– Have you seen the latest episode of “Game of Thrones? – What about “Nike’s” latest campaign? –
In recent years, advertisers are positioning themselves as creators and emitters of content which are sometimes equally or even more popular to viewers/consumers than popular series. But this is not a recent phenomenon; brands have been playing with inventiveness ever since excessive competition started to force them to stand out in order to sell more. In this context, good ideas are what make the difference: those that have little or nothing to do with budgets, but rather with creativity and a good storytelling.
Branded Contentrefers to campaigns that create value, in other words, those that help generate brand awareness and affinity. It’s generally video content (although it can be in as many formats as the imagination allows) inspired by the values of the brand. In short, Branded Content is all the complementary content that revolves around the brand and brings added value. It is advertising disguised as a good story, a brand that offers interesting content for its audiences.
Now, more than ever, the advertiser has to approach the consumer and offer them something attractive. Unidirectional advertising is over, now the consumer is looking for good stories, something surprising and attractive, and if brands give it, consumers buy it.
Yesterday’s Branded Content compared to today
As we mentioned at the beginning of the post, Branded Content is not a recent discovery, nor is it exclusively for advertising campaigns of major brands. It has been implemented for more than a century. Some famous examples of yesteryear’s campaigns, as well as some more recent ones, are as follows:
- Popeye. The spinach industry in the USA needed to boost its popularity among children. With this aim in mind they devised Popeye, the protagonist of countless comic strips and short films, who ate spinach to give him superhuman strength. The success in sales was so marked that, in several spinach-producing American cities, statues were erected in honour of the sailor.
- Michelin Guide. The idea of making a brochure for every purchase of tyres on the road created an entirely new business area through which the brand has gained great notoriety and reputation. Michelin has now positioned itself as an authority in hospitality thanks to the exclusive nature of Michelin stars, given to outstanding restaurants we find “on the road”.
- Chocapic. Again, the idea of offering alternative content through a character, this time in the format of mini comics on the cereal packaging. Encouraging consumption through small gifts is a very common and effective practice among brands of cereals for children (or cookies, see the example of Cuétara and his Tosta Rica). Chocapic has even published a website where the user can edit their own comic based on the adventures of the chocolatier dog.
- Pokémon. Another example of brilliant Branded Content; the children’s cartoon series featured a systematic promotion of the original Game Boy game, the main franchise product at launch, in each episode. As the plot progressed and we learnt about the characters, we attended a “tutorial” which explained the basic mechanics of the game, how to hunt Pokémon and train them to level up, all in an extremely fun way through Japanese anime. This has made children and adults alike continue to ask for the game at Christmas.
- Netflix, taking advantage of the success of “Narcos” and promoting the premiere of its second season, collaborated with an online language platform to launch a tool “to learn English like Pablo Escobar”, a clear and direct wink to fans of the series.
Videos, storytelling and the “viral” effect
Videos are where we find the greater number of current Branded Content examples. The best tend to stand out for their original way of conveying a message: it could be through a good story that makes us excited or something that makes us laugh. These videos have been favoured by the viral effect of the Internet, allowing them to be shared thousands of times on social networks. And that is exactly what you should be pursuing: when users like, share and link naturally.
Here’s a few examples of the most famous videos:
- Dumb Ways to Die. Metro Trains, the company responsible for railway transportation in Melbourne, Australia, wanted to launch a prevention campaign to reduce train deaths due to the imprudence or carelessness of passengers, which had increased in recent years. This funny animation video of just 3 minutes had a great impact (almost 140 million views on YouTube) and fully achieved its objectives: reduce rail accidents by 30%. The interesting thing is that it avoided showing the message of the campaign until the end of the video, to take advantage of the fact that the users who had been hooked to the video did not notice clearly their advertising character until they finished watching the complete video.
- Blendtec. “Will it blend?”. Blender manufacturer Blendtec created a viral video series in the eighties teletype format titled “Will it blend?” with Tom Dickson, founder of the company as the protagonist. In each of the “chapters” a comic tone is attempted to liquefy a recognizable object with one of its products. The most famous and shared video is in which Tom Dickson crushes an iPad to dust, with almost 20 million views on YouTube.
- Estrella Damm. It’s typical to find pieces of Branded Content in movies and TV spots that go viral on the Internet. One of the best known examples is the Estrella Damm ad and the short film “Vale” in 2015, which made another replica this summer with “The Little Things”. These short films are both directed by a renowned Spanish director (Alejandro Amenábar and Alberto Rodríguez, respectively) and feature internationally acclaimed actors such as Dakota Johnson and Jean Reno, sharing a roster with leading national actors (Quim Gutiérrez and Laia Costa). The purpose of these films is to convey and evoke an experience and a lifestyle around a product, and the emotional feeling it produces rather than selling it directly.
All these are examples of brands and adverts trying to go a step further and offer something new to their audiences with the aim of increasing their sales. Above all, they attempt to establish loyalty and position themselves as a brand of reference among consumers. They know that they can achieve this through stories and playing on emotions, taking advantage of the viral effect offered by the Internet.