Many companies now consider themselves “publishers,” increasingly investing in branded video content to push out online through their websites and social media accounts for marketing purposes.
It’s rare that such creations receive significant artistic recognition—let alone be selected for a major film festival.
Guitar manufacturer C.F. Martin & Co. released a 40-minute documentary short in May, titled “Ballad of the Dreadnought,” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of its influential “dreadnought” guitar shape.
The film, which was created with advertising agency Lehigh Mining & Navigation, has received Official Selections at six film festivals including the Newport Beach Film Festival, Canada International Film Festival, New Hope Film Festival, SouthSide Film Festival and the Annual WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival.
“I saw this as an opportunity to educate people who may know a little bit of the story behind the guitar shape,” said Martin’s chief executive, Chris Martin IV.
The film features interviews with well-known guitar players including David Crosby, Steve Miller and Stephen Stills.
All of the interviews with the musicians and Martin guitar enthusiasts were provided at no cost, Mr. Martin said, which he described as a “huge honor.” The documentary was even narrated by actor and Martin enthusiast Jeff Daniels in exchange for two Martin guitars.
“The cost was in the production, not in the content,” Mr. Martin said.
It’s relatively rare for companies to invest in “long-form” branded content of this nature. Marketers typically favor shorter clips, which they hope might capture a few moments of users’ attention as they scroll through their Facebook or Twitter feeds.
For “Ballad of the Dreadnought,” Martin had initially set out to create a relatively simple 5-minute video. But as it began collecting video interviews and archival footage for that project, it decided to be more ambitious.
“It was a little idea that started as something else, and turned into a bigger project that really exceeded all of our expectations,” said Amani Duncan, Martin’s vice president of brand marketing.
“We’re really proud of the outcome. It’s both a marketing tool and about the legacy,” Ms. Duncan said, adding that the film is intended to appeal to existing Martin guitar owners, potential guitar owners and general guitar enthusiasts alike.
Since being published on the Martin Guitar website, “Ballad of the Dreadnought” has received over 30,000 views and has also been screened at various events across the country, often in partnership with Martin’s retail and distribution partners.
Although the film was conceived as a piece of marketing, it was also seen as a way to preserve the company’s heritage.
“Because of the importance of keeping our history alive, we’re able to do these types of initiatives that are a little more brand-centric, and don’t necessarily have hard return-on-investment associated with them,” Ms. Duncan said.
According to Joe Iacovella, director of account services at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, the documentary approach might be a better way to reach potential customers than more traditional forms of advertising anyway.
“We could easily have put together a few ads that said ‘Hey! The Dreadnought is 100 years old.’ But this way we’re telling the story to existing enthusiasts and emerging audiences as well. Those guys aren’t necessarily engaging with brands the way they used to,” Mr. Iacovella said.
One limitation of the film, however, is that it can’t currently be posted to social networks and video platforms such as Facebook and Google, due to licensing limitations with some of the video footage it includes.
“If it takes off and really appeals to people, perhaps we’ll look at broader distribution,” Ms. Duncan said, who floated the possibility of licensing it to TV networks or online streaming services. “Licensing this would be beyond our expectations,” she said.