There was a time when documentaries were slightly frowned upon. They were widely regarded as mainly educational and often outright boring. But those days are history.
Today, we live in what has been described as the Golden Age of documentaries, and the format keeps gaining ground. In a day and age where trust in media and brands is low and people are growing increasingly tired of polished, fabricated content, the documentary offers a level of authenticity that no other format can compete with.
Documentaries on Netflix and cinema are consumed by huge audiences and shape the popular discourse. And as blockbusters like RBG, Minding the Gap, and Seaspiracy keep winning hearts and minds as well as Oscars, brands too are beginning to realize the potential that lies in docu-style video. Nike, Zappos, Dicks are all brands that excel at using this format.
The storytelling element of a good documentary is extremely potent. And today, when people’s attention span is often compared to that of a goldfish, millions of people still sit through hour-long documentaries on highly complex topics. The reason for this boils down to one thing: authenticity. No other medium feels quite as true and authentic as a documentary video, and this is why it captures our attention.
Related reading: How to Create Authentic Brand Videos – And Why It Matters
What is Documentary Brand Video or Docu-Style Video?
First, let’s look at how we define docu-style video. This genre of video goes by many names: documentary, docu-style, and docu brand are just a few of the terms commonly used.
But what exactly is docu-style, or documentary video – and how does it fit into marketing?
Well, it’s really about brands borrowing the style and approach from documentary movies and using that when creating marketing videos. It’s the newest form of content emerging, and it’s a highly successful format.
Docustyle videos often contain actual interviews and real footage of people who use your product, work for your company, or have been impacted by your services. This is an approach that works equally well for brand videos, corporate videos, and internal communications.
The authentic and genuine method of docu-style successfully cuts through the noise, allowing the viewer to see and identify with real people sharing their real experiences.
Related reading: How to Produce a Docu-Style Video – a Case Study
Documentary Videos Are The Perfect Inbound Marketing Tool
The traditional way of making marketing videos was very much built on an outbound marketing approach, where your videos would interrupt people while they were doing something else, trying to get their attention.
This is the exact opposite of what most marketing teams aim to do today when the goal is instead to create content so magnetic that people will find it themselves. So, instead of creating old-school commercials and distributing them via huge ad investments, brands are increasingly opting for the docu-style approach.
By making short-form documentaries, and sometimes whole series of them, brands are adopting a more inbound approach where the content itself attracts the viewers. And when executed well, this yields content that is not only magnetic but that also has potential for massive organic reach through sharing on social media.
Documentary Style Video, Authenticity, and Emotional Connection
As we’ve already discussed, the main benefit of docu-style video is the authentic feel it has to it. Human beings are hardwired to be interested in other human beings, and this is why good documentaries are so powerful. It allows viewers to learn what someone else is experiencing and allows them to identify with those people and empathize with them.
This means docu-style video will not only allow you to transfer knowledge to your audience. It will enable you to impact how they feel; about their problem, the solution you offer, and about your brand as a whole. And while we all like to tell ourselves we are these rational beings; the truth is that up to 95% of all purchasing decisions are driven entirely by emotions.
3 Examples of Docu-Style Video in Marketing
The Art Institutes: Industrial Design for NASA
In this brand film for The Art Institutes, we follow three industrial design students whose prototype was picked by NASA to be tested at their Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. They were the only group of students to come from a design school, competing against famous engineering schools like MIT and Stanford.
We traveled with the students down to Houston, and for two days, we captured their experience as they worked with NASA to test their product. This short documentary is one of a series of student-focused films, commercials, and content that we’ve created for The Art Institutes.
AMHM: Mental Health
1 in 5 youth have mental health issues, and 20% of them never receive help. This docu-style video was created to promote Hear Me, a web app that helps remove the stigma around mental health issues and assists people to gain an understanding of their mental health.
This short documentary focused on addressing the stigma within the family and the broader community.
Rosetta Stone: French Louisiana
This French language learning campaign that we produced for Rosetta Stone was captured to be distributed on various digital channels. Several stories were made exclusively for social media videos, while others would live on blogs and pre-roll ads.
To capture the authentic French experience and produce high-quality educational videos for Rosetta Stone’s Audience, filming this project in a docu-style approach made the most sense.
At Covalent, we specialize in documentary and docu-style video. We have extensive experience in filming docu brand content, and we’d love to explore how we can help your brand leverage this powerful media. Get in touch to learn more!