"Branded content" became something of a buzzword last year among inbound marketing gurus. Marketers chirped about creating 'native advertising' and building for Facebook; they repeated ad nauseam blasé advice on the importance of making advertising engaging enough to be heard. Which -- to be fair -- is the ultimate point of all advertising. What was lost in all of flurry, what most marketers completely missed, was a stressing on the difference of branded content to branded entertainment.
Transforming Advertising Content into the Entertainment Itself
With audiences consistently moving to ad-free streaming platforms, both in television and in radio, it is important for brands to go beyond creating just a funny/meaningful/joyous/etc. 60-second clip. To be competitive and earn a loyal following, brands must become the entertainment itself.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this is The Lego Movie. This box office success was a brilliantly sculpted avertisement for the Lego brand. Particularly notable is how in the last 20 minutes, the brand/film asserts itself as being both a toy or vessel for creativity and a means to connect and engage different generations.
Of course, such an expensive Hollywood example places some pretty hefty expectations on most small and mid-sized brands. In contrast, beginning with an entertainment-first approach is the podcast "Open Account" by Umpqua Bank.
This community bank partnered with former MTV correspondent SuChin Pak to create a podcast that talks honestly about money and the culture of silence around finance and financial literacy. The first three episodes were downloaded 70,000 times, a number reflecting the highest amount of downloads by any new podcast launched at the same time.
How Your Brand Can Initiate Branded Entertainment
You don't have to throw millions of dollars into a film to be successful at branded entertainment. Instead, it's all about finding the nice mix of partnering with the right entertainment and medium, such as Umpqua Bank did with SuChin Pak and their sponsorship of Open Account.
Follow their lead with one or more of the following approaches:
Build a story universe with your brand. Maybe you sell a product that is authentic, or cutting edge. Whatever the case, use those emotions to reach out to entertainers and studios in your area to see what type of partnerships can be made.
Start a conversation and follow-up. Chipotle did this with their highly successful The Scarecrowshort animation. But what if they had taken it further? Sponsored more in-depth documentaries or films on the state of agriculture and what they wanted to change? Partnering with an entertainment group can help your brand take an idea and take that conversation long-term. Of course, they did follow up in recent years with a short video game that further transforms their brand from content to entertainment itself.
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