Branded content is an ill conceived marketing strategy

Branded content for comedy/entertainment purposes is a tricky topic. I’m not talking about informational content or helpful hints. I’m not talking about sponsored content creation like Iconoclasts where a brand decides to give back to their customer with a committed effort. I’m talking about content created by a brand as that quick injection of entertainment. The kind that’s uploaded to any free media channel in the hopes of a viral success story.

The majority of branded content is unfortunately wasted because people don’t know about it or it’s not targeted correctly.
A lot of it has to do with the vast amount of branded content in the giant sea of all content.
A lot of it has to do with branded content just being an ad masquerading as “content” and the perpetuation of a myth that people love “engaging” with multitudes of content. People don’t really like watching ads unless they’re really really good.

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about branded entertainment/content (this one is a corker).  But, if you don’t have the right type of product with the right type of audience, creating branded content is fitting a round peg in a square hole. The Festival of Branded Entertainment is helping to perpetuate this myth with sessions that include topics such as how to stop making ads and how to find your audience.

Therein lies the problem- 1) branded content is still an ad and people know it and 2) It would take 1000 years (and counting source) to watch every single YouTube video. If you want your target audience to watch your video of their own accord, there better be a pretty good reason for that to happen.

A third problem is this engagement. What do commentators speak of when they use the word “engagement”? I would assert that watching a viral video for all of 15 to 300 seconds is not actually engaging. At all.
Social engagement is a two way street and requires participation outside of passively engaging in an online video.

There’s a better way

Branded entertainment is a tactic and not a strategy. It is not the new social messiah. It’s been around a pretty long time and only very few make it to the viral hall of fame.

Creating viral videos can be incredibly costly, time consuming and only has a small chance of being effective in a very small time frame.  Even then the objective becomes going viral and not making sales.

Ad/brand

Why it did/didn’t work

Old Spice The ad itself had huge success and the marketers had the wisdom to take the appreciation into social engagements across social channels.
Cheetos Orange Underground A blip that no one has ever heard of, asking people to stain anything with their Cheeto stained fingers. A total of 17 blogs ended up speaking about the campaign despite considerable advertising efforts to push the campaign into viral territory. No real motivation and a creepy spokesperson just didn’t cut it.
Chevy create your own car ad Putting your creative into the hands of the consumer is an accident waiting to happen. People will find any way they can to hijack a brand if opportunity presents itself. Went viral for all the wrong reasons and created a PR nightmare.
Smirnoff Tea partay  It was just a cool concept that targeted East Coast and then a year later, a rebuttal by the West Coast. An ad in a music video that gave Smirnoff two full minutes to get their message across.

I understand that brand awareness may be an objective and sway people if they do happen to arrive at a purchase point. But even then, that’s only for small impulse purchases like beer or FMCGs and even then we’re seeing viral success on items with a low price point. This would be a much harder slog for airlines or cars.

In fact viral videos are seemingly the best tactic for FMCGs. Engagements in social media within the FMCG category seem to get stale very quickly and the memory of a viral can impact impulse purchase. For the majority of other categories, people today are in the market of finding more convenient, relevant and efficient uses of their time. It’s called The Consumer Gap and something we’ve spoken about before within our Airline Industry report.

In the current environment, the Consumer Gap represents a natural human expectation that the experience between brand and individual will be organic to the individual’s needs. For example – a real and simple extension of brand into the interactive online sphere, whether it be mobile or not. These would be cohesive internal systems across a business reflecting customer facing seamlessness from human interaction to phone to internet, and accessibility to information that’s tailored to an individual’s needs when they want it.

Money should be spent in developing these kinds of engagements – where a more efficient purchase experience occurs, or a customer service issue is dealt with flawlessly. A customer will walk away with a much better feeling when their interaction is a rewarding seamless experience where both the brand and the customer derive value. Engagement will actually be engagement and one that’s useful.