Hawaiian Airlines wanted to honour the brand’s values, its culture, in a film that in the end not only strongly resonated with external audiences, but also with internal employees.

The 46-minute brand documentary tells the story of three hula practitioners—a teacher, a chanter, and a dancer—as they prepare to step onto the stage of the most prestigious hula competition of its kind: the Merrie Monarch Festival that is held every spring since 1971, where the best hula hālau are invited to Hilo, Hawaii.

In a Brand Storytelling 2022: A Sanctioned Event of Sundance Film Festival panel, brand executives and NMG network filmmakers sat down for a Q&A session on how the “Ka Huakai: The Journey to Merrie Monarch” documentary was envisioned, produced and distributed (you can watch the entire panel below).

A beautiful production (that you can also watch below) was born internally at Hawaiian Airlines when Senior Vice President of Marketing Avi Mannis pitched the idea that the travel company makes a documentary following their employees as they prepared for The Merrie Monarch.

Video partner, NMG Network, was contacted to produce the brand film and that is when it really started taking life. The narrative focuses on the rarely seen preparation of the event, but also the preparation of the dancers, with the goal of educating, but also inspiring audiences.

The final result is a journey where the focus is on the dancers, the experiences they live, with the brand taking a back seat, letting the story unfold. A great piece of branded content and branded entertainment.

Brand films like this one can become key elements in a marketer’s content library. They are hero pieces that can have a long shelf life (key when production value and costs are high), and the challenge is integrating it into tactics that are deployed over a long period of time (for example, it can be a great nurturing piece sent in an email sequence for customers that are new to the brand).

But although it can be a great external awareness communication asset, it can also be a great piece of content that can bring employees together. And this is what happened with this project. As mentioned in a Forbes article on the subject:

And while it’s plain to see that Hawaiian Airlines stood to benefit from a consumer brand lift, one of the less expected outcomes was affinity for the documentary from within the brand, from whom the project had been largely kept under wraps. “For an audience that understood the context of this (film), it resonated in deep and profound ways”, said Mannis. “This movie made a really big impact on the people and the community who saw it… we made this for us.”

And this is another example of the potential use of higher-cost, hero content assets that can be deeply integrated into longer-term content initiatives.

Do you have premium content assets that you believe aren’t being leveraged to their full potential? Contact us and we can explore the different possibilities to amortize existing content assets your brand might have.

You can also speak with one of our experts should you be interested in producing a brand film similar to this Hawaiian Airlines production, our teams of storytellers and filmmakers have extensive experience in bringing the gap between great narratives and brand objectives.

Watch the entire panel:

Watch the entire brand film: