Branded Film Marketing

Updated on February 12, 2020.

Featured image from YouTube.

Car chases and explosions aren’t just for the silver screen anymore. Brands are creating their own short films as a marketing tool. And, it’s working. Branded films have been on the rise over the past few years. Brands are able to use short film to reach their audiences in a creative, entertaining, and subtle way.

What Are Branded Films?

Branded films are short videos made by brands that are used as a marketing tool. They can range in run time from five minutes to half an hour. They are entertainment focused, but can be either fiction or documentary. Above all else, they are content driven, and need to be relatable and authentic in order to appeal to the audience.

Many branded films have high-quality production value. Some are even directed by big-name directors, like Wes Anderson.

The goal of branded film is the same as any marketing tactic: increasing brand awareness, engaging audiences, and influencing customer purchasing. But, the branded film is rooted in the depth of a plot. The brand is like a secondary character in these short films — a part of the story, but not the center.

Examples of Effective Branded Films

“Two Bellmen,” Marriott

This branded film by Marriott is successful in engaging and entertaining its viewers. The visuals, sound, and camera movements are compelling, and the fictional story is rich in comedy. The high-quality production value in this film is absolutely crucial to its success. The level of quality affects how the film is received by its audience. A higher quality film tells the audience the piece is about more than a purchasing incentive. It’s no wonder Marriott was able to create three installments in this series. 

The short is branded very subtly. Yes, it is about a hotel, but it’s not about the Marriott brand hotels. The film focuses more on brand association rather than sale. “Two Bellmen” is incredibly accessible as well. It is available on YouTube and the brand website, which makes it more shareable.

“Backwater,” MINI

“Backwater” is a truly innovative branded film. Not only does it have all the crucial elements of a successful branded film, but it was created using cutting-edge 360-video technology. The story is already engaging, but the use of 360-video creates an immersive experience for the viewer.

The brand may seem more present in this video compared to others, like Prada’s “Castello Cavalcanti” above, but its presence makes sense. The car featured in the film mirrors the idea of brand-as-character. The brand and product are displayed in a way that benefits the plot and doesn’t annoy the viewer.

Why Branded Film?

Branded film can be a great tool to reach millennial audiences. Generally, millennials do not trust traditional advertising and don’t want to be feel manipulated. Branded films are entertaining and engaging, which makes them appeal more to millennial consumers. Even if millennials aren’t your target audience, branded film can be relatable to a wide range of viewers.

Branded shorts are inherently shareable. Many of the films are posted on YouTube and Vimeo, and can be shared through social media. This can result in branded films going viral, as seen with the “Pay It Forward” short film. These films can encourage increased brand awareness and purchase intent as well. In fact, an Intel study measuring brand film engagement of four of their videos found an 8 to 12 percent increase in both.

What’s Next For Branded Film?

Branded film marketing is likely to grow in the coming years, as both a marketing tool and artistic endeavor. As a marketing tool, branded films tend to “outsmart” traditional online advertisements. Viewers can easily click out of ads, skip ads, or ignore television commercials. Branded films are the content audiences want to watch, all while being indirectly influenced by a company’s message.

Actually, branded films are now becoming eligible for awards. In 2016, the Brand Film Festival began sponsored by Campaign US and PRWeek. The festival recognizes and celebrates outstanding fiction and documentary branded films.

This year’s Brand Film Festival is in New York City on May 4, 2017.

Katie Murray, Marketing and Communications at Green Buzz Agency.

Emily Herman contributed to this post.