Branded Content – The Future of Corporate Storytelling?

What is Branded Content?

Why is it of Increasing Importance to Organisations of all Types

New media refers to mass communication using digital technologies, and more and more people have turned to the Internet to find their information. The introduction of Web 2.0 applications, i.e. social media, has created new and important opportunities for organisations to communicate with their target audiences with new storytelling content. Originally, organisations depended on paid media such as advertising, and earned media such as reviews. Web 2.0 and social media has facilitated a means for organisations to create their own media content in which they can share with target audiences themselves (Brown, R. 2012).

When it comes to content creation there are many factors to take into consideration. Content should be interesting, add value, create trust and most importantly must avoid any hard selling and aim to talk with target audiences rather than at. The aim of branded content is to resonate with the audience on an emotional level instead of focusing on the product itself looking to sell. Branded content is normally associated with entertaining content i.e. creative film or documentary. This is what differentiates branded content from advertising and content marketing. A definition of branded content, or ’branded entertainment’  is:

Pure placement is a traditional cameo of a product whereas, branded entertainment incorporates a brand into the storyline of the entertainment content. At a basic level, a branded entertainment strategy is similar to a  slice of life advertising strategy because the brand plays an integral role within the storyline.” (Horrigan, D. 2009)

Branded content engages with the target audience and builds a relationship (Wilson, R. 2013).

People have an unlimited freedom of choice when it comes to what they want to read, listen to or watch. The best way for an organisation to communicate with target audiences and receive positive attention in this challenging, ‘always-on’ world is to create good and shareable content. Successful branded content should be entertaining, informative, and educational.

Branded content is important because consumers want it. People love a good story and content creation is just another form of storytelling. When an organisation creates content that is interesting, the target audiences react positively. This leads to more shares online. Good branded content has the potential to go viral which means that the target audiences are reached naturally, people are interested and this can lead to favourability, the brand being front-of-mind and potential or repeat purchases (Wilson, R. 2013).

Advantages of Branded Content for Organisations

The aim of branded content is to generate positive attitudes among the audience and by associating the organisation with the content these positive attitudes will lead to favourability toward the organisation. Using visual story telling, like in film or documentary, can develop strong emotions in the viewer toward the organisation. Strong topics, interesting issues and good film making can grab the viewers’ attention, educate and entertain.

It can also help with brand recognition. When branded content is entertaining and inspiring it becomes more shareable. When people watch, react to and share your branded content online it helps raise awareness of your brand reaching a wider audience. Share-ability also helps to draw more attention to the brand and builds traffic to the organisation’s website.

Branded content aims to keep the brand front-of-mind. This leads to consideration of the brand and repeat purchases (Wilson, R. 2013).

Implications for Professional Communicators

Branded content: Is it interesting? Is it compelling? Is it news? These are the factors which must be considered when trying gather a broader reach. Branded content must always be relevant and interesting.

For branded content to truly successful the organisation must think about the specific actions and reactions it wants the content to generate among its target audiences. Does this content build awareness? Will it attract engagement? Will it further attract enquiries about the brand?

For an organisation to develop compelling branded content they must think like a content creator. A jam factory knows how to make jam but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to make a gripping film documentary. Organisations should hire a professional to produce the correct content for the right platforms. An implication of this is whether or not they can afford to do so. Another implication of commissioned content is that the credibility of the content now relies on the credibility of the producer.

Examples of Successful Branded Content

Hearing Colours – Samsung Galaxy’s Connected Series in partnership with Vimeo

This short film tells the story of Neil Harbisson who suffers from a rare condition called achromatopsia that has left him colourblind. He has an antenna implanted into his head that enables him to hear colours. This short film documents his time in New York City, taking in all the sounds of all the colours, while also meeting people and explaining his antenna and convincing them it is now part of his body.

This short film is interesting and quirky. The film is in black and white and reminds the watcher of old French style cinema, as well as a hint of Wes Anderson. The topic alone is interesting, how someone can hear colours is amazing. A life without colour seems so drab and almost lonely. Neil Harbisson now enjoys life like nobody else. I was hooked the moment I read the title.

This short film is part of The Connected Series by Samsung Galaxy in partnership with Vimeo and each film in the series is from a different production team. It has its own website dedicated to the series. The series looks at how modern technology affects the way people communicate, a very topical and interesting issue today. However, the brand is completely absent from the film until the very end after the credits, a brief post-credits caption. If you watched and waited for the end of the film to see this caption then you know you found the film gripping.

For me, the moment I saw Samsung Galaxy at the end of the film I instantly connected the two with the idea of colour and thought of Samsung camera phones. I am interested in film and photography and by associating the Samsung Galaxy with such a wonderful short film- the style of filming as well as the topic grabbed me instantly- I now think of Samsun more stylistically.

Hearing Colours won the first branded content award in the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016. CEO of Tribeca Enterprises, Andrew Essex said “This film exemplifies the kind of work that we applaud in which a brand is telling a genuinely compelling story in a way that adds value to people’s lives.” (OurSocialTimes 2016)

Jaide Bucher, Defying Doubt – Gatorade’s Win From Within Series

This short film tells the story of the young athlete Jaide Bucher. Jaide plays varsity softball and happens to have one hand. This 5 minute documentary tells Jaide’s story of her love for softball and how she has to work harder than everyone else while not letting her physicality beat her at being the best.

This documentary is inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s not just your typical “here is a girl that is good at sport” film, it’s more inspiring than that. Jaide is tough, headstrong and passionate about softball. She has had to figure out new manoeuvres to be able to play the sport with only one hand and is at the top of her game. This 15 year old softball player shows you that if you put your mind to it, if your heart is fully in it, you can overcome obstacles the world throws at you.

This film is part of the Win From Within Series by Gatorade. The aim of this series was to tell stories of people overcoming personal, environmental and economic struggles within sport. It’s not about winning, it’s about having to dig deep just to compete. The series documents 5 teen athletes and each one is an inspiration to even the best of professional athletes.

Gatorade is almost completely absent from the film except for the logo at the very beginning- Gatorade Presents- and at the very end. The film is completely dedicated to Jaide and her story and her strength. Jaide makes you think about a lot of things while listening to her story. She is strong, she is able yet she also lets you know how she feels when people point out her missing hand. Her little brother also talks about her as an inspiration to him.

Folláin – Wholesome Recipes Web Series

Folláin was born using a 100 year old grapefruit marmalade recipe that had been passed down through family generations. The word Folláin means wholesome, which is at the core of their commitment to honest food made with the purest ingredients to hand.

I propose a mini web series of delicious recipes for Folláin, each episode featuring a well known Irish food blogger. The focus of the web series is wholesome food recipes, a ‘how to’ and a peek into the lives of the Irish blogger. In each episode the food blogger will reminisce about the wholesome meals and treats they remember eating as a child, or talk about their favourite wholesome dish to eat on a cold winter’s day, or a delicious take on home-made lemonade, etc.

The films in the series will show the process of how to make the dish, step by step, while also hearing a fun story from the well known Irish food blogger about why they enjoy making and eating this dish. This way you get to know the blogger more as well as learn how to make a new dish.

Proposed Irish food bloggers are Karen Coakley (Kenmare Foodies), Miriam O’Sullivan (Bake My Style), Frances Walsh (The Honest Project) and Caitríona Redmond (Wholesome Ireland).

Each video will be shared across all of Folláin’s social media channels as well as those of the bloggers.

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