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Does the world need a Goldman Sachs documentary?

What makes a branded doco good?

Whether it’s SuperSize Me challenging the food industry or Blue Planet 2 bringing the world’s attention to single-use plastics, documentaries have long been both a powerful form of storytelling and an effective call to action – but are they a relevant content choice for finance brands? We review the Goldman Sachs documentary against the key principles of a good branded documentary.

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Well, Goldman Sachs is not the first financial organisation to make use of a film crew to build brand perceptions. American Express released its documentary ‘Spent: Looking for Change’ back in 2014. The film told the story of financially underserved communities in the US, while successfully positioning AMEX as a brand that cares about the consumer and financial literacy.

So what makes a good branded documentary?

For brands, making a documentary rests on a few key principles:

  1. Tell a story. This is rule number one. Your documentary should be built around a well-crafted narrative – a storytelling flow that makes sense and keeps the viewer engaged. In the case of the Goldman Sachs documentary, the narrative thread is the brand’s history. But a dry recounting of the past 150 years will not be enough, the brand must use personal anecdotes and lesser-known facts to provide the viewer with more than could be found on the Goldman Sachs Wikipedia page.
  2. Be creative. This goes for storytelling but also how you use videography and effects for your film. Of course, your documentary should visually represent your brand, but finance brands in particular should think about how varied use of shots and overlay styles could make their film feel modern and fresh rather than a corporate video.
  3. Know your audience. Finance brands should be realistic about who will watch their documentary. Accept that it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but tailor your product to perfectly suit your target audience group. Think about how and where your viewer will be watching it and design your episode length to optimise your video for distribution.
  4. Be honest. A branded documentary should be made for a reason. Making a film is not an opportunity to create a 2-hour-long advert for your business. Be real and tell a true story without glossing over any challenges along the way. If your film doesn’t feel genuine, you risk viewers switching off – and doing damage to your brand perception.

Making a film is not an opportunity to create a 2-hour-long advert for your business.

Show to make a documentary part of your content output

Let’s face it – shooting a doco isn’t cheap, so brands must consider how to integrate the final film into their current content output to achieve maximum ROI.

For Goldman Sachs, this foray into long-form documentary is another string to their comprehensive approach to content. Goldman Sachs’ existing thought leadership hub ‘Our Thinking’ provides the perfect platform to amplify documentary footage through mini-blogs and short video clips. It could also house supplementary content such as behind-the-scenes footage. Documentary outtakes or B-roll could be folded into the organisation’s content calendar for the year to come.

If Goldman Sachs abide by the key guidelines for creating a great documentary then they certainly have the content infrastructure in place to distribute it far and wide. Other brands should watch keenly and build a solid content platform before creating this type of ‘hero’ footage.

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Rachel Lobley
A specialist in marketing strategy, Rachel has worked on consultancy, content and PR projects for a number of international finance and insurance brands out of London. Now in Australia, Rachel enjoys producing strategic content for the Aussie market and getting to know her new surroundings. When not at work, she's out enjoying restaurants and attempting to do some exercise.