Why do you need branded content?


Before we begin, it’s worth noting that ‘branded content’ can have two definitions. One is more aligned to content marketing, which my digital marketing colleagues will no doubt get excited by, and sure, your marketing should always be on-brand, in both written and visual content. But that’s all about ROI and sales, something I’ll save for one of the tweeters to write about another day. (Contrary to industry belief, they do more than just tweet).

The less boring meaning (for a designer anyway – we like pretty pictures) focuses less on the product and isn’t all about driving sales. It’s a brand awareness exercise, while not being an out and out ‘branded’ advert for your company. By not ‘branded’, I mean that aesthetically, the content isn’t plastered with your logo, the typeface might not be mentioned in your guidelines and the colour palette is free to explore. The content itself might not even be centred on your product. The focus of the material is to entertain the consumer and provide them with feelings you want them to have about your company, you want to be perceived in the best possible way. You’re not looking to build a relationship through the branded content, you’re merely tagging yourselves on something that says positive things about you.

Where have you seen branded content?

A quick and easy example would be a perfume or car advert. Often there is limited branding on show and you won’t see the product drop in until the last second. You’re resonating with the consumer through the lifestyle, atmosphere and entertainment provided. Christmas ads are another prime example, whether it’s Kevin the Carrot or Buster the Boxer on a trampoline, they provoke emotion and are often humorous.

A personal favourite example of branded content is the Gatorade: The Boy Who Learned To Fly short animation. You’ll find it on any blog, article, video or post online talking about branded content, we’re just a little late to the party. At the heart of the video, we have the living legend that is Usain Bolt. It’s 7 minutes long, nearly a minute for each of his gold medals. It appears to all be about Bolt, which is perfect for Gatorade. Everyone respects Bolt. He’s a character, always smiling and a perfect ambassador for his sport. Gatorade features minimally, coming into focus only when Bolt takes a sip from his bottle. All those feelings you associate with Bolt are then channelled into your perceptions of Gatorade.

How do you want to be perceived?

While we tailor all of our kick-off meetings to suit the client, industry and project, there are some questions that we guarantee we’ll ask you. One of those is: ‘how do you want to be perceived going forward?’ It’s an insightful question that is all about emotion and brand association and awareness. Through branded content, you’re selling the premise of your brand and products. I know it’s not the time to be thinking about Christmas, but let’s take Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot adverts as an example. It’s all about the lifestyle and the narrative at hand. You’re more likely to get personal enjoyment from a slice of Kevin than you are the urge to pop down to Aldi and fill the trolley. Products are subtly woven into the storylines meaning ‘SHOP NOW’ isn’t featured left, right and centre. One of the shorts even featured Peaky Blinders Brussel sprouts (‘Leafy Blinders’ apparently). That show is watched and loved by millions. It’s a great little nod towards the show, automatically getting wannabe Tommy Shelby’s like myself on side.

(I definitely had too much fun illustrating that and for any vegetable illustrating needs, please get in touch.)

So, why do you need it?

Simply put, branded content gets more attention and builds awareness of your brand. The focus is on the consumer, it’s authentic and the content is fulfilling to them. It’s not an ad you ignore in a magazine or an ad you skip on YouTube. It’s the content you’re trying to get to in the magazine and the video you want to watch on YouTube. (As of March 2020, ‘Beware the Leafy Blinders’ had over 1.3 million views on YouTube). Branded content is a lot more memorable than generic advertising. We’re so used to seeing ads and content that looks the same, but branded content is often unique and outside the box. More to the point, it’s a successful marketing approach and a study carried out by Forbes suggested branded content is over twice as memorable as your usual ad. (You can read the study here: Forbes Study)

How can you use it?

While videos are a prime example of branded content, it doesn’t stop there. A simple branded image, whether that be on your website or in place of an advert in a magazine, will still work. They may not have the same impact as a 7-minute long video featuring cartoon Usain Bolt, but as a piece of branded content, it will still be doing a lot more than your average ad.