Thoughts & Ideas

Rock ‘n’ Roll Branding Lessons, Tip 2: Embrace Documentary

In Rock ‘n’ Branding Lessons: Tip 1, I talk about balancing the need to experiment as a business with staying true to the core of your identity. Today, I want to talk about the second thing I learned from my life-long obsession with rock ‘n’ roll: Embrace documentary–go behind the scenes, tell your story, and give your fans a glimpse of what a typical day looks like.

Rock ‘n’ roll bands have been using the medium of documentary filmmaking as early as The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter (1970). Led Zeppelin released The Song Remains the Same (1976) combining concert footage with a look at the day-to-day lives of the band members. Over the years, numerous bands have released glimpses into the magic of their creativity, and I have been passionately inspired by Metallica’s A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica (1992) and Some Kind of Monster (2004), Foo Fighters’ Back and Forth (2011), Rush’s Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010), Dream Theater’s The Spirit Carries On (2011) and various U2 documentaries including Rattle and Hum (1988), Zoo TV (1994), PopMart (1997), Elevation (2001) and U2 360 (2010).

Go Behind The Scenes And Tell Your Story

What have I learned from all of these documentaries that relate to business, specifically the business of creativity? There is a story that needs to be told in every creative pursuit. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we film everything that we do, but there are definite moments and opportunities when a documentary (either short or long form) can remove the curtain that divides the customer and the business.

One of the best examples of a creative business using documentary effectively is Pixar’s behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Ratatouille, in which the filmmaker likens the making of an animated film with the craft of culinary art. The documentary gives a glimpse at the magic that goes into every Pixar film, but also serves to illuminate the genius of chefs, and the challenges that go into preparing a delicious meal.

How can normal businesses tap into the magic of documentary and tell their stories? First, separate what people want to know more about from your internal and external marketing language. Is there a specific story about the way your business impacts the community? If people are involved in your story, then there is often more interest.  Second, do you have the means and abilities to tell that story? Accessible technology and affordable software have made it possible for just about anyone to make documentaries. However, there are many businesses out there that will gladly tell your story, leaving you to focus on having a story to tell (also known as running your business).

Allow Your Fans (Customers) To Get A Glimpse Of The Magic

Giving your customers a glimpse into the magic of your business removes any confusion that your marketing objectives might leave in people’s minds. It also allows you to engage your customers by sharing: Speaking, listening and collaborating. By using and embracing documentary, businesses have the privilege and opportunity to show the public what they are made of: People.

It’s the communication of what makes businesses and people “human” that drives interest for each and every documentary. That is what we learn from all of the documentaries listed above. When greatness is achieved, lost, then eventually regained, documentaries are there to show us the power of the human spirit. That is more powerful than any annual report or tri-fold brochure produced in corporate marketing lingo.

Not every business is suited for documentary, but remember, there is an audience that wants to see what you are made of. It is your responsibility as a business to find those rare moments to do just that. Do it well, and it leaves them wanting more. Which is definitely a good thing.