How to Create Successful Branded Content Campaigns

How about paying $30 to see a 105-minute commercial?

Yes, you read that right. I’ve asked you whether you wanted to sit through a 105-minute commercial and pay for it, too. And if you like it, you can even buy some merchandise to remember this experience.

How does that sound?

No?

Okay, let me rephrase that a little bit.

Would you join 1.7 million people to watch a 105-minute piece of branded content?

Still not buying it?

All right, how about this: how about seeing a movie that was watched by 1.7 million people during its opening weekend and made more than $46 million for its creators?

This sounds better, right?

Well, if you’re tired guessing what I’m talking about here, it’s a movie called “Uncle Drew” that many people consider to be a 105-minute Pepsi commercial because the brand’s logo was displayed prominently in many scenes (like the one below).

Credit: Lionsgate Films

On top of that, Pepsi co-produced the movie, which, by the way, was synonymous with the company’s online ad campaign launch.

CNBC’s Lucy Handley wrote a great headline to describe the opening weekend of “Uncle Drew:”

A Pepsi-funded movie based on a soda commercial character just took $15.5 million on its opening weekend.”

Don’t get me wrong, the movie was pretty good and received many positive reviews from critics. But what does all of this have to do with branded content?

Well, the movie is basically is a big piece of branded content that proves once again that people love this kind of content.

In fact, they love it so much that they’re ready to pay big money just to see it.

What are the reasons behind the popularity of branded content and how your business can get involved?

Let’s find out right now.

Why People Love Branded Content

One major difference between branded content and other types of content is that it embraces stories of people and doesn’t explicitly advertise the brand.

For example, according to the plot of Uncle Drew, the main character, Dax, spent all the money he had to enter the Rucker Classic streetball tournament and win a cash prize. But before he could claim the prize, he had to deal with all kinds of failures, including a loss to his longtime rival.

To make a long story short, the movie focuses on a story of a person instead of a brand and features promotional materials in a way that doesn’t make the viewer go “Advertising, really?”

No product story. No mentions of how great and innovative its features are.

Thus, branded content uses a completely different approach to grab the attention of customers and encourage them to buy an advertised product or service. That’s why it has a good chance of achieving its goal.

Since people are sick and tired of hard-sell and in-your-face advertising, they won’t pay attention to “salesy” content from brands. That’s why techniques like branded content and storytelling are so popular right now.

So, branded content is NOT native advertising since the main purpose of the producer here is to create something that customers would truly enjoy.

Why Should You Use Branded Content in Your Campaigns?

Branded content sounds like a great technique to connect to a target audience, but how can it help your business if it lacks any information on product features or brand benefits?

Besides, will people even appreciate it? I mean they do realize that your brand is behind the whole idea, which can reduce the legitimacy of the content?

Many people have dismissed branded content as a good marketing technique because of these reasons. For example, even Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the well-known Content Marketing Institute, didn’t consider it a good way to go about marketing. In fact, he wrote the following in his article on branded content:

“Branded content gives content marketing a bad name. It’s a word created by the world of paid media … by advertisers, agencies, and media planners… Sounds disturbing, isn’t it?”

Well, yes, it is kind of disturbing, but the benefits – and the real performance – of branded content clearly make the haters shut up and acknowledge that it’s the future of content marketing.

For example, a recent report on branded content by AdvertiserPerceptions found that:

  • 71 percent of advertisers agree that branded content is effective at building brand awareness
  • 66 percent agree that it effectively impact customers’ perceptions of brands
  • 52 percent say that it generates sales.

Sounds great, indeed.

Advertisers clearly appreciate this tactic, but how many of them actually use it?

In a recent interview with Forbes’s Alan Wolk, a CEO of a social media analytics company Allison Stern said they were tracking over 200,000 branded campaigns across Facebook and YouTube.

“It’s definitely become a ‘thing,’” adds Stern. “We track branded campaigns on Facebook and YouTube and there’s a lot of interest in them right now.”

The big reason behind the proliferation of branded content online is its ability to evoke an emotional response. People’s stories used by brands can be really impactful because the way how they feel about a certain brand is really important for customers in terms of deciding whether to buy from it.

Today, customers are increasingly making buying decisions based on this particular factor, which explains the popularity of branded content as a part of emotional marketing campaigns.

In fact, a recent report by Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute found that 82 percent of customers want to buy products from brands they feel high emotional engagement with.

Also, 81 percent would promote that brand among their friends and family members.

Credit: Capgemini

On top of that, the survey discovered that 70 percent of customers who feel a high emotional engagement with a brand spend up to twice as much with that brand.

That’s huge.

If emotional engagement is so important for customers, then branded content is a great way to generate a connection with them.

So, let’s learn how you can do it to benefit your business and give your audience the content it craves.

How to Create Successful Branded Content Campaigns: 4 Tips

1. Define What Your Customers Want

To create branded content that resonates with your target audience, you need to know their preferences.

The research supports this: according to the above-mentioned Capgemini’s report, eight in ten customers high emotional engagement expect businesses to know their individual preferences.

For example, let’s assume that you want to make your customers feel happy when consuming your branded content (happiness is actually a great choice because 67 percent of customers are more likely to remember your brand when thinking of a purchase).

2. Create a Story

As you already know, branded content uses stories of people and doesn’t explicitly advertise the brand. In order to excite your audience and make them feel happy, you’re going to have some serious brainstorming to create a great story.

Here are some tips for that.

  • Make sure that the story can enable emotionally resonant experiences
  • Each story should have a hero (consider selecting a character that resembles your typical customer)
  • Finish strong. Every good story has an end. Whether it’s happy or not, make sure that it summarizes the story makes your point clear
  • Make your story rich in details.

Let’s consider an example:

Let’s assume that the purpose of branded content in this particular case is to let customers know that you sell travel sunglasses cheaper than your competitors.

Here’s how you do it:

Like many other great ideas, ours began with a problem. We think that travel sunglasses cost too much and should be made affordable for everyone. David, one of our founders, is a huge fan of travel and has lost his sunglasses at least three times and it cost him almost $150 to replace them every time. That’s a lot of money that every person facing this situation could spend on other, more useful things.

Not bad, right? By referring to a problem that many of us had, we can engage people with a story. Of course, the above example is just a short draft but it provides a foundation for the creation of a great piece of branded content. Hopefully, you’ve got the idea.

3. Take a Side

Don’t take me wrong: this is not to say that should write aggressive messages in your branded content. What I’m trying to say here is that you should believe in your content. If you create something that you put your brand’s name on, then you need to ensure that you won’t regret it.

In fact, customers want you to do it. For example, Millennials and Gen Z are known to prefer socially responsible brands, which sets a different standard for a relationship between them and brands (for example, there’s evidence that as much as 73 percent of Millennials prefer sustainable brands).

Example? Nike has taken a powerful stand on human rights in their #BlackLivesMatter campaign featuring a former BFL star Colin Kaepernick (see one of the campaign’s materials below).

Credit: Nike

Bottom line: don’t provoke people, provoke thought.

4. Pack More Personality into Your Content

The power of personality should never be underestimated for branding purposes because people like it when brands have a personality that sets them apart from others. Besides, having a personality is also beneficial for a brand because it allows to draw customers in and engage with them based on common interests.

Let’s discuss a simple example. Nike and Timberland both manufacture shoes; however, Nike associates itself as being more sporty while Timberland goes for outdoor activities such as trips, etc. Thus their personalities are different even though both brands are essentially in the same market.

A brand can show personality in different ways. BarkBox, a subscription service providing dog products, for example, uses humor. Their Instagram feed is filled with humorous posts; in fact, they use humor for everything. Take a look.

Credit: BarkBox Instagram

This post like other branded materials are the results of thorough research. For example, to define a brand’s personality, one should:

  • Study the target audience. BarkBox, Nike, and Timberland wouldn’t do what they’re doing if their audiences didn’t appreciate it. By studying the customers’ personalities, interests, and hobbies, they’ve defined what could be interesting and engaging to them
  • Strive to be unique. Timberland, for example, uses their social responsibility policy to differentiate itself from the competition. The brand provides its employees with 40 hours a year for volunteering and has sustainability targets for 2020 that include planting 10 million trees.
  • Be authentic. Customers sense it right away if a brand’s values aren’t authentic. For example, if Timberland had sustainability goals and encouraged their employees to go and volunteer while not doing anything about it, then no one would have followed them. So, stay true to your values and make decisions based on them.
  • Convey your personality through visuals. A brand’s logo, for example, is an excellent opportunity to display personality. Let’s use Timberland’s logo to explain how it’s done.

It features a very branchy tree on a field, and since the meaning of the brand’s name is “land covered with trees and shrubs,” they decided to stay true to it. The logo conveys their personality, as Timberland is all about sustainable business, planting trees, and reducing environmental footprint.

  • Make sure that your copy has an appropriate tone. Any copy created by your brand – website copy, blog articles, etc. – should convey its personality and make it easy for readers to make own judgments about it. For example, in order to appear authentic and believable, your brand’s writing should be consistent throughout all marketing channels and, more importantly, sound human. Professional brand writing is something that you can get professional help with at online tools like TrustMyPaper, so if you feel like you need some assistance with creating good copies, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help.

Now that we know how to shape your brand’s personality, let’s see how to convey it through your content. One good way to create conversations and encourage positive brand perceptions is, of course, humor. This is a tricky technique that if done right, can really help to increase the effectiveness of your branded campaigns.

Here are the ways to convey your personality through branded content.

  • Connect with your customers by showing a deep understanding of their problems and the real truth they’re facing with them
  • Take your content to the humorous extreme. A German supermarket Edeka’s video featuring a middle-aged man in various humorous situations became an Internet sensation (20 million views and counting) because of its unbelievable creativity and courage to represent their brand in such an unusual way.

Credit: YouTube

  • Personify your brand. Develop a list of the traits that you want to see in a person representing your brand and try to find one who has them. As a result, that person can be a perfect personification of your company, which is good because people always connect with other people, not companies.
  • Have your stuff contribute to building brand identity. To prevent an employee from ruining your brand identity by posting something that’s inconsistent with your policies and values, educate your stuff on brand values and policies. Also, have your employees contribute to your branded campaign by creating posts as well, because this adds humanity and purpose to your content. For example, have a look at how Cisco employees helped to improve the perception of the company culture by sharing their experience on Snapchat.

Credit: YouTube

By having your customers sharing your brand’s values, you’re increasing the chance that your message will be consumed, and more importantly, trusted.

The Bottom Line

Well, did Uncle Drew help Pepsi to increase sales? After all, the movie sits pretty on $46 million worth of worldwide box office sales, which is almost three times more than what the powers behind the movie but still very modest (for example, Avengers: Infinity War earned more than $1 billion worldwide within a few weeks).

Well, the company increased its sales by 3.7 percent and improved the value of the shares by 3 percent, according to CNBC data.

Uncle Drew has become a real brand and Nike is was selling Kyrie 4 “Uncle Drew” edition shoes for $120 (t-shirts and other branded sportswear as well).

While the real impact of Uncle Drew is really difficult to estimate, one thing is certain: branded content works, even if it’s a 105-minute commercial that you have to pay to see. We’re not going to make your customers pay anything and make them feel more connected to your brand through authentic, positive brand identity.

So, creating a branded content campaign is something that you should definitely consider. Hopefully, this guide will be useful for you to create a really impacting campaign that a single, consistent, and positive personality for your brand that is closely aligned with your customers’ values and personalities.

This personality will be key to building positive, authentic long-term relationships with your customers, which, in turn, increases the chances of success.

Diana Nadim on Twitter
Diana Nadim
Owner at 3to5Marketing
Diana is a writer and editor who has a Master degree in Marketing. She combines her passion for writing with her interest in research and creates thought-provoking content in various fields. Diana also runs her own 3to5Marketing blog. What inspires her the most in her writing is traveling and meeting new people.

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