Branded content is where brands deliberately link themselves with newsy or trending entertainment to build high-interest brand-related content. Many brands have now found ultra-innovative ways to hijack online “happenings” to their own advantage and to get customers to devour it all in diverse formats.
Branded content generally is accepted as any original content created for a brand by innovatively partnering with a publisher or media partner to produce integrated brand-cum-entertainment fare.
In 2012 “Branded Content/Entertainment” became a separate adjudging category of online content at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, with the idea of “… celebrating work that has demonstrated how a brand has successfully worked independently or in association with a content producer or publisher to develop and create or co-create entertaining and engaging content for their audience”.
Till recently, branded content was typically to be found in events and installations, film, video games, music, the internet, and television. Right now, however, the type of branded content that is making the most noise is “newsjacking”. Content marketers, who are forced to fight a daily battle to stay timely and relevant, have been hard at work finding ways to inject their brands into any topical big-news items that can grab eyeballs. (The term “newsjacking” itself has also suddenly become very popular because of the book by the same name by the author David Meerman Scott.)
Mark Sherbin writing on the Content Marketing Institute website says a Mashable community manager once explained to him how newsjacking fits into their website’s editorial process. Her method: “We’re finding digital angles to every major news event. Take Regis Philbin retiring, for example. It’s not a tech story – but people reacting to the news on Twitter is. You find that digital angle and run with it.”
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Shane Snow in her article in the Ad Age writes that there are hardly any brands around that are not into some form of branded content or the other. But that is not to say that all branded content is original. In fact there seems a wide open opportunity for brands to truly innovate with amazingly original branded content.
Shane Snow seems to be among a whole battery of trend-watchers who believe that the branded content market is going to be so choc-a-bloc soon, that brands which do not come up with original ideas may end up getting negative returns on investment. She says: “As the deluge of content that gushes from our screens intensifies, the odds of a brand standing out get dimmer all the time. Couple that with the storm of brands now starting to do content — whether for native advertising, as owned media or for social-media flow — and the noise is only going to get worse.”
Watching the successful brands at work, and looking especially at the originality of their branded content, can be a very eye-opening exercise. I’ve found four case studies for you (below) that I thought were truly imaginative ways to blend brand advertising with super-hot newsy or entertaining content.
Mini Cooper and the Driving Dogs:
Mini Cooper teamed up with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to teach three of their dogs to drive. The dogs were then put to a driving test in front of a live television audience. SPCA has said that the “stunt” was part of their initiative to prove that dogs from shelters are not second rate pets. The result is an extremely entertaining way to bring attention to the car brand and the dogs.
The Swedish Post’s Parcel Memory Game:
Through a bit of totally innovative advertising, Swedish Post teamed up with a game-producer to create the world’s largest memory game to promote their mail service during the holiday season. The game was broadcast via the web. The game-board consisted of 400 packages set up in a warehouse in Stockholm. Players were given the chance to select 2 packages and if they matched, that player won both packages as prizes shipped for free anywhere within Sweden.
Expedia’s Find Your Strength Initiative:
You have to admire Expedia, the travel site, for taking such a thematic risk. Expedia joined with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to produce a dozen videos to tell stories of emotional journeys of all kinds – from cancer survivors to marriage equality to finding true love. The campaign titled “Find Your Strength” shows how creating this integrated branded content helped Expedia’s brand reflect the larger values of boldness and discovery – rather than just being seen as a seller of plane tickets.
Halfway through the year 2012, Coca-Cola suddenly changed its corporate homepage. The standard investor relations site took on the look and feel of a digital magazine (called Journey), complete with infographics, stories, and opinion posts by people like the former President of Ireland. Throwing aside traditional content marketing, this new digital magazine targets Coca-Cola investors and audiences with CSR content: for example, how it’s helping veterans find jobs, how its promotion of healthy lifestyle preceded the NYC “soda ban,” and inside looks at a Coca-Cola sponsored game to help fight AIDS.
And now, for those who love infographics here’s a terrific one created by DKNewMedia on how consumers are actually wolfing down all the branded content they are exposed to. Very insightful piece of art, isn’t it?
Infographic credit: DKNewMedia
Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage
Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher – How to Use Content to Market Online and in Social Media