Hit play and you see clouds scuff over green, rolling hills and pine trees stretch up towards a dull, grey sky. Then you meet the characters: Ed Zevely and his horse.

Every few months, Ed camps in the depths of Colorado’s high country for weeks at a time, searching for serenity and reverberating quiet.

No, this isn’t the opening to a blockbuster movie, although it could be.

It’s actually a six-minute film from outdoor clothing company, Filson.

Viewers are informed that it’s a branded piece of content at the very start, but from then on they are simply mesmerised by Ed’s story. I, for one, watched right through to the end, and I’m sure you will, too.

Filson isn’t alone in producing a piece of content with a compelling storyline that is imbued with their brand values.

In fact, if you take a look at the most popular videos in the past year, you will see that the vast majority are story-led pieces created by brands – although sometimes you wouldn’t know it.

I won’t talk about the usual suspects like Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches or The Scarecrow by Chipotle, as they’ve been discussed to death (for good reason though – they are exceptional pieces of content that hit all the right spots).

Instead, I want to talk about an industry that seems to be getting it right every single time. Outdoor clothing companies.

Now, you might argue that they have more to work with than, say, a finance company, but it’s all about what you do with what you’ve got rather than what you don’t have (take a look at Unsung Hero by the Thai Life Insurance company, for example).

Brands like Filson, as well as Patagonia (I bet you’ve seen the 27 minute short film Worn to Wear) and Teva (Escape from Bigfoot Country, anyone?) are putting aside in-your-face promotion in favour of showing viewers the issues they care about.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear film shows the stories of a selection of its customers, from maple syrup makers to surfers and cyclists; people who inspire, people that viewers can relate to, people that embody the brand’s core values.

However, rather than simply showing a few shots of these adventurers in their branded clothing, Patagonia goes one step further (or maybe one step backwards) and practically begs people not to buy its clothes, instead encouraging them to patch up and re-purpose old items.

I imagine you’re furrowing your brow right now wondering why a brand would ever consider doing that.

Well, by doing this, Patagonia encourages brand loyalty because it isn’t shoving their clothing down viewers throats.

People like honesty. They like being spoken to like a human, and they don’t like to be taken advantage of. Patagonia realises all of these points throughout the film whilst at the same time establishing the brand as a leader in the industry. 

So what are outdoor clothing companies doing that is so right?

They play on emotion and tell a story

Let’s skip back to the Filson film with Ed and his horse. Like Worn to Wear, it’s not simply a slideshow of products.

It centres around a person and his story – again, something that viewers can connect with. It draws emotion and it inspires.

Viewers want to know more, they want feel something. We often underestimate the power of emotion when it comes to consumer behaviour, but MRI neuro-imagery shows that consumers predominantly use emotions to evaluate a brand rather than information.

More importantly, perhaps, research shows that emotion makes people take action.

They produce content that is human

In an age where consumers have a huge amount of power and choice, brands have to create something that people will choose to watch because, if they don’t, the viewer will simply go elsewhere.

And, despite being in a digitally minded era, people still prefer content that is humanised; content that they can relate to and connect with. 

They create conversations with viewers 

It’s no longer enough to talk AT consumers about your brand, you have to talk WITH them. Give them something valuable, something meaningful.

Look at it this way – is a consumer more likely to remember a product-centred video where shot after shot is of models in brand clothing, or a film like the ones Filson, Patagonia, and Teva have made? 

They don’t measure success on view count 

It boils down to quality of engagement, too. In the past, the number of views has been a measure of success but, whilst this may still be relevant today, there are other factors that should be considered too.

It’s all about what the viewer does after they have watched the video. Will they remember it? Will they share it? Will they invest in it? 

These outdoor clothing companies strive to build a strong brand with a tight-knit community, and these narrative-led, non-promotional videos embody that. It’s consistent and it works. 

They engage existing customers as well as new 

A lot of companies focus heavily on attracting new customers. So much so that they often overlook their existing loyal customers.

What these outdoor clothing companies do with these videos is engage new customers at the pre-purchase stage by presenting themselves as human and reliable, whilst at the same time cementing loyalty with existing customers by reaffirming their brand values. 

Finisterre – Cold Water People from FatSand Films on Vimeo.

Beautiful, story-led content is the future

But you already knew that, right?

It’s all well and good me telling you what you should be doing when you don’t even know where to begin.

It’s simple, really. Think about the values of your brand. What does it believe in? What is its message? What is its story? Dig deep, find it, and tell it. 

There’s no need to plough millions of pounds into creating a blockbuster-style mini-movie.

The story is not about the product, but about the people involved. People buy into people, and outdoor clothing companies have tapped into this, exploring inspiring stories and emotive themes. 

Of course, this idea can be transferred to any industry and it has been – very successfully, too. Branded content is no longer product-orientated, it is people-focused, story-led, and emotive.

This is the future of branded video content and it’s exciting.