Defining Genres — Branded Content

Branded Content

This is the classic commercial “online video” that people think of, and that advertisers can’t get enough of. It may look like a spontaneously created video, but it’s really some branded content — content that a brand has paid for. Cue food recipes that go great with Brand X crackers, and Extreme Sports videos of athletes doing something intense or goofy (brought to you by GoPro).

This can be fun to write for as it’s often not too restrictive, and largely depends on your client’s brand and appetite for courageous content. Ideally, you can make a really nice bit of entertainment that speaks directly to your audience and employs a very soft sell approach of delivering a branded message at the end, serving only as advertising in so far as the brand identifies itself. The aim here is aligning the brand to the content, creating the association in the viewer’s mind that the brand shares the values and feelings that you experienced in the content.

Brand Partnership

An important subset is brand partnership videos, which feature two different brands coming together for a piece of content. These were a big focus for our team at MTV where, for example, Sony might want to promote a new phone. They would buy a packaged media buy with our parent network, receiving a co–branded website, some original content or contest, an on–air promo to tell viewers to go to the website, and the air time to broadcast the promo. This could be aligned to a specific show or the channel in general.

The idea is basically to present Brand 1 beside Brand 2 to convince the audience that Brand 1 is similar to Brand 2, and that you should feel the same about it. In this example, it gives Sony access to the MTV audience with the reassurance that MTV approves of Sony. This was a great space to be in as a writer, as we could assure the client that we knew the audience and anything that we thought smacked of heavy branding or corporate style was “off brand” to us, with the implication that our audience would smell it out and react poorly.

Promotional Awareness

Another subset is promotional awareness, which is a variety that shows off the good deeds that a brand is doing, like an insurance company that is running an educational program. They want to create some content that is in the domain of their activity and feature the brand alongside it, essentially boasting about charitable work. There could be celebrities attached, and they would likely want to feature them somehow engaged in the context of the program.

Condé Nast Traveler — Huawei P9


Straddling the line between brand partnership, branded content and commercial — perhaps where most things in this genre exist — this Huawei P9 musters the feeling of a gentle profile of Zhu Yinghao, selling brand identity qualities like a sense of independence and creativity. I could easily imagine a shortened version serving as a commercial TV campaign, or a more in–depth version exploring how the P9 is instrumental to his work at Condé Nast to make a clear brand partnership. As it is, the edges are perhaps a little ill–defined, and I wonder if that reflects the strategy that was at play.

Ikea — power of cookbook


Devised as an amusing, shareable parody, this is less branded content than a long commercial. The Ikea brand is clearly a focus from the start of video and the opportunity to show off their products is seized at every opportunity.

OK GO and Honda


In this context, we can see ‘OK GO’ as a powerful online brand with an important youth audience. Honda entered into a brand partnership, sponsoring a piece of content to benefit from the brand rub–off and tacit endorsement of their product (the unicycles). The content per–se is inconsequential to them, provided that it doesn’t veer of tone of their brand. What matters is the exposure and benefit to their perception.

Casey Neistat


This video offers the illusion of a bad boy independent filmmaker thumbing his nose at the establishment by misspending their endorsement budget, but in fact it is so painfully on–brand for Nike that it is difficult to imagine a more direct commercial. Very effective branded content, this video spins a great story and delivers over 20 million views.

For further branded content, see every American ‘80s cartoon…

K.

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