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What Exactly Is Branded Content?

Branded content (also known as branded entertainment) is the practice of marketing via the creation of content that is funded or outright produced by an advertiser.

In contrast to content marketing (in which content is presented first and foremost as a marketing ploy) and product placement (where references to brands are incorporated into outside creative works, such as films and television series, with an intent to promote the brands), branded content is produced by an advertiser but not necessarily designed to promote a brand, but build brand awareness by associating it with content that shares its values.

Unlike conventional forms of editorial content, branded content is generally funded entirely by a brand or corporation rather than a studio or a group of solely artistic producers.

Examples of branded content have appeared in television, film, online content, video games, events, and other installations.

Modern branded marketing strategies are intended primarily to counter market trends, such as the decreasing acceptance of traditional commercials or low-quality advertorials.

It can include articles, videos, podcasts, and even live elements that bring relevant value to the consumer. It is not advertising in the way most people think of advertising (commercials, banner ads, social media ads, etc…).

The key is grabbing the attention of today’s consumer and driving real engagement through content. Branded content can entertain people or teach them something, resulting in better brand engagement returns than standard pre roll content.

Why Branded Content Works Better Than Traditional Advertising

Advertising is everywhere. We get ads in our Facebook feeds, our streaming accounts, and even on our e-readers. We see billboards, email marketing, and banner ads daily.

Think about how many ads you skip on YouTube every day. But, you might search for the Dove Real Beauty Sketches on YouTube, or tune into a podcast like GE’s The Message. If you’re like many viewers, you’ve even shared branded content on social media.

While branded content appears to be a current trend, it’s one that works. Here’s why: When a consumer watches branded content, their brand recall is up to 59% higher than it is with display ads. Viewers are also 14% more likely to seek out extra content from the same brand. As far as ROI goes, these are strong numbers.

Branded content gets more attention and creates brand recognition. Consumers like branded content because they believe the content is more consumer-focused.

Since the message isn’t a sales pitch, it creates trust between the brand and the consumer. Traditional advertising does not have the same outcome.

Branded content could replace traditional advertising when it comes to connecting to the hearts and minds of consumers.

Forrester defines branded content as “content that is developed or curated by a brand to provide added consumer value such as entertainment or education”.

Eighty percent of today’s consumers are familiar with branded content and prefer it to traditional advertising across streaming, mobile, social, desktop and TV devices, according to CNN’s recently released report The Rise of Branded Content: Cross-Platform Insights You Need to Know.

CNN Ad Sales issued the report after surveys found 78% of consumers reported viewing branded content on any device, particularly 18- to 34-year-olds.

Vice president of Ad Sales Research, David Iudica, told, that “With today’s cross-media tools, branded content really gives markets a unique way of connecting with their consumers in a much more emotional way”.

The report indicates that branded content promotes a higher emotional response with consumers of all generations, compared with traditional ads.

Content marketing doesn’t push promotional and overt advertising, but offers entertaining and educational content that can stand on its own. It was first created in 1930 when P&G devised ‘soap operas’ to reach housewives. In the 1980s Hasbro created the G.I. Joe TV show which started a cross-promotional boom.

CNN predicts that branded content will achieve $20 billion growth by 2021 with marketers predicting larger budget growth by 50%.

The report provides the following insights and creative best practices, based on recent industry campaigns:

Think like a content provider:

Create engaging content that consumers will actively seek out and choose. Understanding consumer perceptions means understanding their evolving needs and how they consume content.

Trust factor: The News and Entertainment categories, followed by Health and Lifestyle are the most effective in delivering relevant Branded Content. Content is being consumed across all devices with larger screens accounting for a higher trust factor.

Quality content: Consumers have a significantly higher emotional engagement with branded content than traditional advertising. They don’t discriminate with content and will watch as long as it’s a good story. As long as the content is delivering an engaging experience it does not matter where it comes from. They prefer content that is high quality, inspirational and helpful to their lives.

Context matters: Branded content needs to fit in with the context of the program or site on which it appears. Consumers prefer human interest, corporate/social and educational content in the News category. Food and Recipes, educational and human interest content is preferred in the Health and Lifestyle category, while comedic, human interest and emotional content is preferred in the Entertainment category.

Brand identification: This is important and consumers prefer a visible brand name and logo to be shown throughout the video on all devices. Optimal content marketing is transparent and consistent visual branding supports a positive brand association.

Focus on the face first: Research indicates that people search for faces when consuming content. Ultimately people want to connect with people, not things. Facial bias is powerful and can drive engagement with characters and creative.

Feature a hero: Engagement increases and sustains in sections featuring a main character undergoing adversity. While visuals and a set-up of the story is necessary, consumers have the highest engagement when the “hero” is on screen.

Don’t overcrowd: Less is more, simple is better. With creative moving at a rapid pace, consumers need to work harder to keep up which can result in lower engagement due to a more cognitive and less emotional mindset.

Use a consistent visual theme: Audiences engage with the location setup and character development. When the location changes, the character then seems “out of place” and engagement starts to dip.

Engage with satire cautiously: The majority of audiences do not understand satirical comedy. After testing a documentary-style satirical video, only 20% of consumers understood the parody. The remaining 70% assumed the video was discussing a serious topic. However, emotional engagement remained high for both groups due to the engaging topic.


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