To mark the 30th anniversary of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, we produced a documentary film about the history of the financial institution in cooperation with the Radio-Television of Slovenia. The project was a more-than-welcome basis for considering the limitless opportunity that documentaries open up within the context of brand communication.
Renaissance of the documentary genre
With the dawn of streaming platforms, documentary genre saw a renaissance. Only a decade before, when the trends were dictated by the global cinematic film distribution and cable TV, documentary films were considered a B genre – i.e. a TV genre which we associated with specialized niche programs, such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel. But with digital distribution, the global audience saw the documentary genre in a new, thrilling light. As is evident from the success of the Tiger King documentary series and the movie Fyre, the appetite for stories, which are based on true events but seem more farfetched than fiction, has increased. With a well-thought-out approach, brands too can reap the benefits of documentary storytelling.
Documentary approach to brand communication
Within the context of branding, i.e. brand communication, the documentary approach provides an unutual, nearly subversive opportunity for communicating and building a brand.
The philosophers of Ancient Greece classified storytelling in two categories: poetry and historiography. With this distinction, historiography – which is parallel to the documentary genre – was marked as objective. Conversely, poetry and its derivatives, which includes most storytelling formats used in advertising campaigns, was marked as subjective. We tend to forget that these are actually two sides of the same coin, which we can flip and turn as we desire. Hence, we can either make up content and brand messages, or we can document them. And while cleverly thought-out slogans and calls to action may seem attractive, the documentary approach holds a value that remains largely untapped into.
History is the best story a brand can tell
Utilizing the documentary approach, we can focus on current events or we can look back into the past. By referencing the history of a brand, we can put the spotlight on its long-lived presence in the lives of its users and highlight the many positive values connected to longevity: continuity, credibility, reliability, endurance… Such communication strengthens the awareness of readers, viewers and listeners about the important role this brand has played in their lives.
A story in the past tense therefore increases the public awareness of brand heritage, encourages a critical perspective on the brand’s history, provides a perspective for future endeavors and unifies the potential dispersion of brand perspectives within a company. By bringing back memories of (forgotten) past events, which helped shape a brand as we know it today, we can highlight and solidify the fundamental values of a company – the very ones it was founded on.
A story that helped shape Slovenia
The Ljubljana Stock Exchange is well aware of this. To mark the 30th anniversary of the financial institution, the Dobre zgodbe brand newsroom was invited to produce a documentary film that would condense the history of the stock exchange from its early beginnings to date.
The events at the stock exchange were often highly intertwined with political events, which is why the institution played an important role in shaping not only the financial, but also the social life we live today. In parallel, we thus prepared both a retrospective of the events at the Ljubljana Stock Exchange and an overview of the key events in Slovenia over the course of Ljubljana Stock Exchange’s 30-year history.
To this end, we conducted interviews with several key representatives of Slovene politics and finance: all former presidents of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange Management Board, key investors, ministers of finance and prime ministers. To bring the history closer to viewers, we invited the national television to co-produce the documentary film and equipped the interviews with priceless documentary B-roll from their archive.
The basis of the storyline was thus the timeline that led us from liberation and privatization to Slovenia entering the European Union, adopting the euro, facing the 2008 financial crisis, gradual economic recovery, the Brexit referendum and future outlook. Our interviewees touched upon these topics in the last few months before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, which nobody could have foreseen during the production of the film from August 2019 to March 2020. This makes the film all the more interesting today.
Brand newsroom – a media newsroom for brand content
Aside from diving into a diverse and intertwined history of the past 30 years, working on a documentary film was marked by reviewing and editing archived video material. A thorough and precise approach to work, which is necessary to logically connect the stories of different speakers with the documented historical events, showcases the principles of responsible, truthful and precise work, which an integral part of brand content communication. After all, it stems from the tradition of research approaches that we often find in media newsrooms and journalist teams. A real journalistic approach is precisely what distinguished the content produced by brand newsroom teams from traditional advertising approaches.
Therefore, documentary film an excellent tool for commemorating and preserving brand communication – it remains faithful to its purpose as both a document and a genre. In the first stage, it helps companies to become aware of the roles they have played in their social environments. Each company and each brand, regardless of its age and visibility, has a significant impact in co-shaping its local environment, the lives of its employees and – sometimes, for instance in the case of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange – the entire economic or political sphere. With documentary film and other brand newsroom approaches, we enable companies to present their rich, unique collection of content, information and knowledge created on a daily basis by the employees, and vision dictated by the decision-makers, to their stakeholders – owners, buyers and other members of the public.