branded content

So just what is branded content? You’ve probably heard the term thrown around a bunch, and maybe you’ve even had conversations with your team about it. But, if you were asked to describe what it is, what it does, and whether it’s important for your clients or your brand, you may be left feeling confused. That’s not surprising. A quick review of several articles regarding branded content shows that there are about as many definitions as Ben & Jerry’s has flavors of ice cream. In other words: a lot.

Here at Fifty Square Feet Productions, we think people have made the whole thing a little more complicated than it needs to be, so we decided to throw our two cents into the conversation and help you understand just what this branded content craze is all about.

branded content two

In a nutshell, branded content is all about creating content that will connect with your audience in a way that advertisements never can.

This can be in the form of a video, an article, an Ebook, or even an interactive experience. The most important point is that the content isn’t you with a megaphone shouting, “Buy my product!” Instead, it will focus on something that matters to your target market and that will help build their loyalty to your brand. Your audience should actually search for your content and choose to see it. Branded content creates an actual connection

Branded content is a great way to reach your audience because it creates a connection as opposed to using sly marketing ploys to hold a viewer’s attention. You’ve probably seen ads that shout “Last Chance” or “Almost Sold Out” that pop up when you try to close out of a browser window.

The problem with this style of marketing is that people are growing weary of interruption marketing. This is where branded content really shines. You become a known, liked, and trusted resource for your potential customers and remain top of mind when they think of your industry. In turn, they receive something of value that they will enjoy reading, watching or interacting with. A perfect win-win. Chances are you’ve seen (and maybe even shared) several pieces of branded content already without really knowing it.

For instance, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, which tried to change the conversation about female beauty, really hit a chord with the public. Dove created several short films that focused on self-esteem, beauty, and helped women to see that they could love who they are, just as they are.

branded content three
Dove’s Real Beauty

Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”, which offers an alternative to processed food, helped the public understand that where their food comes from matters.

branded content
Chipotle’s The Scarecrow

While branded content is somewhat of a fluid art form, there are a few things that must exist in order for a piece to truly be considered branded content. They are:

· Branded content should have a specific message that it shares with an audience. This message should not be direct advertising, but it can share products or services indirectly and build up a brand’s reputation.

· Branded content is not exactly a news story, but it is a story and therefore should be presented in a delightful and valuable way. It cannot be stressed enough that this is not an advertisement like a commercial, but almost more like a mini documentary or entertainment piece. Like journalism, it should have a clear story, but unlike journalism, it’s ok for branded content to be biased.

· Branded content should be consistent with your brand voice and messaging. The entire purpose of branded content is to build brand equity and recognition, so it needs to make sense for your brand and feel authentic.

· Branded content can be creative and artful and should be a high quality production. While some brands might be able to get away with a bare bones approach to their branded content (it all depends on brand positioning and style) the most successful branded content is professionally filmed and produced. Creating quality branded content is very important to the overall image of a brand, so don’t let your client skimp on the important details.

Do you need branded content for your business or clients?

Branded content is not only making it’s way into the advertising world, it’s changing the way that content is viewed and used. Two successful agencies to check out that are using branded content are Barbarian Group, who won the 2014 Cannes Innovation Lion, and Droga5 who won the 2016 Cannes Brand of the Year award.

So, why does branded content work? Well, for starters, today’s world is saturated in content.

mad men
Courtesy of the Don Draper Family Archive & Museum

You can’t look anywhere without advertising content popping up in every internet window, or even showing up in billboards as you drive across town. People are getting tired of being marketed to, but there is one thing that still holds their attention: great content.

While traditional advertising worked quite well in the past, today’s audience wants something more personal, and more interactive. Branded content gives the consumer a reason to believe in your product, and can help to build brand loyalty. That’s why branded content is making such a splash in the industry. It does away with the overused “Buy Now” messaging, and instead leaves the reader or viewer with something that is valuable, entertaining, and most importantly that makes them feel connected to your brand. Branded content can build brand equity faster than any advertising method ever could, and it’s been proven to do so.

Branded content is backed by research. According to research giant Nielsen, branded content works because along with today’s content saturation has come shorter attention spans. This isn’t a surprise when you think about it.

We’ve perfected the 140 character Tweet, communicate with friends and family through emojis, and have gotten used to reading our news through social media posts and online summaries. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is a new thing, and it means that people don’t have time to sift through long form advertising messages anymore. Something more exciting and interesting can and will win their attention away. So, enter branded content — the answer to any marketing department’s frustrations when they realize that clicks and conversions have steadily gone down in their traditional advertising methods and that a new method is needed.

Nielsen ran some consumer testing on more than 100 pieces of branded content and discovered that the way a message is delivered has a direct impact on the way viewers connect with the brand. This is important because when consumers feel they are being advertised to, they are less likely to let their guard down. When they feel they are being entertained or taught, they are more likely to trust a brand, which is of course a very important factor in building their brand equity — the holy grail of like, know, and trust.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to explore branded content in your business? As you may have guessed, branded content is something we’re passionate about here at Fifty Square Feet Productions. We can help you from the ideation stage to the final production. If you’re ready to find out whether branded content can help take your business or agency to the next level we invite you to schedule a call. We can’t wait to help your clients get into the branded content game and out of the screaming for attention game.