Branded Content

Branded content is a new marketing trend that captures consumers’ attention through entertaining and emotionally engaging marketing messages.

Since the development of the internet and digital technologies, consumers are constantly being bombarded with large volumes of marketing messages on a daily basis.  More and more consumers are switching off to advertising and the technology is allowing them to control/filter the information they receive.  The internet has also raised consumers’ expectations for more personalised customer experiences, advertising content based on their needs and wants and stronger relationships with brands. (Mediacom, 2012, p. 3)

On the other hand, the market for consumer attention has become so competitive, that it’s becoming harder for companies to acquire and retain customers, build brand loyalty and capture and maintain consumers’ attention (Teixeria, 2014, p. 2).  Consumers are now more tech and media savvy and companies are being challenged on how to engage with their customers and maintain their attention and interests in their brands for longer periods of time.

Branded content marketing appears to be a solution that helps brands to build stronger relationships with their consumers using entertaining marketing messages. Branded content has been defined by Forrester Research cited in Forbes as:

“Content that is developed or curated by a brand to provide added consumer value such as entertainment or education. It is designed to build brand consideration and affinity, not sell a product or service. It is not a paid ad, sponsorship, or product placement.”

Branded content is not like traditional advertising where ads are delivering messages on the features and benefits of product/services.  Branded content is about making the storytelling and the brand’s values at the heart of the marketing message.  Content marketing builds brand consideration and affinity by engaging consumers on a more personal and emotional level. Consumers understand that branded content is another form of advertising but its objective is to raise awareness of the brand.  The content is about educating and entertaining consumers and creating strong emotional connections.

Forrester Research further identified four ways branded content can help build a true brand (Olenski 2013):

  1. Educate and inform to build trusted brands
  2. Create topical, shareable content to build a remarkable brand
  3. Develop stand-out content to build an unmistakable brand
  4. Become part of your customers’ daily routine to build an essential brand

Just like traditional advertising, branded content needs to be distributed across multi-channel platforms (video, web, social networks, TV, print) so consumers can engage and interact with the brand and share the content with other people.

For brands to remain relevant with consumers on a more personal level, companies are incorporating branded content into their marketing strategies.  It has been predominantly used by luxury brands but the examples below show that branded content marketing is helping many companies build stronger emotional connections with consumers.

BMW – The Hire series



BMW produced 5 x 8 minute videos during 2001-2002 periods starring Clive Owen and other high profile actors.  BMW ‘s market research studies showed 85% of BMW buyers used the Internet before purchasing a BMW. Results showed after the end of 2001, BMW sales worldwide increased by 12% on previous year, 2 million people registered on the BMW website and 94% of buyers who viewed the video/s shared it with their friends ( 2001).

Dove – Real beauty sketches  



Market research undertaken by Unilever’s Dove brand showed that only 4 per cent of women described themselves as beautiful. The campaign focused on raising self-esteem of women who felt they were not beautiful. The campaign tapped into women’s emotions and attention by making them re-think about their beauty and self-image.  The videos generated 170 million views on YouTube, it was deemed to be the most successful and most watched branded content video for 2013 (BCMA 2014)

Melbourne Metro Rail – Dumb ways to die 



This public service announcement video was produced by Melbourne Metro Rail to raise awareness of rail safety. The quirky and hilarious video uses cartoon characters dying horrible deaths to highlight the serious message of public safety.  The campaign was extremely successful with nearly over 100 million views on YouTube and over 3.2 million shares on Facebook and 100k retweets on Twitter (BCMA 2014).


Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA) 2014, ‘BOBCM: best of branded content marketing volume II (10th anniversary edition), retrieved 1 May 2015, <;

Mediacom, 2012, The insider: the rise of empowered consumer – how to reach audiences in 2012, retrieved 3 May 2015, <>

Olenski, S 2001, ‘Using Branded Content In Your Content Marketing Arsenal’, Forbes Leadership, weblog post, 26 March 2013 post, date retrieved 1 May 2015, <;

Teixeira T S 2014, ‘The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should Care, and What You Can Do about It’, Harvard Business School Working Paper, 14-055, 17 January 2014, pp 1-22.

Vervroegn, E 2001, ‘BMW – the hire’, This is not advertising, weblog post, 5 July 2011 post, date retrieved 1 May 2015, <;


12 thoughts on “Branded Content

  1. branded content is the closest strategy to the consumers heart , its benefits goes both ways for the firm and consumer .
    its not advertisement but consumer actually want to read it , its videos , if well designed , could go viral and it plays in social media platform.
    but this kind of strategies is specifically for some segments and products , it could not work with older people who are not interested in smart devises or social media or in places where internet is not available . In some countries internet is controlled and not all websites are accessible. it might seem perfect for developed countries but in the same time could be un-affordable in developing countries where major segments for consumers are .


  2. This is a great topic! The emergence of social media has made it easier than ever for companies to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. We live such fast-paced lives that we hardly see the dancing banner ads and pop-up subscribe forms. We are forever unsubscribing from email promotions and tired of the same old marketing jargon.

    To keep customers engaged, companies must offer us something more than a generic sales pitch; we want to learn something new, see something beautiful, read something inspiring. We want added value- we want to form an emotional connection before we trust a company, then maybe we’ll be willing to buy what they are selling.

    Entrepreneur and marketing guru, Gary Vaynerchuck has recently released a blueprint for social media marketing. In his book, ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’ Vaynerchuck outlines that business owners and marketers plan for their next campaign with the aim to increase immediate profit “right hook” when they should be working on their “jabs”. Vaynerchuck stresses that developing high-quality content “jab” is the key to engaging with customers and building valuable relationships using narrative that is tailored to each major social media platform showing that content really is king!


  3. Great post about a really interesting topic. I for one really like this form of advertisement, it could be called entertisement, because it is meant to be entertaining whilst also promotes a product. My question is “is it effective”? I acknowledge that BMW’s sales jumped 12% however can this be attributed to the success of the short films. I read earlier in this semester that Dove had not improved their sales or market share as a result of their real beauty campaign. Is there any evidence on whether it works or not?


  4. Good post.
    For me the bumb ways to die was very clever because people don’t associate too well to threat’s or “scared” advertising, well I guess threat based advertising. Taking something very serious like death on tracks and turning this into a comic strip with different characters was a every clever move. They essentially used all elements of IMC and taken the topic out from a serious level, out of the tracks and into the lives of everyday travellers. It reached their psychological reading as to what the message was about and then continued this through relevant advertising around the stations and on social engagements. Finishing this off with a song was even a more strategic move to go. Given it’s success, I wonder to myself if advertising around smoking needs to be conducted in the same or similar manner?


  5. Interesting topic and a great post, I too like this kind of advertisement that tells a story and makes you think. Social media platform is really changing the world right now. Here are other two insurance advertisement from Thailand suing the same branded content stategy. Hope you enjoy it!


    • Thanks so much for comments and for the 2 x videos. The Thai life insurance commercials are excellent examples of branded content marketing – both definitely create a strong emotional connections with the viewer (and with tissues). Only at the end of the commercials do you see the Thai life brand name. The commercials are about the importance of your family and life and giving to others but nothing about life insurance – it’s a conservation you wouldn’t often have but the ads certainly makes you think about your life situation. Thanks


  6. I have seen a couple of good examples of branded content by make-up firms such as L’Oreal or Max Factor. These companies provide their products to women who do beauty tutorials on YouTube or produce their own season matching tutorials and show them on their websites. In that way, the usage of the product, the application of the make-up is demonstrated and the consumer is educated. In my opinion, this is a good mean to do content marketing because it doesn’t feel or sound like a sales pitch. It’s just a free and entertaining product tutorial explaining features, benefits and situational use.


    • Hi, thanks for your comments. I definitely agree with you, L’oreal strategy it’s about educating and aspiring consumers about their products. L’oreal have also developed an app that lets you try on their cosmetics without applying it directly to your face. They definitely come-up with innovative ways to educate their consumers and are using video, social and web and all the other traditional channels to communicate to their consumers. Thanks


  7. With the advent of technology consumers are able to block advertisements and this branded content is really a smart move from companies, another such strategies are being adopted from advertisers where a consumer is not able to avoid the advertisement such as brand placement usually in a movie or television series the brand is placed in the series or the characters are made to talk about the brand this creates an awareness about the brand but it can have its negative impact also as consumers can think that money is paid for the placement of the brand in the show/movie. Another way is brand advocates, the person advocates the brand for the companies but the his relation or engagement with company is hidden, in a way they act as brand advocates.


  8. What a great topic! It’s unbelievable how Social Media changes the whole advertising or communication srategies at the moment. I’ve seen a couple of very good and funny examples of branded content as well. I think it’s a good chance how companies or brands can deal with Social Media. As a customer you don’t feel like influenced by advertising because its more like entertainment and sometimes you even become a positive impression of the brand. My favourite is ‘dumb ways to die’ from Melbourne Metro Rail because it’s so stupid but funny. I really had to laugh about that song and I will remember it the next several years 🙂


  9. Brands used to have a tenuous-at-best grasp on editorial content. However, in recent years, thanks to an influx of professional journalists and the shining examples set by brand publishers like Red Bull, Chipotle, and GE, that’s no longer the case. A couple of brands are really getting the hang of the media business.

    For example, here is a link that I want to share with you guys-

    It’s the LEGO Movie.
    The LEGO Movie—a $200 million blockbuster—was actually a savvy piece of branded content. Although LEGO put out a manifesto declaring, “We are not making a commercial for the toys,” the brand was an integral part of the filmmaking process, reports Fast Company, and exerted extensive approval over the content.

    The result was arguably the most successful piece of branded content of all time, or, as director Phil Lord described it, “a soulful cash grab.”

    Hope you enjoy it!


  10. My two years old boy can sing “dumb ways to die”, mostly because he and his sister love to play the app at the Ipad. My first thought was ” this is so cute…”. But other day we went to the city by train and he told me for do not standing beyond the yellow line! So, I would say that he got the message, and so do I! If the Melbourne metro Rail still have any doubts if the ad worked well, here it is!


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