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):
- Educate and inform to build trusted brands
- Create topical, shareable content to build a remarkable brand
- Develop stand-out content to build an unmistakable brand
- 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 (Vervroegen 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, <http://www.slideshare.net/juzzie/best-of-branded-content-marketing-10th-anniversary-edition>
Mediacom, 2012, The insider: the rise of empowered consumer – how to reach audiences in 2012, retrieved 3 May 2015, < http://www.mediacom.com.au/media/2088012/mediacom%20the%20insider_the%20empowered%20consumer_whitepaper.pdf>
Olenski, S 2001, ‘Using Branded Content In Your Content Marketing Arsenal’, Forbes Leadership, weblog post, 26 March 2013 post, date retrieved 1 May 2015, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2013/03/25/using-branded-content-in-your-content-marketing-arsenal/>
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, <http://www.reelseo.com/bmw-the-hire>