Short Branded Documentaries Done Right: Video Storytelling in Marketing

The emphasis on video storytelling has been on the rise in recent years. Consumers are craving more meaningful and emotional connections with the brands they support. The branded documentary format can provide marketers with an opportunity to tap into this human desire and to create compelling and engaging content that has the power to educate, inform, and inspire their target audience.

Spotify: “A Day in Ghana with Kendrick Lamar”

“A Day in Ghana with Kendrick Lamar” is a four-minute mini-documentary released by Spotify on June 17, 2022, which coincided with Kendrick Lamar’s 35th birthday and the release of his latest studio album “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”. The documentary showcases the rapper experiencing the street lifestyle in Accra, Ghana for the first time. He spends the day with the local youth, where we get to see him playing soccer, taking photos, and visiting Freedom Skate Park, Ghana’s first fully functional skate park, which was funded by the late fashion icon Virgil Abloh.

This short film is a prime example of how to produce a branded documentary effectively. In just a few short minutes, it offers a unique and engaging perspective on the artist who often eludes media attention. The raw, truth-seeking style of the production aligns with Kendrick’s own music style. There is no mention of the album until nearly two minutes into the video – there’s no need. Seeing Kendrick be present and embrace this new experience is engaging enough for the viewer to stick around. Finding out that a new album is around the corner and available on Spotify is just the icing on the cake.

Porsche: “Aurora Borealis”

Porsche took a route that’s become a growing trend over the past few years. As opposed to hiring a production crew to film a documentary the traditional way, they opted to hand over the creative reigns to a well-known content creator with the goal of making “user-generated content.” By doing this, they attach their brand to this influencer and offer to share their platform and audience for the creator to tell their story in a mutually-beneficial arrangement.

This production style gives the storyteller more creative freedom to be authentic and tell the story how they see fit. Porsche would have researched filmmakers who they believe would align with their brand, and likely have been less involved in the actual creative process. In this particular film, the influential content creator is Marcus Valeur – a photographer who had the dream to capture the Northern Lights on camera for most of his life. In this Porsche-sponsored short documentary, we follow his journey to Norway to realize this dream.

Google: “Google Career Certificates: Karrim”

This is a classic example of a well-structured user success story.

In this three-minute short documentary, Google tells the relatable story of a young man named Karrim, and the struggles he faces while trying to enter the workforce. As the son of Ethiopian immigrants, his parents always told him that they wanted him to succeed and have a better life than they had. They adamantly encouraged him to pursue formal education. After graduating from college in 2020, Karrim was determined to find a job, but – compounded by the coronavirus pandemic – he found that opportunities were few and far between.

After submitting over a hundred applications, with months of no response, Karrim eventually stumbled across the Google Data Analytics Certificate. This Google-presented training program promised to give graduates valuable skills in coding, data analytics, and data mapping. Karrim excelled in the program and was able to find a rewarding career opportunity within a month of graduation from the program.

This short film is a great example of an ideal customer journey. We identify and relate with Karrim’s problem, and see how Google’s Certificate program was the right-fitting solution.

Think of the concept similarly to product placement in films and music videos. The brand that makes an appearance isn’t the focus of the story but works more on the viewer’s subconscious. Similarly, branded documentaries aren’t always focused on the brand necessarily, rather they might be engaging documentaries ‘sponsored by’ or ‘presented by’ the brand.

Investing in this type of content isn’t for the impatient. This is a long-game investment that helps shape the overall understanding of your brand. However, high-quality content like this is what pays off in spades in the future – laying the groundwork for long-term brand loyalty.


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