Short Ideas Blog Post 13 on the Brand Film genre

Defining Genres — Brand Film (Part 1)

Brand Film

A brand film is generally a higher–end budget film where a client is trying to define their brand characteristics to the viewer rather than feature a specific product. The convention is that brand film is brand–focused, not product–focused, which offers its distinction from a typical commercial. So unless the brand is a single–product manufacturer or service, resist unduly featuring one product or line in the brand film. If that’s what they want, then the strategy may have been misapplied and a commercial genre film would serve them better. The distinction may sound semantic, but it offers a lot of clarity to the various people working on a film. It’s a far clearer scenario to be making a commercial that has a strong ‘brand film’ feel to it than to be making a brand film that feels inappropriately focused.

Brand Guidelines

A good starting point is getting your hands on whatever brand guidelines they have. Hopefully, the company has already thought through all of this stuff and this film is part of a cohesive marketing plan, though of course not necessarily. It could be a film intended for another purpose that is being dragged into double–duty, or perhaps someone’s passion project. If either of these are the case, then the usual methodology applies. Ensure that there is a clear, single direction in which the film must go — one unifying message that the film must convey to be considered a success by the client — and that is has buy–in from all of the relevant chain of decision–makers.

Clients are often tempted to use one film for multiple purposes but this is a clumsy scenario. It creates multiple objectives for the film, and we know this is not a realistic demand for a short work. It is also important that you feel confident that other key figures within organisation are on board with the creative direction and purpose of the film, not just your point of contact, as this person can be replaced and the objective shift, leaving you with an unruly mess if there hasn’t been a collective consensus on these subjects.


The tone and creative direction can be given a steer by going through whatever written material the client has available. Sometimes this is inspiring, well put together, and offers great clarity of aesthetic and verbal guidelines to ensure that your contribution fits seamlessly in with the brand. Unfortunately, this stuff can be brutally cliché, ironically claiming how the brand is for outgoing, adventurous types that cut against the grain when in fact the material is so banal that you could black out the brand name and have a hard time figuring out if it was a booze or dishwasher manufacturer. In this situation, I’d start back-tracking from this type they’ve described and think instead about who perceives themselves according to this fantasy, and then hopefully find some footing there. If you are stuck with painful clichés, maybe they can at least be presented in a fresh way or the film can be structured with strong technique.

Hopefully that’s not the case, and you’ve got a sense of their brand values, how they distinguish themselves from the competition, how they speak, what imagery is appropriate, and can derive insight from their target audience. Pair this with some investigative questioning of the client and you should have a good idea of what they want to accomplish. This could be a variety of things but likely aligns with a vision of the world where their product or service provides an essential improvement to the human experience — say an expensive whiskey brand belongs amongst the great moments of an exquisitely luxurious life; or a technology manufacturer provides reliable, safe and secure enhancements to every facet of a person’s life.

L’Odyssée de Cartier
Perhaps the grand–daddy of all brand film, this Cartier film pulls all of the stops to place the brand as the most expensive and luxurious in the world. The treatment equates the brand with ephemeral, dream–like qualities… emotions and memories and things that you can’t quite put a price on. Of course they do, in the end, and the price tag for this film got worldwide press that may out–value that media buy alone.

Huawei Brand Film: See humanity in technology
This film borrows from the factual genre to employ a feeling of authenticity and objectivity, with the presence of Huawei products as a humble facilitator to the process. We don’t focus on the model, but rather what the presence of the Huawei brand provides — human experiences, closeness, compassion — at the “heart of every connection”.

Please join us next week when we’ll continue our look at the brand film genre, analyse more examples and look at any subsets.








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