This week we look at how brands use storytelling and we show how everyone can make use of 3 key techniques.
If big brands like Expedia and Tesco are building their campaigns around storytelling, it’s a clear sign that everyone else should be raising their game and making full use of this powerful technique.
TATJANA’S STORY: Expedia
This is a beautiful short film and although it’s glossy and shot in Amsterdam and New York, the techniques used can easily be applied to lower budgets.
It tells the story of Tatjana, a Netherlands based child psychologist who tells us how her work inspired her to overcome dyslexia to write a children’s book. We follow her on a trip to meet a literary agent in New York.
The 2 key techniques used in this film are: firstly, it’s totally visual – there are no interviews. Instead we hear Tatjana’s voice over well shot but clean and simple images. And it’s scripted – although we’re obviously listening to Tatjana and she’s speaking her own word, a careful script has been written and then delivered by Tatjana.
FOOD LOVE STORIES: Tesco
A masterclass in telling a story in 30 seconds. In half a minute we learn that Nana’s grandson is unwell, that his mum can’t pick him up from school because she’s at work, that there are all sorts of veg he doesn’t like but that when they’re combined in her ‘magic soup’ he feels better straightaway! Splendid.
The key technique here is the way Nana talks directly to the camera while she’s making the soup. It’s a direct connection with the audience – it feels conspiratorial – and it’s dynamic – no static interviews.
DAVE’S TOAST: Co-op Food
This one’s from a few years ago but I love it and always use it in our storytelling workshops. It tells the story of Dave as he tries to make up for a misdemeanor by cooking a simple breakfast for his partner. It’s simple but very clever – it captures a brief story, that’s familiar to us all and ties it to an essential product that we all need.
The key technique here is the visual storytelling: a vital element of any story is change or overcoming a challenge and during the course of the film we see how Dave’s simple act thaws his partner’s frosty look, puts a smile on her face and skip in his step.
Storytelling for brands – take away tips
- Be visual. We always encourage clients to think of what people are going to do in a film, rather than what they say. As these films show, the visuals don’t have to be elaborate and in fact it’s often better to think of simple, easy to achieve sequences that you can shoot beautifully, rather than make elaborate plans
- Inspired by a true story. Using a real story works for Hollywood and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for you too. We spend a lot of pre-production time speaking to participants, understanding their story and capturing it in their own words. Then we write a script that uses their own words and expressions.
- Forget about your brand. Although these films contain references to the brand, they’re not about the brand. Instead they focus on people and emotions that express the brand’s values or demonstrate them in action.
Jeremy Jeffs is a documentary film maker with 15 years experience of directing films for BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic and PBS. He’s recently finished work on a history of China, with broadcaster Michael Wood and his recent feature documentary, Bette Bourne, was shown at the London Film Festival, Sheffield International Documentary Festival and the V&A. More about Jeremy