on an interpersonal level? To show off a brand narrative or interest? Effect audience emotions   

Brand films are not necessarily about the company itself. In fact, it is recommended that your brand be a feature rather than the focus of a brand film. Think of them almost like brand sponsored product placement rather than a direct marketing campaign. Although brand films shouldn't be centered around the brand, they should capture the brand essence.    

There are a few different styles of brand films that exist, and some variety within each. The ones we will be discussing are brand documentary, animated shorts, and cinematic fictions.    

Brand Documentary:  

The most important aspect of any documentary is the topic. For a brand documentary to be engaging, you need to either choose a topic that is fun and unexpected or answer a question your target audience might have.

For brand documentaries there needs to be a balance between authenticity and authority. You want the topic to be far enough away from your brand that the film seems authentic and not like an infomercial, but on a topic that makes sense for your brand to have authority in. There’s a very specific balance to strike   

The focus of brand documentaries is the audience. What do they want to see? What is their story? How can they interact with your product to meet their goals?

Documentaries are all about the audience, so in order for you to choose a good topic you need to have a strong understanding of who your audience is and what they want to know.    

Documentary to Entertain:  

Church’s Chicken: It All Starts With a Drumstick  


3 years ago, Church’s Chicken came out with a documentary series called “It All Starts with a Drumstick”. The title is a play on words connecting the topic of the restaurant- chicken, with the topic of the documentary- the world’s fastest drummers.

The company was acting as the sponsor for a music competition for world’s fastest drummer taking place in Atlanta, which is also the location of their headquarters. In addition to the creative way of relating the two topics, the company takes advantage that one of their largest markets is the Atlanta area and this event would attract local customers. Marketing the fact that they are a sponsor and supporter of the event also frames them as an active community member.    

Documentary of Customer Story: 

Heineken: World’s Apart 


Heineken chose to focus on their customer stories for their brand documentary series. They chose two people with very opposing political and social views and asked them to spend some time together.

After revealing their opposing views to each other, Heineken asks them whether they want to leave or if they want to stay, have a drink, and talk things out. In addition to talking about important social and political issues that face our society today, Heineken also shows how communication (over a beer) can be key in forming an understanding. By connecting the customers with each other it solidifies brand loyalty and the excitement that surrounds the brand.  

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Animated Short:

Animated shorts are a fun and appealing way to tell a story. These are short films that usually have a stronger emotional impact. Brand documentaries are more about answering a question and interacting with your audience. Animated shorts focus on creating an emotional connection through a meaningful message or humor. This format is especially useful for sharing brand narrative and framing a brand persona.    

Animation to Share Brand Narrative: 

Lyft: Life Is Better When You Share a Ride 


Your brand narrative differentiates you from other competitors that sell similar products or services. It’s the special aspect of your brand story that forms a shared purpose between you and your customers. In the case of Lyft, their brand narrative is heavily influenced on the relationships that are formed in the ride sharing community. It’s this aspect of their brand narrative that makes them stand out when compared to similar services like Uber.

This animation does a perfect job of summing up that idea of community. The story is surrounding the ride sharing community and Lyft simply frames themselves as the vehicle for bringing people together.

The animation is beautifully created by Academy Award winner John Kahrs to convey this brand narrative in very lovable way. The animation is fun to watch and creates an emotional connection with the audience. Lyft also demonstrates their commitment to their community and this ideal by featuring recording artist Sir the Baptist for the music in the video. He was a former Lyft driver who launched their musical career after an interaction with one of their passengers, truly embodying the title “life is better when you share a ride”.    

Animation to Add Humor: 

Transportation: Dumb Ways to Die 


This example really shows off the advantages to using animated shorts as a style for your brand film. This brand animated short ended up going viral, and for good reason. They cover a really heavy topic in an appealing and hilarious animation that succeeds in communicating the intended message. They utilize the power of music to add another element of engagement and humor, and they only directly reference their message at the end. However, by putting ignoring train safety on the same level as the rest of the dumb ways to die it makes the message even more powerful.  

Humor is one of the key ways we made brand personas feel more human. In this case, in addition to the video going viral and gaining huge amounts of brand awareness because of the humor, it also framed the Metro transportation center as a funny character as opposed to an un-interactive entity.  

Cinematic Fiction: 

Cinematic fiction films are stylistically the most like an actual movie and sometimes features well-known actors. They are essentially a 10-minute movie that features a product front and center. By crafting a story around an inanimate object, you can make it come to life in a memorable way.

BMW: The Escape 

This short-branded film works well because it shows the product in an unexpected way. While most car commercials and marketing show the car in pristine condition and expertly driven, this one places the product in a position where it actually ends up completely wrecked. The Escape's characters are also well-known actors Clive Owen and Dakota Fanning. 

Other Things to Consider: 


Brand films should be approached from an artistic perspective. The scripts should be written by film writers, not marketers. The actors in the videos should be professionals. Although they are a powerful marketing strategy, they draw that power from the artistic storytelling. They should first be film and secondly a marketing tool. The reason they work in marketing is because they indirectly convey aspects of a brand story. This makes the brand story feel authentic and believable and something an audience can engage with. If the brand is too direct on the marketing side, you risk your video just sounding like an extended commercial… which is the opposite of engaging.    



Brand films should be treated like a film in all aspects. This includes the release date. The power of when you release a brand film is exemplified through the video surrounding Patagonia’s Worn Wear program. The video promoted less product consumption and valuing the items we have. Patagonia released their video on the day before Black Friday, posing a wonderful juxtaposition between a time of the year when we consume the most and a motivating video of why we should be loving what we have.      


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