Telling stories is an excellent way to promote your brand, product or service in an engaging and memorable way. Just like any other story though, brand film narrative is dependent on having a core structure that drives the plot forward and keeps the viewer engaged and emotionally invested.
Let’s break them down one by one…
1. The Quest
Every captivating narrative has a clear objective. Often determined by the narrative’s protagonist, the quest should be intriguing, believable and/or relatable. It should also interrupt the status quo of your narrative, ultimately forcing your protagonist to re-establish the status quo or get to grips with an entirely new set of circumstances.
Quests within brand film should ideally create an emotional connection between the narrative’s protagonist(s) and the watching audience, which is something you must keep in mind when writing a script. Although you could opt for a high stakes quest, akin to overcoming Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, it really doesn’t need to be anything nearly as spectacular. All that matters is that the viewer cares about the outcome (which will obviously depend on the viewer).
In the case of this Samsung “Human Nature” advertisement, the quest embodies one of the brand’s key philosophies. Aiming to be inspirational and motivational, this advertisement centralises its wider social message and allows the Samsung branding to occupy a markedly subtler position.
- What is your protagonist’s objective, and what is their motivator?
- Is the goal of your protagonist compelling enough to encourage an emotional connection?
- Are events happening to your protagonist, or do they occupy a more proactive role in their narrative?
2. The Conflict
To keep your audience engaged and intrigued, your protagonist’s quest cannot progress too smoothly. Conflict within brand marketing doesn’t need to be anything extreme and it can be established in a variety of very different ways.
In the Ikea “Ghosts” advert, conflict is introduced when the more overtly daring and colourful characters show up to liven up the initially very dull house party. This humorous and light-hearted approach to conflict is immediately engaging and works well to convey the main objective of the advert to the audience.
- What is preventing your protagonist from completing their quest?
- Does your narrative introduce enough suspense?
- Is your antagonist convincing enough to earn the acceptance of your audience?
3. The Stakes
To maintain the emotional connection between your protagonist and audience that you have already worked hard to establish, you should strive to take steps to ensure that your audience remains 100% behind your protagonist throughout the course of your brand film.
The opening scenes of Apple’s HomePod brand film work to establish its protagonist within a familiar scene that will elicit both sympathy and recognition from audiences across the world. Without taking time to establish this emotional connection, the climax of this brand film would simply fail to invoke the emotive impact required to convey the ability of the product to expand worlds and affect happiness.
- Why are the goals of your protagonist significant?
- What are the implications of these goals on the world and people surrounding your protagonist?
- Does your protagonist reach their goal? If not, why? And what will happen next?
4. The Climax
As the culmination of your brand film appears on the horizon, the narrative should escalate in some way to keep audiences interested and engaged. From an audience perspective, the culmination of your narrative should deliver a sufficient reward for their emotional investment and connection.
In their latest John Lewis advertisement (2018), the storytelling powerhouse of the high street gradually introduces more elements that take its audience on a real journey through the story. The combination of a recognisable song and intriguing elements ensures that audiences remain engaged throughout and are met with the ‘When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’ tagline.
- How will your narrative escalate, and remain relatable and believable in the process?
- Does your story have a clear conclusion?
5. The Emotional Resolution
Every great narrative delivers an emotionally satisfying resolution. In brand film, this means delivering both a rewarding conclusion to your narrative arc whilst also carefully including and reflecting your brand and its ethos.
Nike’s “Just Do It” featuring Colin Kaepernick is very of the moment. As well as deftly reflecting Nike’s brand ethos, this advertisement is both inspiring and contributes to conversations currently happening in socio-political spaces.
- What is your emotional resolution and is it satisfying enough?
- Has your brand narrative successfully communicated your message in a way that is neither too overt nor too subtle?
- How closely does your brand film align with your brand values?
So, as well as telling your story as compellingly as possible, you must also carefully consider precisely how your brand fits in with the message you want to convey. Although not simple, everything worth doing has its complexities. Focus on telling your story first and selling your brand second, and you’ll already be on your way to storytelling success.