Five Things To Ask Yourself Before You Invest In a Brand Film

February 10, 2017

As I came out of my local cinema last night, replete with popcorn and nostalgic bonhomie after hurtling down memory lane with T2 Trainspotting, I couldn't help but reflect on the fundamental power of film.

That's largely because, whatever your feelings about this or any other sequel, it clearly wasn’t just an extension of the original story: it was actually an homage to the style of the original film, and how it made us all feel. In fact, it was as much a tribute to the directorial brilliance of Danny Boyle as to the imagination of Irvine Welsh, who wrote the book on which the original film was based.

(As an aside for the film buffs among you, the screenplays for both Trainspotting movies were written by John Hodge; but as he also scripted Weekend At Bernies 2, he isn't really helping my argument.)

But I digress. What T2 Trainspotting really reminded me of was that Film in all its glory and diversity has become part of everybody's life experience, and as such, many of us are hugely influenced by it.

With this in mind, I couldn't resist committing to paper my thoughts on not only why film is so important to the expression of a brand (whatever it’s size), but also the five questions to ask yourself before investing in a brand film.

1. Why not make a brand film?

We live in an age when a brand film is arguably as important to your customer perception as having the right logo on your stationery.

The plethora of media platforms now available also means that there are a wealth of opportunities to put your film in front of people, very possibly as the first impression you make. There is also an expectation that you will be able to summarise your proposition within the travel time between a couple of tube stops or whilst your typical viewer is waiting in a sandwich queue.

So, seriously, why wouldn't you make a brand film, when the world is already sitting in front of a screen waiting to see it?

2. How simple could it be?

While big budgets and fancy film techniques are all very well if budget allows, it is having a simple, central idea that makes most great brand films a success. I might add that by 'simple', I also mean 'short.' Audiences will only give you a few minutes of their time the first time they click on one of your films. So you really must draw them in from the outset and then get your point across efficiently.

3. Can you tell your own story, or do you need help?

Are you or a colleague comfortable in front of a camera, whether as a presenter or merely an 'in vision' figure? If the answer is no, then you might well need to cast a presenter, voice-over artist, or simply create some engaging kinetic typography.

It's also worth checking to see if your agency has its own film facilities. We find them essential these days.

4. Is yours a highly ‘visual’ brand story? Or does it require you to paint the picture?

If the creation of your product or provision of your service is visually appealing, then taking a documentary approach may be the best bet for your first foray into film. But if yours is a more conceptual proposition that needs to be brought to life in an abstract way, you might want to consider a fairly creative animation.

It is, of course, also worth considering how one might find opportunities to make a story more visually stimulating.

For example, we recently made a brand film for a client who analyses data. Fascinating as they no doubt are, spreadsheets and on-screen analytics lack a certain visual splendour; so we shot the film in some of their clients' everyday environments, including hotels, printing companies and shopping centres. The result was that we took a superficially dull, desk-based service and breathed some real life into it.

5. When would you - or should you - use animation?

For many brand owners, there will be strong ‘brand design’ considerations that make this approach preferable. Equally, illustration can often be used as a way of making the complicated simple or the intimidating more approachable.

Crucially, it is important to keep an open mind about animation and never dismiss it simply because you fear it could be misinterpreted as simplistic or, worse still, ‘childish’.

Even in the B2B environment, people appreciate charm and prefer simplicity; and if audiences are left needing more detail, you can always provide it in some form of follow-up, or through a ‘More Information’ link.

Film Isn't Words + Pictures. Film Means Words x Pictures.

I am a designer first and foremost, so I appreciate the power of static words and images to express a point of view, tell a story, and express what really makes a brand stand out.

Yet in my other role as a member of Joe Public, I have a love of film and a growing appreciation of the transformative powers of great brand film, whether it appears on a cinema screen, a home page or a YouTube channel.

The combination of sound and vision, blended in just the right way, has the power to both communicate efficiently, and to provide your brand with a greater sense of direction and purpose. Ultimately, when this mighty medium is harnessed effectively, you can engender in your audience a greater sense of trust towards your brand and a far greater level of engagement with your message.

Perhaps that's why so many brand clients who have never considered film before are now telling us that they want us to put them in the movies; and long may this exciting trend continue.

Mike Cain - Creative Director