Capturing user attention for minutes (not seconds) at a time was once reserved for YouTube. Now, as platforms like Facebook and Instagram carve out spaces (Watch and IGTV) to take advantage of users’ increased attention spans, smart brands are getting in (including us).
So, what does compelling long-form branded content look like in these spaces? What types of stories are being told? As more brands look to capitalize on these still-burgeoning territories and dabble in long-form video, they would do well to take cues from these five companies taking their episodic content to the next level.
1. Humans of New York
Social native HONY has been creating incredibly engaging content for the feed for years. Its episodic series on the Watch platform, Humans of New York: The Series, features long-form stories from a diverse cast of New Yorkers, deftly interwoven around a common theme. This series is an excellent example of video content that looks beautiful, but likely doesn’t require a high production budget.
- The stories are real. The theme is always relatable (Connection, Forgiveness), ensuring candor from the interviewee and an immediate connection with the viewer due to its reliance on shared experiences, and with no need for a host or moderator.
- The people are authentic. The camera meets these people wherever they happen to be: on a stoop, in the park, walking down the street. The achieved result is a feeling of empathy, and the idea that we might indeed have more in common with the people we pass on the street than we thought.
TAKEAWAY: If your series centers around people, give them the spotlight and interject as little as possible for a truly authentic outcome.
Created to promote its Adventures product, this series from Airbnb features total strangers picked to go on an international trek, staying with Airbnb Adventure hosts along the way, and documenting their journey. 6 Strangers is a testament to what can be achieved when you feature the right people—and allow their personalities to carry the storytelling. The result is an achievement in seamless brand integration, where Airbnb takes a back seat to the stories on screen, but is implicitly present as the facilitator of it all.
- This series also achieves a healthy mix of professionally shot footage on location at these destinations, and mobile phone selfie-style footage shot by the participants themselves. This gives Airbnb some creative control while making sure the story never loses its human element.
TAKEAWAY: Position the brand as the facilitator of the action, not the centerpiece. Ultimately, the brand is not the most compelling part of the story.
3. National Geographic
NatGeo is one of the biggest brands on Instagram, due in no small part to its stunning nature photography and video footage. The brand’s IGTV series EXPLORER and UNTAMED hone in on a single subject and dig in deep for 3-6 minutes at a time. Each episode routinely racks up hundreds of thousands of views and covers a diverse range of topics: from analyzing individual animal species, to explaining the origin of samurai swords, to trying to understand the flat earth movement.
- These videos often drive to longer versions on NatGeo’s website that explore the topic even more deeply, but what you see in your feed is snackable, informative, and pleasant to watch. The overarching show themes are broad, allowing them to cover a varied array of topics which ensures that the series never grows stale.
- This diversity of content and the tone with which NatGeo covers it helps cement NatGeo’s brand positioning as eminently exploratory and curious.
TAKEAWAY: Above all, make your content visually appealing. NatGeo’s stunning visuals are a high bar, but it doesn’t hurt to learn from the best.
From the latest in home decor to their latest salmon (!) meatball recipe, IKEA’s episodic content covers it all. Their most consistent theme is a collection of how-tos, home tours, and makeovers that prominently feature IKEA products. The beauty of this approach is being able to show the company’s furniture and accessories being used and lived in, instead of staged or on a showroom floor.
- IKEA uses these video series in a way that enables consumers to envision the brand’s products in their own homes. Consumers are given a visual inspiration for home decor updates, and are shown potential uses for products that are perhaps not as intuitive when encountered in store.
- IKEA’s use of dynamic graphic text in these videos also seamlessly incorporates the product name and price tag for easy user lookup.
TAKEAWAY: Make it fun. You may be playing in a crowded space (as IKEA is with how-to and design content), but injecting it with some brand personality will help your content stand out.
Is it technically B2B content if it still looks and sounds fun and interesting? Fortunately for Spotify, the answer is yes. The Game Plan tackles the inner workings of Spotify’s platform for the benefit of the musicians and creators that are ultimately the ones uploading content to it. This video series tackles questions that content creators likely have when dealing intimately with the platform, and puts Spotify employees (ones who are closely involved in the subject matter at hand) on camera to explain.
- This tactic humanizes the Spotify brand, and helps users of the platform remember that there are real people pulling the levers behind the scenes.
- Spotify’s artist audience is a bit different than that of most other branded B2B content, so it only goes to show how savvy Spotify is being with its content strategy. This series is tailored toward creatives, and is engaging in a way that resonates with that audience.
TAKEAWAY: Know your audience and speak their language fluently. The content shouldn’t dictate the tone of your work—your brand persona and target audience should.
Want to tell your brand’s story with compelling episodic programming? We can help.