Brand identity, transparency and Morgan Spurlock

by Tieja MacLaughlin

Over 500 brands rejected Morgan Spurlock in 2011.

That's an awful lot of times to wipe the sweat off of your brow and keep moving forward, but that's exactly what the Oscar-nominated filmmaker did when pitching for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

"Transparency is our goal," said Spurlock about his documentary in a 2011 Ted Talk.

A small, but mighty, 17 brands agreed with him, and took a risk on his innovative film concept.

The brand partners collectively covered the $1.5 million price tag to fund full production. A film about brand sponsorship, sponsored by brands - the ultimate oxymoron.

"Transparency is scary, unpredictable and very risky," said Spurlock, during the same Ted Talk. But he encouraged brands to embrace it.

In an ever-changing and evolving media landscape, being transparent - for better or for worse - can actually enhance your brand identity.

The brand-consumer relationship has evolved, and the consumer now demands more in return for their acquisition.

Full disclosure is a big part of that.

In the end, the brands that turned down Spurlock only enhanced the film's narrative, taking viewers through the processes that agencies and internal marketing departments typically handle behind closed doors.

Everything from ideation, to the initial pitch, to the battle between sponsorship and artistic integrity.

The brands who weren't receptive to being a part of the film most often cited a lack of control over their brand image.

The brands that did take part in the film turned the idea of brand identity on it's side and played transparency in their favour.

Ultimately, Spurlock retained his creative freedom and final cut of the film while working with his brand partners in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, and in a reciprocal relationship, those partners effectively showcased their brand in a film that achieved over 900 million media impressions.

This is, paradoxically, the ultimate brand-consumer relationship.

Spurlock will be speaking about his work with brands at this year's Art of Marketing conference in Toronto, sharing his expertise in storytelling through his numerous directorial and editorial projects such as Supersize Me, Mansome and CNN's Inside Man.

"Most of my career I've been immersing myself into seemingly horrible situations for the whole goal of trying to examine societal issues in a way that makes them engaging; that makes them interesting; and hopefully breaks them down in a way that makes them entertaining and accessible to an audience."

Spurlock is one of five thought leaders representing the marketing industry. Other speakers include Movember CEO Adam Garone, and social media maven Bethany Mota.

To view the full line-up, visit Art of Marketing, and use the promo code TAOM22 to receive $50 off your ticket purchase.

Tieja MacLaughlin