Branded Documentaries - exploring the effect of utilizing documentary filmmaking styles on developing emotional connections with audiences
In the marketing industry, ‘brand storytelling’ has become a buzz word for the intersection between organic narratives and strong advertising. To create this organic branded content, marketers are increasingly contracting filmmakers and documentaries to produce branded documentaries. The shift from overt ads to subtle messaging in branded documentaries has helped a large number of businesses connect with consumers. Therefore, the objective of this thesis is to explore the effect of utilizing documentary film- making styles on brand content marketing. This is a work of qualitative research examining the use of storytelling via documentary film to market brands. This research aims to understand what makes the combination of storytelling and documentary filmmaking more effective than traditional overt marketing. I hope this paper can provide small businesses and marketing consultants with guidelines on how they can produce branded documentaries to improve their marketing strategy. In this thesis, I analyze brand sponsored videos and short films to identify common elements and themes present in the videos. To select the videos, I build a heuristic based on research of common metrics and categories used to define videos, such as audience retention, ability to connect with consumers, length of film. Research from published works, visual rhetoricians, and interviews from practitioners in the marketing and film industry will also inform my analysis of how documentary film styles are being adapted or imitated in brand marketing and how those strategies operate to create effective brand content.