Branded Content and the Hollywood Through-Line
Many, many years ago, long before my time helping companies with their branded content strategy and long before my time working in Hollywood’s story development world, I found myself in film school learning the foundation of screenwriting strategy and storytelling techniques. My screenwriting professors would always be preaching this concept of successful stories having a “through-line,” this glue of sorts that connects the scenes of your story together to form one, viable story. The through-line is that main objective or theme which drives the action of your main character or characters. It’s the question that gets raised in the first ten minutes of a movie and gets answered in the climax of the final act. Will three buddies find their missing friend before his wedding the morning after losing their memory from a crazy bachelor party in Vegas? That would have been the through-line for the hit comedy, The Hangover, back in 2009. Regardless of how outrageous this through-line might sound, it kept audiences glued to the story, wanting to find out what really transpired that crazy night in Vegas. When all was said in done, this little comedy made for a modest budget of $35 million, grossed more than $467 million at the worldwide box office. Fresh storytelling has a way of finding its audience, no matter the budget.
The Through-Line For The Brand Story In Your Branded Content
Once a successful through-line has been established for a story, the audience cannot help but be drawn in to see how the drama unfolds, curious as to whether the main characters achieve their mission. It makes no difference if you’re writing a feature-length Hollywood movie or telling your brand’s story through a content marketing strategy, the importance of establishing an engaging through-line remains the same.
A great example of a brand using the power of the through-line in their branded content was the online mockumentary made several years ago promoting a line of Hi-Tec sports shoes. In this absolutely brilliant piece of brand storytelling, a group of extreme sports enthusiasts pretends to be creating a new sport which requires them to learn how to run on water. This new sport called “Liquid Mountaineering” utilized a line of Hi-Tec shoes featured in the video which were completely water repellant. Besides being a genius marketing ploy to raise awareness of the shoes’ special water-resistant feature with the public, the video also presented the perfect through-line to keep online audiences glued to their screens until the very end: Will this team succeed with their objective in finding a way to run on water? As crazy as the premise of running on water may have sounded, thirteen-million views on YouTube was the direct result of a credible and compelling through-line.
The Opposing Force Driving Your Brand Story
Aside from establishing a compelling character objective or through-line, every great story needs an opposing force standing in the way of your main characters from achieving their goals. Without such an obstacle, your story will lack the dramatic tension necessary to maintain the attention of your audience. Returning to The Hangover (2009), there were several opposing forces keeping the group from achieving the objective of finding their lost friend. There was a group of gangsters hot on their tails, Mike Tyson and his lion, and probably the most important opposing force, the group of friends’ drug-induced, amnesia of the entire night. In the case with the Liquid Mountaineering video, the opposing force standing in the way of the extreme sports enthusiasts was the fact that, as far as I am aware, it is physically impossible for humans to run, let alone walk on water. If anyone had successfully achieved the feat of running on water prior to this video, I can guarantee the concept of Liquid Mountaineering would not have drawn the online audience which it ultimately did.
Every Great Brand Story Has a Hero
We all desire and expect there to be a happy ending to every story presented to us. You can blame Hollywood or Madison Avenue for creating this world of needy escapism, transforming the public into a bunch of delusional dreamers. With your main character or cast of characters faced with the adversity of a compelling opposing force, we all want a hero to emerge and place a smile on our face by succeeding at their task. How anticlimactic and disappointing it would be to watch the Liquid Mountaineering team pour their time and resources into accomplishing the great feat of running on water, only to fall short of their goal. In the end, we want a hero to believe in, a hero which represents us, a hero worthy of our admiration!
Does your brand have a hero? Maybe your brand hero takes the form of a passionate and charismatic CEO of the company, a brand spokesperson on a mission or a fictional brand character. Does your branded content have a story which continually engages your consumers and propels them on a journey of brand discovery? If your brand has trouble answering these questions, it is highly possible that you are not only missing out on a great opportunity to grow your brand reach, but your competition might already be positioning their brand hero and their brand story to engage YOUR current customers.
If you are interested in learning more about creating branded content for marketing through social media, we encourage you to reach out to our social media agency, ImagiBrand, where we will work closely with you on developing your brand story and provide your company with social media solutions that make sure your brand story is heard and seen every day on social media.
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