Most CEOs and marketers didn’t go to film school. But as video becomes an increasingly important visual medium for brands, content marketers have to learn the tricks of the trade. And, most importantly, in order to tell their brand stories in an engaging way, they have to learn to think from a narrative perspective, not just a marketing one.
Even without that BFA in filmmaking, there are some simple rules to follow that can turn marketers into genius storytellers. Here, we break them down with the help from some of the best creative minds in the business.
1. Don’t tell the story you think people should hear. Do tell the story that people want to hear.
“Effective storytelling is kind of like showing common social courtesy,” marketing veteran and branded content visionary Fredrik Carlström of Carlström and Co, says. “You would never wear a tuxedo in a dive bar. Then why would you talk to people in a way that ignores how they communicate?”
By understanding your audience, and embracing what your consumers like, you have a much better chance of them engaging with you.
Example: Metro’s “Dumb Ways To Die“
2. Don’t use talking heads with scripts. Do let the real people tell the story.
We have seen it a million times before in commercials, infomercials, and brand videos: There’s a CEO or actor reciting a script that explains why you should like their particular product. Does it convince anyone? No. So why do brands keep doing it? Because it’s easy.
“The only people who should be talking about a product are the ones who actually have a real relationship to it,” Carlström says. It takes more research and planning to find those real-life characters, and you may have to spend more time to get them to be comfortable on camera, but the authenticity of the finished product is worth the extra effort.
Example: LandRover company video
3. Don’t expect your editor to perform miracles. Do trust that he or she can find the magic moments.
“The most common misconception about editing is that you can fix anything in post[-production],” says Robin Burchill, editor at Fluid, a New York-based company that offers post-production services for commercials and brand videos. “Sometimes a client has approved a script but is disappointed in the end result and has unreasonable ideas about how it can be transformed.”
While certain aspects can be touched up in post-production, during filming, the client should be following the script frame by frame with a marketing checklist, and making sure that they don’t look over any spontaneous moments that can add authenticity to a video. An experienced editor, meanwhile, is trained to pick up those moments and turn them into gold.
“All you can do is to find something that’s surprising and moving and true. It can be a turn of a phrase or how people look at each other,” Burchill says. “It’s not always about what really happened. It’s about what feels true.”
Example: Karlsson Vodka’s “Our Story”
4. Don’t follow a set formula. Do let the story unfold organically.
Why do some videos seem stiff and uninspired while others captivate you instantly? Films that fail to engage you are usually made with a formulaic approach.
“Some creatives are so used to working with a formula, they believe that attention peaks at exactly 11 seconds and crank the stock music to a crescendo,” says Leanne Diamond, senior producer at Fluid.
Sometimes little editing gimmicks or narrative patterns become popular and widely imitated, and then they become stale.
“The lifecycle of media trends is very quick and these things become clichés fast,” says journalist and filmmaker Aaron Peasley. “If it’s re-hashed it never looks good in the end.”
Peasley and videographer Nick Sweeney made a stunning video for Nowness that portrayed the mannequin creator Ralph Pucci.
“It was important to us to explore how you can look at mannequins in a different way,” says Aaron. Due to their authentic passion for their subject, the team managed to bring depth, mystery and relevance to a bunch of plastic body parts.
Example: “Apotheosis“: Ralph Pucci
5. Don’t ignore the power of sound. Do invest in an original score or sound design.
“The one thing that I wish people would care more about is sound design,” Diamond says. (Sound design is the art of recording real sound, rather than creating artificial effects.) “Using sound effects is like peeling off a layer of authenticity.”
Original music can also have a strong emotional impact. In the short film “Mystery Kills” about artist Amber Ibarreche, by Philip Leaman and Zoie Rizzuto, the expressive score by composer Ava Jarden feels almost like another voice that enhances and supports the words of the narrator.
Example: “Mystery Kills“: Amber Ibarreche
Written by Johanna Lenander | Contently.