Marketers, is your branded content playbook future-ready?

The Drum 08 Apr 2021 02:00

Hamsini Shivakumar, co-founder of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, outlines the recipe for a successful branded content playbook for marketers and reminds them to keep their advertising strategy separate from their branded content strategy.

Branded content is not ‘advertising’ in another format. It has its own place in the communication mix.

Over the last six months, we have analyzed over 60 pieces of carefully selected branded content, often in comparison with their advertising counterparts and have looked at video content (fictional narratives, performance poetry, stand-up comedy and music videos), digital series (comedy show, reality show and home tour videos), websites (editorial site and repositories), influencer-driven content (cooking videos and comedy bits) and offline content (cookbook).

Our conclusion: when created in its purest form, without adulteration through advertising codes, branded content can find an enduring place for the brand in consumers’ lives. I must clarify; I don’t think that advertising is ’dead’ and I don’t offer any similar hyperbolic conclusions. Having worked as a planner in advertising for about 14 years, I experienced it at close quarters and understand that it comes with benefits that the world of brands and marketing cannot do without.

So, what should marketers, trained in the tenets of advertising, consider when creating branded content for an upcoming project? Here are some key takeaways:

As a publisher of content, the brand’s role is to make the socially and emotionally desired, possible for consumers to experience. Ask these questions: would your audience feel represented/empowered if you joined a cultural debate and created a moving monologue to put into words what they have been feeling? Would your audience feel comforted if you created a sweet video to briefly pluck them out of their daily schedule? Would they feel excited to see their favorite celebrity from a fresh lens?

  1. Branded content is NOT advertising in another format. It is different and has its own reason for existence. Advertising and branded content are not like powder and liquid detergent, just different forms of the same product. They are more like skin cleansers and skin creams, different products with different reasons to be used, for different benefits.

  2. While advertising’s purpose is to ‘sell’ entertainingly, branded content’s purpose is to ‘engage’ with consumers and with culture.

  3. While advertising builds brand salience and product preference, branded content builds out the symbolic space in a culture that the brand wants to occupy and be an agent in.

  4. Advertising, with its goal of sales and brand salience/image building, is bound within the category. Branded content breaks the boundary of the category to enter the realm of culture.

But as we found with many brilliant examples of branded content, for those who get it right, there is much to be gained.

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