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What does it take to make a music video for branded content? A popular artist, likeable on-screen presence and subtle brand/product placement for positive associations? Ticking the boxes on a simple three-point checklist isn’t enough to create high-quality, impactful branded content. We’ll tell you why in our comparative analysis of Bira 91’s music video vs. those of Center Fresh and Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk.

Bira 91’s music video ‘Always Summer’ featuring singer-songwriter and musician Prateek Kuhad ticks all three boxes in the checklist.

The music video:

It shows a montage of bright and cheerful-looking youth who find ways to come together and have a good time despite being quarantined. Some of these times, when the sun is out and up for soaking, these characters are accompanied by a case of Bira’s ‘Blonde Summer’ lager. It is all very pleasant. And yet, we have concluded that it doesn’t make for a strong example of branded content.

Here’s why.

Filled with clichés that aren’t grounded in reality

The music video starts with a young man in a coastal region who makes a pronounced dive into the water body below him. He is followed by a quick series of clips that sum up what summer was like before the pandemic hit: Goa-esque settings, trips to the beach, a music concert, and glamorous water sports activities such as snorkelling and surfing. Basically, all the ways a travel brochure sells a summer vacation to youth. 

Then there is the representation of youth, who are playful and filled with boundless energy. They play badminton across their bedroom, use the dining table for table tennis and record silly videos of themselves. The quarantine can’t squash out their fun-loving spirit.

In line with this characterisation, here are some other things they can be found doing during their time off: skateboarding, spontaneously taking goofy-looking pictures of each other, marking the time spent together with group selfies, excitedly packing into a car as they move out for a trip, and running unrestrained and joyous on the beach.

There is also a clichéd depiction of elite Indian youth with perfectly-coordinated, modern rooms, trendy outfits and a love for things vintage — like the projector used to play birthday messages on the wall.

You may wonder what is wrong with clichés. Don’t they create comfort through their familiarity and thus make for easy consumption? Don’t they also indicate the popular understanding of a cultural concept and thus increase the chance of mass appeal? And shouldn’t both end results be the goal of any marketing effort? Further, it is not like branded content, or even pure content for that matter, doesn’t do well through the use of clichés.

All true. But the use of clichés must not take centre stage. It should feed into the purpose of branded content. Which, as has been repeatedly reinforced through our study of the same, is to connect with the brand’s audience by representing them, filling an emotional/social need gap and participating in cultural conversations relevant to them.

Bira’s music video has tried to engage its audience by acknowledging how trapped the pandemic has made them feel, yet its on-screen characters are barely seen feeling frustrated or low. The content is more a collection of tropes that don’t hit upon anything real, thereby creating an experience that doesn’t immerse viewers but shows them visuals that are simply nice to look at — a boy biting into a watermelon as he looks out the window or fingernails painted bright blue to add colour to the frame. 

To contrast, consider the music videos shared by Centre Fresh and Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk; both similar to Bira’s ‘Always Summer’ in their representation of youth, and reliance on clichés that signal elite lifestyles and manifestation of young love, especially during the pandemic. But these two also paired these elements with storylines that counteracted the fantasy with a reality resonant to anyone who has been in love.

Centre Fresh’s ‘Keep It Fresh’ showed the ups and downs of finding and pursuing love found across the video screen, through two individuals who began dating over video calls. It showed them going through the cutesy highs of early interactions but also coming up against issues such as lack of privacy with their parents’ presence or the inability to reach the other.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk’s ‘Sang Rahiyo’ depicted a couple forced to enter a long-distance relationship when one got called away for a job posting. It showed the two doing their best to remain in sync but inevitably losing their rhythm given the mismatched schedules, with the brand using the clichés to highlight the pangs of love felt by them.

This creative distinction can be found reflected in the comments below each brand’s respective video, where the visual experience is hardly mentioned by viewers of ‘Always Summer’ and love for featuring artist Prateek Kuhad eclipses it.

Brand integration isn’t fresh/is diluted

Here is how Bira and its product feature through the content: Bira’s logo appears at the start of the video and is followed by a mention of Blonde Summer, a faint watermark remains on the frame’s right-hand corner for the duration and a case of Blonde Summer features thrice — once, when carried into a daytime get-together, next, when a boy skateboards while carrying it, and towards the end, when a group of youngsters pack into a jeep for a day out and are later shown carrying it to the beach.

Despite Bira publishing the video and the many subtle references they have included; viewers don’t seem to have paid attention to the brand (as seen in the comments). One, because while the brand is integrated, the product is never shown being consumed. Even the bottle is never seen on screen. And the case of Blonde Summer is turned into a background presence. And two, the beer is associated with chilling in sunny settings (what Blonde Summer’s packaging is based on) — a connection that is so conventional, it can easily be made with another brand of beer.

For better examples of brand integration, let us return to the previous two points of comparison.

With Centre Fresh’s ‘Keep It Fresh’, a large number of comments recognise being engaged by ‘an ad’.

Of course, the brand’s distribution strategy deserves credit but it is also its decision to include clear shots of the product and show the on-screen characters popping the mint for a boost of confidence that strengthened brand presence.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk’s ‘Sang Rahiyo’ is an even better example of smart product integration. Unlike, Bira’s Blonde Summer, it is knit into the narrative in a way that is integral to it: the chocolate bar’s poppable heart and the ‘I Miss You’ scrawled on the pack hold symbolic value for the on-screen characters, where the heart resembles a trinket shared between lovers and the message on the pack reminds one of the other’s love in a way no other chocolate bar could have.

Wrapping up

‘Always Summer’ is not sloppy in its execution. It can be quite pleasing to consume. And it stands out for its organic representation of a diverse looking crowd of youth. But due to its weak cultural resonance and ineffective brand recall, its role as branded content is likely to come under question.

Moreover, while structured like branded content, Bira’s music video feels more like an ad in the pleasant yet forgettable experience it offers and in the superficial associations it creates with the product through a montage of inter-related visuals.

(The author, Hamsini Shivakumar is a semiotician, brand strategy consultant and the founder of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting. In her weekly column for BuzzInContent, she and her team analyse interesting content pieces done by brands in terms of their cultural leverage and effectiveness of brand integration. According to her, the content has a symbiotic relationship to popular culture; it helps to form culture and draws from it. It works as part of a simultaneous and virtuous cycle of mutual reinforcement.)