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What does unbranded content about blind coffee roasters, feral pigs, and electric bikes have to do with selling groceries? The team at Dark Rye, Whole Foods Market’s online magazine, thinks there’s a connection. Dark Rye launched in 2012 at SXSW with the intention of creating unbranded films that celebrate the makers and doers of our time: urban farmers, whisky distillers, locavore chefs, and more. Why? Because they believe people actually want this type of content. The team will offer a transparent look at the risks and rewards of content that doesn’t directly peddle product, how to get films distributed, the challenges of low budgets, unpaid talent, small crews, and camera-shy subjects (feral pigs!). Branded content has its merits, but if you’re creating it just to get your brand seen, spend the money elsewhere. If you have a compelling mission, cause, or message, however, people might not only watch, but actually feel, and even do something as a result.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. Under what circumstances does it make sense to invest in branded or unbranded content?
  2. When does it make sense to create content "in-house"? What are the pros and cons of creating content in-house?
  3. What sort of subject matter makes for compelling short documentaries? What subject matter has Whole Foods shoppers responded to the most? Are there any subjects you've had to avoid because of corporate philosophy?
  4. How do you get the films distributed (through internal AND external channels) when the financial impact is unknown? How do you convince your company to take a risk on your content when they can't see a direct, tangible reward?
  5. How to do you attract talented filmmakers and musicians to collaborate on projects when budgets are extremely low?



Caitlin Riley, Video Producer, Dark Rye / Whole Foods

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