Branded Content

A senior director on my team shared with us this Digiday article showcasing the best Branded Content in 2013. I was excited to read through it. I even shared it with my Understanding Media & Content class at Kellogg and told everyone that from my vantage point (advertising), advertising and content becoming one is a trend in the industry.

I was disappointed. This was no “best of” list. It felt lacking something. There were only two good examples for me: Lowe’s Fix in Six, and GE’s Txchnologist blog. Why? Because these two examples provide actual value: an educational component for Lowe’s, and an informational one for GE.

Who cares about Red Bull’s ads, even if the stunt looks cool (and dangerous)? Or Rapha’s, even if the video looks absolutely stunning visually (and it is the type of content I’d like to produce as personal hobby)? It is missing a story that’s separate from the selling.

Marketers, we know when you’re selling us something so don’t attempt to disguise it with cool or beautiful content. We know. Instead, create a story that is resonates more deeply, and have our brand become a supporting act, not the main protagonist. It fails to connect. P&G’s Pantene commercial was great because it relayed the message of double standards among me and women in a quick video. And placed the shampoo brand at the end of the piece. As a consumer, this is how I reacted: “Good video about the need to change perception on females. Oh, Pantene is a sponsor. Yea, it’s an ad. But it’s cool that Pantene supports this feminist message. Maybe I’ll go buy Pantene since they are supportive of this important cause.”

Marketers must recognize that when they enter the world of branded content/native advertising/sponsored content, they are required to offer something of longer term value to people for these people to be compelled to ride the journey with their brands. Cool stunts are short term fads that disappear as soon as the water cooler runs dry. Beautiful imagery is one dimensional if it is not supplemented by another element. Consumer want a well-rounded brand that connects emotionally and puts them at the center. This is something they can intuitively detect and respond to.

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