Brand films are short videos created to showcase a brand as a form of digital marketing. Usually, they tell a story, connecting the audience to the brand’s core messages, and can be fictional or documentary style. Branded films differ from standard video advertising in that they aren’t a direct sales pitch of a product. Not only do they explain what they’re selling, they convey why by outlining the brand’s fundamental values.

Unlike most commercials seen on television or online before that hilarious cat video you can’t wait to watch on YouTube starts, branded films don’t have to stick to the 15, 30 or 60 second formats.

Brand films are designed to communicate directly to their target audience, and the best branded content immediately draws the audience in, feeling a personal connection to the brand; a product they would purchase or a service they would use.

Through visualisation, graphics, music, a thought-provoking script and relatable characters, this can easily be achieved. They can range from a couple of minutes, to a couple of hours, reminiscent of a big-budget, Steven Spielberg-directed Hollywood blockbuster.

In the digital age, there is a lot of competition and attention spans are decreasing, which puts pressure on brands to create a film that will not only capture their audience’s attention but hold it. A compelling story that an audience will care about is the easiest way to keep them engaged, which is why many of the world’s most popular forms of branded content often focus on storytelling that evokes emotion. If your audience trusts the message of your brand throughout the film, they’re more likely to establish a connection to it.

Small budget, big impact

Branded content doesn’t have be extravagant or expensive. You might not have the same budget of a global brand like Microsoft, or the reach of Google, but a creative approach and a great story can help get your brand over the line – and keep your audience talking about and sharing the content on social media and online.

A great brand film shouldn’t become too complicated that the audience loses interest. Identify your brand’s key values, and the take-away message you want your viewer to absorb.

It has also become increasingly popular for brands to use self-deprecating humour, to poke fun of themselves or create short-form situational comedy. The US-based subscription brand Dollar Shave Club does this really well, and on a very low-budget. In 2012, the subscription razor service re-launched its brand with a very effective, low-cost brand film. It cost less than US$4500 to produce and has been viewed over 22 million times – propelling the company to become the second-largest men’s razor sellers in the United States.

Bigger budget branding

If you’ve got the bucks to spend, there are ample ways to produce an enthralling big-budget brand film, and the associated marketing campaign to ensure it obtains optimal viewing.

Big budget brands are now attracting famous filmmakers to produce their content. Fashion brand Prada recruited internationally acclaimed director and writer Wes Anderson to create a short brand film, starring Jason Schwartzman – a staple actor in Anderson’s films. Visually stunning and creative, Anderson’s Prada piece gained over a million views on YouTube before premiering at the Rome Film Festival in 2013.

Regardless of your budget, experience and equipment, each branded video should include a call-to-action, provoking an immediate response from the viewer. If your goal is to drive traffic to the website, amass likes on Instagram or follows on Facebook, always ensure that there’s a clickable link that allows your audience to easily follow through with the branded film’s ultimate goal of brand awareness.

The future of branded content is looking increasingly bright given the number of platforms we have to play with and devices on which to view them. There’s even a Brand Film Festival, showcasing the world’s best branded content, so it’s now up to brands and businesses to keep up with the latest trends in branded films and relevant technology, and how to make them go viral.

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