Branded content is a fancy cocktail and content marketing morning coffee: Ashiish V Patil

In the second part of the interview, Patil stresses the need for long-form content to feel relatable and fresh while highlighting the absence of a long-term approach in collaborations between brands and creator

Akansha Srivastava
New Update
Ashiish V Patil

Ashiish V Patil

Delhi: In a recent interview with, Ashiish V Patil drew a comparison between branded content and content marketing, stating, “Branded content can be related to a fancy cocktail, while content marketing is more like your morning coffee in terms of effort.” 

He said, “Creating branded content involves gathering ingredients and mixing them, a process that demands significant effort and planning. On the other hand, content marketing is more straightforward—once it's done, you're set.”

Patil, a writer, producer, director, author, and proud autism dad, currently heads ‘Isspeshal’, a Content Hotshop, leveraging his extensive 30 years of experience in Media & Entertainment. Previously, he served as the CEO of MTV India and Head of Youth Films, Talent Management, Brand Partnerships, and Digital Originals at Yash Raj Films.

Patil's latest project involves the release of 'Branded Content Boss,' a book that distils his wealth of experience in the branded content field.

Here’s the first part of the interview:

In the second part of the interview, Patil talks about how traditional measurement metrics don’t suit branded content, where brands are missing out on utilising the creator economy, and challenges associated with fictional branded content. 

Excerpts from Part Two of the Interview:

Do you think metrics used for measuring traditional advertising won’t apply to measuring branded content? 

Measuring branded content depends on how you've designed the content, the brand’s objectives and brief, and the format of delivery. Views are not a reliable metric for measuring branded content because they can be manipulated. Often, you'll see content with 5 million views but minimal comments, which indicates that it may have been artificially inflated.

Relevant and genuine engagement is a critical metric. Beyond likes and comments, I find resharing to be significant because it requires effort. Secondly, sentiments in social chatter are important. For example, if your content is circulating in family WhatsApp groups, that's meaningful. However, it's essential to consider whether the social chatter is positive or negative. In addition to sentiment and engagement, watch time is another vital metric because completion rate matters.

Obviously, there are multiple layers that we can delve into beyond these metrics, such as registrations, subscriptions, downloads, and sign-ups for newsletters. Depending on your objectives, these metrics will vary. So, there is no single answer; it just goes beyond the traditional approach.

How can brands create impactful, long-form branded content, and what key factors should they consider while taking this route?

Relatability is a crucial factor in long-form content, where relatable characters and situations engage viewers.

Secondly, the content must be fresh. For instance, while traditional noodle brands used mothers as central characters, Ching’s Secret onboarded Ranveer Singh to promote their product in a quirky manner.

Thirdly, conflict and tension are vital for creating impactful, long-form branded content. Traditional advertising often falls short by focusing on positive aspects like benefits and success within short 30-second spots. 

Simplicity is another key aspect. In advertising and branded content, people don't have the time for cognitive overload; they'll simply scroll past complex content. Keeping it simple and accessible effectively captures attention.

The fifth distinguishing factor between branded and unbranded content is integration. It's not just about plastering logos everywhere; it's about seamlessly incorporating the brand into the idea. For example, in the movie ‘Mere Dad ki Maruti,’ the car plays a central role. Similarly, Coke Studio has become a genre in its own right. Brands often request content similar to Coke Studio, using it as an adjective.

Integration can occur on various levels, including logos, product features, mascots, and more. However, it's crucial not to overdo it.

Do you think brands prefer creating non-fictional content over fictional because the latter is very challenging?

Fictional content is generally more challenging in entertainment compared to non-fiction. This is especially true for brands.

In fictional content, everything must be created from scratch—characters, settings, thematic situations—unlike non-fiction, which covers existing elements. That's a significant difference.

Authenticity is difficult to achieve in fictional content. Non-fictional content is faster to produce with minimal retakes. 

Then, making fictional content believable requires many retakes and is quite challenging.

Lastly, in fiction, there is intense competition. For instance, if you're on Tinder, you're not just competing with Truly Madly and Bumble; you're competing with renowned filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar.

Similarly, if you're Mountain Dew, you're not only up against Red Bull, Monster, and Thumbs Up; you're also competing with blockbuster movies like Fast and Furious and Mission Impossible.

That's the level of competition in the fictional world. It's incredibly cluttered, making it much harder to succeed compared to non-fictional content.

How do you differentiate between branded content and content marketing?

Branded content can be likened to a fancy cocktail, while content marketing is more akin to your morning coffee in terms of effort. Creating branded content involves gathering ingredients and mixing them, a process that demands significant effort and planning. On the other hand, content marketing is more straightforward—once it's done, you're set. The effort invested in branded content spans multiple levels, involving not only expenses but also meticulous planning and creative thinking.

Fundamentally, content marketing and advertising tend to prioritise instant impact, driving sales, and especially targeting the bottom of the funnel. For instance, if people are considering which car to buy, content marketing compares different car brands for consumers to make a purchase decision. This often includes producing FAQs, unboxing videos, and other operational content. In contrast, branded content takes a more long-term-driven approach. Moreover, branded content often generates more earned media exposure.

How can brands effectively leverage the creator economy, and where are they currently missing opportunities?

One major aspect that I believe is lacking is a long-term approach. I often observe influencers swiftly shifting from promoting one brand to another, which not only raises questions about their credibility but also undermines my trust in those brands. While endorsement contracts are not always necessary, establishing longer-term engagement with creators is something that many brands miss.

Another area where opportunities are often overlooked lies in the fit between brands and creators. For example, in a film like Alia Bhatt’s 'Darlings', placing luxury brands alongside characters from a lower socioeconomic background feels out of place. Such mismatches between the content and the featured brands can detract from the authenticity of the narrative. People often don't go through the process of finding the right fit with creators. Similarly, creators endorsing products that contradict their values run the run the risk compromising their credibility.

Lastly, brands sometimes hire experts and then dictate what they should do. Instead, brands should provide creators with clear objectives and brand guidelines, giving them the space to leverage their expertise and creativity effectively.

Could you share your motivation behind writing a book on branded content? What makes it a compelling read for people?

I've been in this field for nearly 30 years, starting from my advertising days to working on shows like Roadies for MTV, branded content for Hero Honda motorcycles, films like Mere Dad Ki Maruti, digital projects, music with artists like Ranveer Singh, and web series. I've also been teaching branded content for a while because I believe teaching is the best way to learn.

When I looked for resources on this topic, I found very little. Most focus on digital content marketing, leaving out other important aspects. The material in business schools is often too theoretical, and there are very few books internationally that include Indian examples. 

Instead of just complaining about the lack of resources, I decided to do something about it. I've had the opportunity to work in various roles across different formats, making mistakes along the way, which taught me valuable lessons. I wanted to share this knowledge to help others tell better stories.

Today, many organisations use content marketing but struggle with it. They don't know how to write a good brief or pitch an idea effectively. So, I decided to write a practical and easy-to-understand book that provides step-by-step guidance. Each chapter is designed so you can read it and immediately apply what you've learned, like when writing a brief or pitching an idea.

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