As the world of content marketing expands, the epidemic of content pollution continues.
Free People (above), Nokia, and Miu Miu are 3 brands that break through the noise by creating short brand films that connect intimately with their customers while inspiring them to share their enthusiasm for the brand.
These captivating, touching, beautifully filmed, multi-part stories are being viewed and talked about hundreds of thousands of times. How did they do it?
We decided to dive deeper into the data of these campaigns and discuss how and why they are paying off for the brands that created them.
THE APPROACH: LOVE AND METRICS
Free People, Nokia, and Miu Miu are making bold moves by creating brand films that are not traditional commercials but literally short films with high production and even higher quality storytelling. Common to each film is that brand presence is subtle and product serves the story, integrated tastefully and effectively. Each brand also chose their partners and actors wisely.
Some are even being shown at film festivals as part of larger, subtly integrated global campaigns – a testament to editorial quality.
We absolutely love these 3 films because they are gorgeous, emotionally resonant, and capture our attention through powerful 3-act stories that keep us hanging on to find out what happens next. But is all this love enough to justify the cost of making such quality pieces of content? We say yes (the metrics we look at say ‘yes’ too).
Watch the Films. Read the Blog.
Free People’s film, “Roshambo”, features Christopher Abbott from the HBO hit, “Girls.” The film revolves around two star-crossed lovers, and tells the story of how they met and how their lives intertwine again and again. The “Roshambo” shorts capture audiences by playing like an episodic TV series, each installment furthering the storyline.
The story goes straight for the heart strings and draws you in, leaving you holding your breathe waiting to discover if the couple lives happily ever after. Fans are also compelled to tune in to the brand’s blog to find out more.
Set to the music of indie band, Lord Huron’s “The Ghost on The Shore”, the dreamy cast is decked from head to toe in Free People’s February catalog, a seamless integration of the brand’s product, painting the picture of what it would look like to “live” the brand’s lifestyle.
Function and Followers.
Nokia leveraged the large fan base of singer, Ellie Goulding, featuring her as the lead actress in their film, TOM & ISSY (all filmed by Roger Michell, filmmaker behind such popular feature-length RomComs such as Notting Hill and Morning Glory). The entire film was filmed on a Nokia Lumia 1020, Nokia’s latest high powered smartphone, featuring a 41 mega pixel camera, Optical Image Stabilization, and full HD video functionality. The product is featured in the film and used throughout by the actors (but is otherwise not mentioned anywhere in the film and barely in the credits).
Nokia was really smart here. The films were delivered in several lengths (and related formats), each targeted towards a slightly different audience; 1) a full length short film (2) a trailer, 3) behind the scenes reel, and 4) a music video.
The full length film is 11:35 long has been viewed 156,000 times and shared 899 times. The much shorter music video version featuring Ellie Goulding’s song “How Long Will I Love You,” (edited from footage from the short), is only 2:38 in length been viewed 4.2 million times and shared 28K times. Ellie Goulding’s following, is largely made of passionate millennials known for their obsessive social media use. Releasing multiple formats and repurposed content enabled easy sharing and viewing by multiple audiences.
The film, “The Door” by Ava DuVernay (Best Director, Sundance 2012) is a part of Miu Miu’s larger short film series called Women’s Tales. The series is a celebration of female perspectives and female friendships through the eyes of fashion. The series has been featured in Interview, NY Mag, and Rolling Stone. Miu Miu calls upon a force of talented women to convey each of these breathtaking stories. This is obviously a bigger budget endeavor, but paying attention to talent pedigree should be an approach at every level.
This group of 6 shorts are about 10 minutes in length with limited-to-no dialogue, set to beautifully selected music, featuring A-List actresses and musicians. “The Door”, follows a female protagonist played by Gabrielle Union as she experiences transformative relationships, with renewal represented by costume changes all aided of course by Miu Miu’s collection. The short leaves the viewer with a sense of feminine strength and resiliency. DuVernay communicates the narrative through complete visual storytelling, leveraging the full power of the medium. This film also screened at the 2013 Venice Film Festival – a rare feat for branded content.
A lot of brands and agencies only put emphasis on impressions, views, and followers gained when assessing the effectiveness of content. We suggest going much deeper into the metrics of content engagement and distribution strategy.
#1 – Watch Time
A key metric to pay attention to when distributing content is Watch Time on YouTube. Watch Time is YouTube’s algorithm that is responsible for populating video suggestions based on average viewing duration*. Why is this important? When a viewer watches a video for a longer period of time this means they are more engaged and focused. Even if another video has more views, the length of time the average viewer watches the video may be shorter, therefore it will not be prioritized before a video that has higher quality of views, i.e. WatchTime. This speaks to the importance of creating high-quality content.
One way to increase Watch Time and optimize play length is to add the video to a playlist. At the end of each video on a playlist, YouTube automatically plays the next video in queue, increasing time-on-page and play length metrics. Nokia, with an average 5:32 viewing duration is definitely winning according to this metric;
FREE PEOPLE’s Roshambo (selected episode)
Average Viewing Duration: 3:12
NOKIA’s Tom and Issy
Average Viewing Duration: 5:32
MIU MIU’s The Door
Average Viewing Duration: 3:57
#2 – Traffic Sources – Analyze Them.
The next metric that should be considered are traffic sources. Now that you have created branded content and have distributed it to the masses through your channels, do you know which ones are working best for you?
Traffic sources are a metric that can be tracked via most analytics tools. For example, we recommend adding photo stills from your brand films to your Pinterest and Instagram accounts (and video excerpts for Vine and Instagram). Lets say that you rarely engage your audience or manage boards or content. After you track your traffic sources you discover that over a third of your traffic is coming from Pinterest. Knowing where and when inbound traffic is coming from is key to improving your distribution strategy and where you should be focusing your efforts.
#3 – Encouraging Purchasing. Tastefully.
A large part of the appeal and effectiveness of these films is that they go light on the sales pitch and heavy on storytelling. Free People does a great job of enticing viewers to their website blog, which in turn subtly guides them off of social channels and on to their website’s E-commerce purchase funnel. The more you can do do turn viewers into web visitors the better. You can then incentivize the viewers that come to your site to sign up for your email newsletter, and in the process own the customer information.
YouTube also allows you to create “annotations” or links that are embedded in the video itself. This can be a good opportunity to encourage viewers to visit the blog or content area on your site after they have watched your video. This can also work well if you’re a cosmetics brand offering free samples and/or discount codes to viewers.
If a well told story achieves what it seeks out to do, the viewer will be inspired to shop, to view the product or collection they have just seen. We’re just making it a little bit easier for them to get there.
#4 – Digital Influencers/Brand Loyalists
Digital influencers should be a part of your content marketing strategy. These are usually bloggers and other individuals with measurable digital clout, with loyal and engaged followings. The key here is working with influencers that already speak to your target customer. Identifying those influencers can be a tricky, especially finding mid-level, region specific bloggers, but there are indexes that can help you find and reach out to blogs that work best for your brand. Digital influence can now be accurately measured and ranked, helping connect the dots between content and word-of-mouth marketing.
A QUICK NOTE ON DISTRIBUTION
The films were distributed in some of the following ways (and you should too);
- Social Media channels (brand and partners’)
- Email Newsletters
- Film Festivals
- Media and PR Channels
- Blogs/Digital Influencers
The shorts gain extra traction by getting press mentions on news outlets, fashion blogs and cultural sites. As time goes on, engaging, emotionally resonant films gain views by being shared over and over again, considerably extending the life of each piece of content you create (and pay for).
Free People, Nokia, and Miu Miu are pushing the boundaries of branded content and obviously getting noticed for it. They are all proof that great storytelling combined with a world-class distribution strategy can provide the kind of metrics everyone can fall in love with.
By: Lorraine Tran
Coming Soon: So You Have Great Content, What To Do Next (…Creating A Content Distribution Strategy)