The Best Branded Documentaries
Documentary. Just the sound of this word used to make people yawn. In the past, documentary was widely considered to be elitist and artistic. Hours long, these videos went in depth into the nitty-gritty details of topics and related information. As a marketer looking to entice viewers with brand excitement, it was hard to take advantage of documentary’s unique and insightful way to tell authentic stories.
But in recent years as Internet, smartphones, and social media have proliferated, a new format of documentary has evolved and conquered the market: branded documentaries, or branded-docs. They continue documentaries’ authentic form of expression, using an artistic storytelling approach to resonate with their audience. However, by sticking to stories that are short and honest, brands have successfully adapted the documentary style to tell customer’s stories and inspire customer loyalty.
Branded documentary has been adopted by many brands such as Apple, L’Oréal and Vans, as a significant part of their content marketing. Here, we’ll break down some other successful approaches to branded documentary strategy.
Patagonia – align your brand message with your consumer
Do you have the urge to buy dozens of clothes when you shopping or do you usually only get one piece after carefully consideration? For Patagonia customers, it’s absolutely the latter. Knowing this, Patagonia, the outdoor gear and clothing brand, made a video documentary marketing campaign that highlighted the stories of those resourceful customers, allowing them to explain how they cherished their Patagonia gear throughout years of rugged adventures.
88% of customers say they trust online reviews as much as individual recommendations (BrightLocal). That’s why this branded doc works — Patagonia allows their customers be their brand ambassadors. By focusing on the real accounts of the reuse of their products, the outdoor brand conveys a believable message of durability through powerful customer testimonial. It’s obvious that Patagonia knows their typical customer cares about minimizing their eco-footprint by buying quality products. The branded doc allowed Patagonia to take confident steps to align their brand message with the values of their customers.
Another strategic step Patagonia took was to release the video right before Black Friday. This continues to push the brand towards sustainability and quality, as Patagonia actively encourages its customers to celebrate the things they already have, instead of participating in unnecessary over-consumption.
Make-A-Wish Foundation – exhibit the impact on your customers
Branded-documentary can be like virtual reality gear. It takes the audience right into the story, helping the viewer feel the same emotions as the main character. Make-A-Wish foundation, and its video producer Green Buzz Agency, uses this characteristic to its advantage when telling the story of Nitin, and his wish to become a Washington Wizard for the Day.
In this branded documentary, the audience is brought along for the wish experience that Make-A-Wish tailored to Nitin’s dream. They get to to see, first-hand, every exciting moment Nitin feels on his wish. After hearing the teenager explain the tough journey his illness put him through, the viewer is left with no questions that Make-A-Wish is doing a great service for someone who truly deserves it. In the end, the impact Make-A-Wish has on Nitin is clear– it not only brings smile and happiness to the teenager, but also hands over hope and faith to him and his family.
By exhibiting the impact on its clients, Make-A-Wish foundation makes the audience believes in its mission, and encourages them to use their power to change the world. The branded-documentary is a great success. At the gala, Make-A-Wish raised 0,000, compared with $420,000 the previous year.
Starbucks – Instantly Relatable
There seems to be a Starbucks on every street corner in every city in the world. How does a brand so big maintain its close relationship with its millions of customers? By elevating the customer story with a branded documentary!
“Meet me at Starbucks” gives glimpses into the activities of coffee shop regulars, from the typical first date to a scrapbooking club meeting. It clearly demonstrates how Starbucks is shaped by the customer communities that patronize it. That’s the key: rather than focusing on its products, the story is customer-centric and shows Starbucks patrons personalizing the coffee shop’s atmosphere.
Branded doc grants the perfect opportunity to remind customers what brand interaction really means. Watching the stories of other customers unlocks memories of the viewer’s own first date, tearful meetup, or other special moment that may have taken place at a Starbucks. The branded doc lets them connect with people just like them. That makes “Meet me at Starbucks” instantly relatable to any Starbucks customer. This video was a hit with their brand fans, racking up more than 170,000 views on Youtube, including media coverage such as AdWeek, AdAge, and Business Insider.
Branded documentary is an excellent content marketing strategy to connect your customers to each other, solidifying loyalty and brand excitement. Remember: In the end, your brand is built by the people who use it. Never underestimate the power of a customer story.
Siwen Wang is a Communications Professional in the DC area. She specializes in web and social media strategy. If a bubble tea brand wanted to sponsor a branded documentary, she wants to be interviewed!