What is branded content?
Branded content is technically about articles, videos, podcasts, images and live elements that are designed to serve your clients in every stage of their customer journey and to behave according to your brand guidelines at the same time.
It is not advertising in the traditional sense of commercials, banner ads, social media ads, etc. The key is to drive real engagement through content that educates, informs and/or entertains your audience.
Engagement is created through a story. The story must place your target audience in the center while your product or service takes a “supporting” role. By doing so, your target audience can see the kind of people they want to identify with. They need to see themselves in your stories.
Cultural Imprinting is acceptable in this context as long as all artifacts in the story carry the same meaning the target audience wants to communicate to their peers.
Examples of branded content
- The whole term of “branded content” got conceived after in 2001 after the introduction of the series “The Hire”. Produced by BMW, each of the eight-part episodes, directed by an international filmmaker, revolved around a narrative. The true objective, however, was to highlight the performance capabilities of various BMW vehicles.
- General Electric regularly publishes content for their content hub “GE Reports”. It tells stories related to GE’s industry, featuring articles from different voices. You can experience content about innovation, digital transformation, and also GE business, and no advertising of their products.
- T Brand Studio published this article for Netflix before “Orange is the new black” went live. The piece mentioned nothing about Netflix’ services or products in a traditional advertising sense, but it did provide original insight into the topic of female inmates — a topic that also serves as the main focus of a Netflix original series. Instead of spending on a banner ad telling people to watch the new series, Netflix put their resources towards getting a piece of content in front of the eyes of over 1 million New York Times readers.
- One of the most successful branded content campaigns to date has been Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches”. Dove’s research had initially revealed that only 4% of women polled described themselves as “beautiful”. A message called “beauty is for everyone” was conceived. It was delivered in the form of videos that featured an FBI sketch artist drawing women as they described themselves. Then, the artist drew portraits of the same women, but the descriptions were given by strangers, resulting in the difference between the two sketches often being breathtaking. The campaign was the most watched branded content in 2013.
The recent branded content campaigns include
- Comedians in cars by Jerry Seinfeld for Acura
- Marvel’s series “Runaways” with Hulu, Lyft and City of Los Angeles
- A new hotel lobby display of MGM Grand Hotel & Casino with Vox Creative
- The Lego movies
The History of Branded Content
Branded content is not a new trend. Already in the 40s it was common for shows to have a specific sponsor, or even for a brand to create their own content.
In the 1970s, brands like Proctor and Gamble created and sponsored their own soap operas.
Today, companies and organisations approach sponsorship through their social responsibility programs, and content can include podcasts, videos, web series, articles, and even virtual reality.
Why Branded Content Works Better Than Traditional Advertising
- It has been found that 60-90% of TV viewers and people online skip advertising. Viewers and visitors are increasingly aware of the techniques being used and sophisticated enough to seek for more meaningful experiences than mere advertisements. When done well, branded content can very well respond to this demand.
- A study by Forbes and IPG Media found that branded content consumers found branded content 2X more memorable than display ads.
- Nielsen found that branded content outperforms pre-roll across several KPIs, e.g. Affinity, Intent, and Recall .
Is branded content for you?
The first thing to understand is that branded content is different from content marketing. The latter focuses on your products and services and may more or less facts based. The former puts your audience in the centre of the experience and uses emotions. You have to get comfortable with showing your audience to your audience through a story that for example touches one of the four core human emotions and places your product or service as one element of the experience.
Also, you need to consider these five keys to successful branded content, by Nielsen
- Excellent Central Personality. See, for example, Pixar’s memorable story rules and storytelling tips
- Unique and Original Concept
- Personal Connection with Audience
- Emotionally Engaging Experience
- Brand & Content Fit Together
Finally, you can use Studiobinder’s proposal for creating the campaign project:
- Set campaign goals
- Develop and entertaining idea
- Produce the content & launch