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August 10, 2021
With readily available streaming content, traditional advertising has lost some of its luster. Consumers are now seasoned veterans at tuning out ads or taking more extreme measures such as using ad blockers. (Look in the mirror. You know this is you.)
This doesn’t mean, however, that advertising itself is obsolete. People are still spending plenty of cash shopping and seeking the best products and deals. They just want to be told about them in more creative and entertaining ways.
That’s why the most successful brands are transitioning into storytelling. There’s no better way to do this than with video.
It’s not enough to simply create a video that’s like a traditional TV commercial with a fancy jingle and a screeching “Call now” voiceover.
Today’s consumers are more sophisticated. You need to watch how some of the most creative brands are engaging with customers with ads that are more accurately described as short films or edutainment.
Here are some of the most memorable and effective recent brand storytelling examples.
The outdoor brand Yeti is one of the leaders when it comes to creating memorable brand films that are really more like documentaries. Unlike a typical TV commercial or online video ad, Yeti gives viewers an authentic cinematic experience with high production value, artistic shots, and compelling characters who are real people.
The Long Time focuses on Jack Sanders, an architect who helps create a baseball team in a poor area of Alabama. This film, which runs almost 20 minutes, is a moving human interest story that draws you in without mentioning any products.
As with all of the best storytelling tactics, the branding is very subtle. Watching a short film such as The Long Time, you come away with a higher opinion of Yeti simply because their name is on the piece.
This Girl Can is an ad campaign by Sport England to encourage women from diverse backgrounds to become more active.
Whereas most ads about fitness portray people who look like models or athletes in fashionable workout gear, this series targets ordinary and, in some cases, low-income women. Rather than showing women working out at the gym, mountain biking, or playing tennis, this series shows that everyday life provides plenty of opportunities for physical activity.
By showing ordinary people in typical situations such as working or pushing a baby carriage, the video storytelling series makes exercise seem more accessible to people who may not have the money or free time to pursue traditional fitness activities.
B&W Trailer Hitches* wanted to start to tell the stories of the people who live and breathe the essence of their brand and its tagline: Towing Adventure.
“Waterman” is the latest in a series of storytelling videos that aim to build both brand awareness and affinity. Each profiles a person who’s doing something extraordinary and living out their dream.
By showing the audience that the brand understands their lifestyle and what inspires them, they’ll build a passion brand that will be top-of-mind for their next purchase.
*(full disclosure: a Scenic Road client)
LEGO is a prime example of a company that has mastered the art of inserting its brand into video storytelling. While many companies arrange for product placements in movies, LEGO has created its own feature-length film, The Lego Movie. There are also LEGO games, bridging the gap between cyberspace and the company’s physical products. It has also created some outstanding short video ads, such as A Slimy Situation. This is a short, animated film about LEGO City, which is threatened by a sinister slime.
Viewers are invited to participate by choosing how to save the city. This was one of YouTube’s most popular video ads a couple of years ago.
As a film, A Slimy Situation may not be a cinematic masterpiece. However, it does tell a suspenseful story while positioning the brand’s products center stage.
Starting in 2017, PhRMA started releasing a series of video storytelling ads highlighting important new medical research to find cures for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Each video spotlights a researcher who is working in the field to help save lives. The videos tell captivating stories that portray patients as well as dedicated medical professionals.
Together ALS, for example, begins with the touching plight of people suffering from this debilitating disease. From there, we see researchers discussing their effort to find a cure.
With its Agility Is series, AT&T has created a series of ads for its business services that focus on individuals and values rather than products and services.
The Pursuit of Agility features Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happiness (which also became a popular film) discussing his journey from homelessness to a successful business owner. The video never mentions AT&T but focuses on the theme of agility.
This video series also became a social media contest where viewers were invited to send in their own ideas on what agility is to them. This approach is a perfect example of a company using the art of video storytelling and associating itself with desirable qualities and interesting people, rather than openly tooting its own horn.
The sportswear brand Under Armour is known for its innovative ad campaigns. In 2018, it released a series of short videos featuring athletes and celebrities, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The Will Finds A Way series celebrates hard work and determination as it highlights men and women striving to achieve their goals. The message is motivational even to people who aren’t athletes.
As with many video storytelling advertisements, these Under Armour videos don’t mention any specific products or brand names. They are simply inspirational ads which tell a story that automatically link the brand name to grit and relentless pursuit of your goals.
The website building platform Squarespace has released a number of interesting video ads featuring celebrities such as John Malkovich. One of their recent videos is Make It, with Keanu Reeves describing how to make a website as he sits by a fire in the desert.
This and other Squarespace ads turn a technical topic into an adventure story. Rather than listing features (which interested shoppers can find on the company’s own website), the videos suggest that building your own website is a creative and adventurous enterprise.
Instead of one example, I’m cheating and giving you many. Mailchimp Presents, according to their site, “is a collection of original content that celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit.”
These are all examples of businesses using video storytelling to tell compelling stories. Whether it’s a profile of a small business and its mission, or a series showcasing the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, each has a broad audience and appeal.
While there are many ways to create effective video storytelling ads, the essential point to remember is that today’s audience doesn’t want more sales pitches. They want to be moved, inspired, or amused. The best ads of today are like movies or TV shows where the product and brand are in the background.
Scenic Road creates authentic brand connections through storytelling. To learn more, contact us.
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