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EP: 145 | The Golden Age of Branded Films is Dead | Lindsey Hagen | gnarlybay

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As a filmmaker, the last thing I want is to question is whether or not my career has a future. But like all hard questions, this one is worthwhile to ask. 

When I first connected with Lindsey, her reputation preceded her. I’ve long admired her work as a filmmaker so when the opportunity arose to discuss the viability of our craft I knew it was going to be a fun conversation. 

15 years ago, it seemed like everyone was talking about making branded films. These films were usually about something heartfelt, peak bagging, or something near and dear to the brand's heart. In an age where branding was at the forefront of every conversation, these short films were almost viewed as a superfood. The logic went like this: Strong businesses are built on strong brands, and strong brands tell stories that create a connection with their customers. What’s the best way to share emotions? Films. Branded films could be used to “shortcut” the process of developing long-lasting relationships with consumers by directly tugging at their heartstrings.

Scroll back far enough into a brand’s YouTube page and you’ll probably see a variety of these films. This recipe has led to fantastic brands like YETI, Patagonia, and Huckberry. Today these brand models are often replicated and proclaimed as “the way to build a brand.” But does it always work? 

Simply uploading a video to YouTube and expecting hundreds of thousands of people to watch are days of the past. I’ve always said that 50% of the work is making the film, and the other 50% is marketing it. Without a strategic distribution plan, your film is likely to flop. As we look at the industry today, brands are cutting marketing budgets and these types of one-story-telling films are often the first to go. If there isn’t a direct result in sales it’s hard to quantify the impact these types of projects have. 

This is the challenge Lindsey sees daily.  As she describes in the episode “The solution is to create a 360-degree integrated campaign around the film project to maximize reach.” 

So do these films work? The answer is complicated. If your goals are focused on forming an emotional connection with your audience, then yes. In an age where we’re inundated with content, we only remember the things that stand out. Be a brand that stands out and create work that resonates with the core fiber of your audience’s being. 

After recording this episode with Lindsey, here are a couple of questions I have:

  • What gives a story entertainment value? A good story is critical but it needs to be told in an entertaining way for people to enjoy watching it.
  • If a brand is new to making branded films, how much effort needs to be placed on training its audience to expect long-form stories? 
  • If cutting through the noise with emotion is your strategy, then your job as a storyteller becomes even more important. How can we as an industry do a better job telling stories? If the work doesn’t leave an emotional response then did it do its job? 

-Cole, Founder of Port Side Productions and Host of the Backcountry Marketing Podcast

You can catch up with Lindsey on LinkedIn or learn more about gnarlybay

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