August 9, 2021

Video Content Marketing: Desert Island Edition

Jon Mowat, Managing Director of Hurricane, shares three examples of the most effective content marketing videos. 

In this blog, I’ve set myself a familiar challenge. Marooned on a desert island, I’m allowed to take three content marketing videos with me. It’s really just a “show and tell” of videos we can learn something from, but the desert island theme gives it – yes – a story.

Video content marketing is all about telling stories. Effective marketing has always been about manipulation of emotions to enhance brands and sales. Even the laziest “price drop shock” advertisement places us in an emotional state of excitement: a dealmaker’s buzz or the fear of missing out. How else would DFS sell its sofas?

I urge you to watch the films in this blog (bookmark it if you’re short of time) and aspire one day to have a content marketing video you’ve worked on appear in someone’s desert island wishlist. Ready?

Desert island content marketing videos: the cut

1. Institute for Backup Trauma

Thunder Sky Pictures for LiveVault, 2004

When LiveVault wanted to sell the idea of off-site data backup to an army of IT professionals in 2004, it could have made a series of print ads for the trade press. It could have filmed a short, dry video explaining why the contemporary trend for storing backup data on tape on the premises was a poor idea. Or it could do what it actually did: break the mould. Thunder Sky enlisted John Cleese to front its seven-minute campaign, a Pythonesque mix of shouting, torture, and grown men eating rubber fish. The film was a hit. Funny, original, and packed with soundbites that could be liberally shared by its intended viewers (“Whatever you do, don’t press the third button!”), it’s among the first of a new breed of content marketing videos that pushed a strong, singular message and packaged it into a shareable form. Genius.

2. Crafted

Morgan Spurlock (via Ketchum) for Haagen-Dazs, 2015

If you want to see what bravery really looks like, this is it. Rather than getting Supersize Me filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to make a film about how much Haagen-Dazs cares about its product, it gave him the cash and told him to make the film he wanted. So the result – Crafted – isn’t about Haagen-Dazs. It’s about craftspeople making knives, food, pottery. Sponsored by Haagen-Dazs (who had a consultative role in its production), it allowed a multinational food brand to align itself with the values of artisans, gently imbuing a sense of great care and skill in its own mass-produced products. It’s a wonderful bit of sleight-of-hand, almost as good as giving your ice cream a name which sounds Scandinavian but, in fact, is meaningless. Branding matters.

3. We the Power

Patagonia Films for Patagonia, 2021

I’m taking Patagonia’s 40-minute We the Power even though I haven’t watched it. It’s something to look forward to and I’m confident that it will be brilliant based on Patagonia’s flawless record for producing brilliant content marketing videos. Where, say, Red Bull prides itself in heart-stopping daredevilry to market an energy drink, Patagonia takes a gentler spin, weaving stories of human triumph and dreamers making their mark on the planet. The connection with outdoor clothing is tenuous at best. These are beautiful stories told at an unhurried pace, threaded through with open skies and stunning natural panorama. The film follows in the footsteps of Blue Heart and Solving for Z, and shorts such as Bring Hemp Home and The Refuge. It’ll be the first thing I unpack on arrival at my sandy new home.

What can we learn from these content marketing films?

There are a few commonalities I’d like to explore. One is that none of these are in-your-face advertising. They’re about brands and brand quality, letting their message seep through to an engaged viewer who is barely aware – or not at all aware – that they are being marketed to. It’s a luxury that was lost on the makers of 30-second spots for prime time TV, but in the age of video being everywhere, not all marketing content needs to be “snackable“.

Which brings me on to length: the shortest of these videos is 12 minutes; the longest is nearly 40 minutes. It’s a great example of how longer videos (like the 45-minute one we made for Shelter) can be used to drive really effective messaging. Shorter messaging can be more effective, but stretching your legs gives you opportunities you won’t get in 90 seconds or less.

That means you’ve really got a chance to tell a story. And telling a story with detail and nuance gives you the opportunity to bring out emotional arcs in your content marketing video. Happy, sad, funny, uplifting, warm, scary – these are the things that will be remembered. And isn’t that what you want your content marketing to be? Remembered?

You’ll notice that despite the length, none of these films (unless Patagonia has gone off course, which it won’t have) has tried to pack in multiple messages. The length is not there to introduce a cluster of ideas that will cloud the main theme. The films all concentrate on one message and take the time to spell it out in emotional terms. This is such an important lesson. Human brains ingest information better when it’s a one-track feed. Don’t try to pack more angles into your messaging.

Taking this sort of approach requires some bravery if you haven’t done it before, and may meet resistance from the boardroom. We are here to help you sell your ideas, or advise you how to approach your campaign. We like to see your message getting across and defend your film against the competing interests of different stakeholders in your company. And we are here to tell you if you are about to make a big mistake. A 40-minute film about vertical farming might not be the best way to build your toner cartridge brand.

But if you want to discuss the option of making a film – long or short – that uses emotive storytelling to convey a strong brand image, get in touch. You might have a few desert island videos of your own to share with us. We’d love to hear what they are.

Written by

Jon Mowat,
Managing Director at Hurricane