2018 Video Trend #4: Documentary Marketing

by James Loizou
2018 Video Trend #4: Documentary Marketing

Forget About Length. Make a Movie!

In 2013, Dove released its Real Beauty Sketches commercials, triggering a social dialogue among the public about the definition of "beauty." At a glance, this type of marketing seemed counterintuitive or just plain bonkers for a brand that makes personal care products. But this campaign (actually a successor to the first viral hit Evolution way back in 2005!) exposed a new way of marketing. It turned decades of advertising beauty products on its head. It was honest.

Since then, docu-style advertising has become an expectation. It's not officially the Olympics until P&G makes you think about your mom and cry. We, as consumers, now want to feel something when watching commercials. We want to see a story with real people and we want to make a connection.

And this feel-good / feel-bad / feel-something approach leaked into every part of the corporate marketing world. We've worked extensively with organizations to put real people front and center in their recruitment campaigns. Don't tell me about the perks of a specific profession -- show me an actual person who loves their job and is also, like, a normal human being. This episodic "day in the life" model works for any industry, including:

But this storytelling technique is documentary-inspired. What about producing actual full-blown documentaries? Like, actual movies! Thanks to Netflix, this film genre is making a much-needed comeback (don't you dare call documentaries boring!). In 2018, we foresee both short-form and feature-length documentaries becoming a powerful new tool for brands to put emotion and story before product and function.


But to go "total documentary," you're not just watering down or masking your organization's messaging behind a compelling story. You instead need to find a story that reflects your brand's core identity, even if the story seems counterintuitive at first.


Stella Artois produced a short documentary about an artist who hand-paints billboards in New York City. It has nothing to do directly with beer, but it reinforces Stella's commitment to craftsmanship (and, naturally, the artist's featured billboard project was an ad for Stella).

American Express produced a documentary about the costs of being poor in America. But you'll be hard-pressed to find any mention of AMEX or its services. The film trusts that viewers will be impacted by the story itself and decide for themselves that American Express understands the problem and is part of the solution.

MorningStar Farms debuted "The Veg Effect," a doc-series about that focuses on individuals committed to eating more veggies to make the world a better place. While MorningStar Farms isn't endorsing a vegan or vegetarian diet so specifically, but it is looking for profound stories to get people eating more veggies!

While we're a short-form, promotional video kinda shop, we're actively exploring documentary marketing with our partners. This spring, we're excited to debut a new film telling the gripping tales of four stroke survivors. We'll have more information on this very important project soon.

In the meantime, let's have a conversation about how making movies can complement (or break!) your entire marketing strategy.

Learn about more video trends that we predict will dominate 2018.

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