Branded content has become a trend — kind of like avocado — a buzzword every marketer loves to throw during their monthly review presentation to sound just a tad more profesional, but — kind of like avocado — there’s really nothing new about it.
Do you remember He-Man and his fiercely-attired-for-combat sister She-Ra? and how about My Little Pony? These were all popular animated television shows from the 80’s, but did you know that they’re also owned and created by toy companies Mattel and Hasbro, respectively?
What’s branded content?
Simply put, it’s to create content of value to gather people’s attention. The theory being that because it’s entertaining then audiences will forgive the fact that they’re being sold a product. In the case of He-Man and the pastel-coloured shrunken horses, that would be toys.
The idea central to content Marketing is that brands must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story. The value returned is often that people associate good things with – and return to engage with – the brand.
– James O’Brien, Contently
A well-known case of branded content was developed by BMW in the early 2000s, with their series The Hire. The series of short films was narrated by Clive Owen and included other stars such as Mickey Rourke, Madonna, Forest Whitaker and Adriana Lima, to name a few.
What are companies doing now?
Like everything else marketing, branded content has gone online in recent years, with a recent trend towards short, snappy videos. Right now, advertisers are laser focused on online platforms. With the endless ocean that is the Internet, attention spans are limited. Viewers only pay attention to ads that really grab their attention, so brands have to be good at predicting what we want to see. And not only that, but users can also search for the content that truly interests them, forcing the marketers to adapt and make their content engaging.
The perfect example of how to run an effective branded content campaign. Nearly all of their marketing relies heavily on it — or did you happen to miss the Red Bull Stratos contest? What about their Air Race Championship? Or, really, any of their extreme sports world competitions? That’s all branded content!
The LEGO Movie
One of the best examples of entertainment produced by a brand that almost everyone loves. It amplified the emotional connection that the audience had with the brand by bringing to the life that magical world we all shared when we played with LEGOs. I reckon everyone could relate to at least one of the characters; my favourite was Benny!
Geico already had a series of super memorable ads with the cute gecko and catchy tagline (“Fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance”). The Unskippable campaign took their advertising to new levels. Designed for YouTube, it featured ultra-short stories that squeezed in all the information so quickly that viewers wouldn’t have time to press the skip button. For YouTube, that’s less than 5 seconds. A lot of the content was actually engaging enough that viewers watched past the 5 second mark anyway.
The handbag and fashion line launched a kooky video series called #MissAdventure. The first video featured actress Anna Kendrick, and showed her getting into all sorts of trouble – while wearing nothing but Kate Spade, of course! Guest stars included Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin Ellie Kemper, Zosia Mamet and Freida Pinto. And let’s not forget about the adorable co-star Milos the dog, either! The real key to these videos isn’t the famous actors though; it’s that they’re fun to watch even if you don’t shop at Kate Spade.
Land Rover’s ‘biggest ever sponsorship’ for the Rugby World Cup is a fantastic example of branded content. They used the hashtag #WeDealInReal to feature the stories of 11 amateur rugby clubs from around the world. The stories were featured in both TV ads and across all of the brand’s social media channels. They also encouraged other amateur clubs to share their own stories using the hashtag!
The “Slide” campaign was centred around a two-minute film featuring skateboarders trying out a new hoverboard invention by the brand across a bunch of different surfaces. There is a car in there near the very end, but it doesn’t look anything like a traditional car ad. There’s also a companion website that takes you through the science, technology and people behind the ad. The tagline “Amazing in Motion” reinforces that this is really something special and interesting – even though at its core it’s advertising.
This hilarious campaign took advantage of current events: the Danish birth rate being at a 27 year low. Travel agency Spies Rejser created a campaign called “Do it for Denmark!” to encourage Danes to go on vacation and get it on — literally. They had scientific findings about all the benefits for relationships that travel has, and spiced up the data with cheeky graphics and a humorous tone. You could even potentially win 3 years of baby supplies if you could prove you’d conceived a child on one of their holidays! The follow up “Do It For Mom” is just as funny.
This may be one of the most creative ways we’ve seen to promote a broadband provider. The one in question is Ume.net, who used virtual reality headsets to show people just how frustrating even a few seconds of lag is in real life. It’s an incredible way to demonstrate the difference between a slow internet provider and a fast one (presumably Ume.net in this case!).
These are all examples of how we want to have a closer relation with brands and see them as people and not just businesses. Using content generated by people from all over the world is one of the best ways to humanise a brand and that is where marketing is heading in the future.
The success of a brand depends heavily on their ability to interact with their audience and give both parties something valuable. Without being able to generate content that people can relate to, any brand is going to have a tough time standing out today. Branded content is no longer a cool optional extra, but rather something that’s truly changing the way we market today.
Oringal text by Luca Giraudo. Edited by Jessica Bowler and Harald Meyer-Delius.
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