Whether you’re a YouTube fanatic or you just can’t resist clicking on BuzzFeed Videos, our news feeds are so infiltrated with videos that sometimes, it feels like we can’t escape. Big brands have always seen the value in television advertising, but a new shift in digital marketing is proving the importance of authentic brand storytelling, not overt product promotion.
So what does it take to produce branded video content that actually converts?
For Take One Creative, an agency specializing in documentary films and branded video content, capturing an audience’s attention begins with a story that evokes emotion.
Brandfolder interviewed Hal Clifford, co-founder at Take One Creative, about how to walk the line between promotional content and traditional storytelling to craft a compelling brand story.
1) Brand storytelling is a popular term that gets used in many different contexts. How do you define successful brand storytelling?
I come from the perspective of someone who has worked in print media for a long time, so I think about the elements of a good story: character, arc, and emotional connection.
I often try to get clients to understand that our work is designed to make people get up on the edge of their seat and want to know more. Once you attract their attention and you have them where you want them, it’s much easier to provide the next piece of information.
2) Why do you think this method of storytelling resonates so well with people?
When we work for a brand, we are looking to personify their brand story. This is because there’s a lot of psychological research about the effectiveness of humans connecting to other humans. Stories evolved from people talking around a campfire—it’s the same except that now the campfire is your laptop screen.
What we’re looking for is real emotional engagement on behalf of the client. We do this because decisions are emotional, all the time. We think they’re analytical but they’re generally emotional at their root, so that’s what we’re aiming at.
3) Take One Creative creates branded video content for mission-driven organizations. In your work, how do you strike a balance between authentic, journalistic-inspired storytelling and content that comes off as overly promotional?
It’s always a dance. Our best clients are people who trust us to understand what they’re about and create really authentic work that represents them in a positive and honest light. That’s really hard for people in marketing departments to accept; there’s a letting go of control that’s scary for some.
A long time ago, I learned that my primary job as an editor is to keep my credibility with the reader. I feel that way when we’re trying to create truly authentic work in video; it too has to feel real and trustworthy. The audience can understand that it’s promotional and that it’s advertising, as long as they also believe they’re being told a genuine, interesting story.
We define this pretty broadly, but we try to work on projects that, in some ways, ultimately make the world a better place.
4) What is your process for getting to the core of a brand, and then building a compelling story about it?
One of the things that I learned as a journalist is to be naive—it’s our job to not know anything. I want someone to explain it to me so that I can turn around and explain it to my audience.
One of our roles is to just be a new set of eyes, always asking why? It’s not quite our role to say, “These are your attributes and this is what you want to promote.”
Instead, we tell them what we think, based on what we have to work with, and suggest things that might be a good story. We describe our process as curiously collaborative.
5) The Whole Foodies campaign is a great example of flexible branding—they trust their fans to create relevant, on-brand social content for them. Is this something you think more brands should adopt?
I think it’s really fun and interesting to figure out how to engage your core supporters in ways that make them feel like they own the brand.
That’s what I feel like Whole Foods is trying to do; they’re an incredibly successful company with loyal customers. This gives those people a sense of ownership, and I would love to see more companies try to do this.
My one caveat is that I think you have to have an authentic story to pull it off.
6) You mentioned that it is sometimes hard to build trust with clients. How do you overcome that obstacle?
It doesn’t work if I’m trying to tell someone that they need what we do. If they haven’t sold themselves already on that idea, I’m not going to.
There’s a middle ground in there, so I think that trust process is really just more of spending time with the client, reflecting things back to them and being as open and transparent as possible. We will share almost everything with our clients—we will show you exactly how the process works and we will let you be as involved as you want to be.
Michelle Polizzi is the Content Coordinator at Brandfolder, a user-friendly tool for brand asset management. When she’s not busy creating content, you can find her bicycling around Denver or catching a live concert. She’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn.