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The popularity of products like ad blockers, the unpopularity of unskippable ad formats etc. are already helping form the larger picture – the audiences of tomorrow will not want ads pushed at them. Period. As attention spans of audiences reduce and content consumption options increase, creating engaging content will continue to become a larger part of brand communication.

Leveraging content generators for branding exercises is already helping bridge the gap. There are a few important things that brands should keep in mind while approaching content creators for branding:

1. Step out of the traditional problem-solution based advertising mindset

In the traditional problem-solution based advertising mindset, the brand comes first. The golden rule of great branded content is that the audience, and hence, the story comes first. The story is designed to be fit the brand in it seamlessly – placing the brand within a cultural context that is relatable and real – starkly different from a 30 second spot where the universe is generated for the brand to tell its story. It’s a fine line between advertising and storytelling with a brand. Mind it and use it!

Handy stat: When a startup medicine delivery brand commissioned a sketch with one of our channels, the branded content drove a 3X spike in search results, and a significant uptick in organic downloads.

2. Clearly lay out the brand objective, and sub-objectives within

While a creator will bring in an ‘audience-first’ approach to content, which will make it “go viral”, it will become a truly successful branded content if the brand objectives are met. Hence, it is imperative for the brand to clearly lay out the objectives of the communication upfront. For example, the objective could be to ‘increase brand affinity among the 18-34 age group’, or ‘clearly highlight and explain a critical product feature’ etc. If the objective is long-term – eg. a change in positioning, or targeting a new segment, build a content marketing strategy for the long-term. Content marketing isn’t always a quick brand fix by going viral.

Quick analysis: Hike, a popular messaging app is eschewing the traditional sponsorship route of owning a branded content property. Through their content strategy, Hike is focused on building awareness for their features and drive adoption.

3. Quality of integration > Quantity of mentions

In a traditional ad format, a brand has, maybe, 30 seconds to a minute, to tell their story. In branded content, even short format sketches etc., the window is typically longer than that. And in a web series, of course, there are ample opportunities to organically bring in the value proposition of the brand. What matters is how beautifully it is tied into the story such that not only is the audience “not irritated” by the brand coming in but are delighted by it!

Handy stat: VTRs for branded content are typically 3X that of 30 or 60 second ads.

4. Storytelling beyond branded content

The branded content piece in isolation is only going to impact a part of your intended target audience – great brands leverage content solutions on their own assets to become part of the storytelling outside the content. Think McDonald’s and Star Wars, think Red Bull, think Tripling with Tiago – all branded content pieces where brands have gone beyond the content piece to amplify the association on owned media. A branded content piece is a great opportunity to break the monotony of marketing communication on social and other media to bring something exciting to your target audiences. Use it!

Handy stat: Tripling was viewed 30 million times, but the brand teams leveraged the content property to land over 100 million impressions across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

5. Metrics to measure

While a great piece of branded content will deliver reach, salience and viewership, savvy brands are engaging in advanced measurement and research. This helps understand the impact of branded content in terms of moving mind measures. For TheTimeliners’ web-series, The Aam Aadmi Family, we commissioned a study for AMFI – to help understand if knowledge, consideration and intent to purchase for mutual funds moved due to the tie-up. The results spoke for themselves, with significant uplift in all three parameters, in addition to relevant reach and conversations. Informed research decisions will help your brand plan your content strategy in the long-term.

ProTip: ROI = (Views x Quality of View) + (Engagement x Quality of Engagement)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)