Imagine a company selling its product, without actually leaving the viewer/ consumer feeling 'sold out'. That is exactly the rationale behind branded content. Though selling the product to its end users is the driving force, it cleverly disguises this under a shroud of providing ‘entertainment’. Not taking away the fact that product placement and native marketing techniques are simultaneously working their magic in the background, without being pompous.
In simpler words, branded content presents itself differently from the usual marketing ploy. Instead of releasing traditional content that is supported by 'look at me' ads, branded content now becomes both the ad and the content.
Today, branded content is every advertiser's dream, because companies are reluctant on spending huge sums of money on prime time television slots. And with the internet providing unprecedented flexibility, there are numerous possibilities to mould one’s branded content in the most creative of ways.
Interestingly, the onset of branded content has also implied the melding of the traditional concepts of advertising and public relations, thereby making it imperative for agencies to integrate both the fields harmoniously in their operations.
The first quarter of 2016 itself has seen a big boom in branded content.
Take for example Deepika Padukone's recent stint with Nike that celebrates Indian female athletes in the song ‘Da Da Ding’. It is the perfect mix of entertainment and brand value. Besides the brilliant film itself, Padukone went on record to say that it was her father's teachings of sportsmanship, along with being a sportsperson herself, which helped her fight depression - which went a long way to enhance the emotional value of the campaign.
Deepika Padukone with other Indian female athletes striking a pose for the Nike Ad
Or Ariel’s ‘Share the Load’ campaign, which went viral with its hard-hitting punch-line, 'Why is laundry only a mother's job? Dads, #Sharetheload’. It gave rise to a palpable emotion, evoking a sense of guilt that everyone could relate with.
A still from the Ariel Ad
The heartwarming British Airways short film didn't fall short of winning hearts either. Inspired by a real life story, the film it is about a flight attendant Helena, who meets a senior citizen from Hyderabad on her maiden flight to India. In their effort to draw Indian passengers, the makers tugged the heartstrings with the tagline 'Loving India back since 1924'.
A still from the British Airways Ad
With the rapidly evolving industry, questions are being raised whether branded content will stand the test of time, and if so, how would it tap into newer avenues and adopt novel promotional tools.
The latest indicator of things to come in the field is the location-based, augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go that has become a rage overnight, bringing with itself a plethora of marketing opportunities. With the audience response to the game breaking all records, marketers are finding their haven in retail outlets, restaurants, cafes and bars, and making their businesses a ‘Pokestop’ to attract crowds and greater footfall during slower hours.
Similarly, a store can also turn itself into a Pokémon gym, thus targeting potential customers effectively. Service businesses can also arrange Pokémon walks and competitions, and also join forces with fitness brands for personalized merchandize or just to make people walk more often. On the other hand, the map on the game interface can incorporate logos and names of several businesses to help identify and ‘market’ them.
A user intently playing Pokemon Go on his smartphone
While these are some of the tactics marketers could use to make the most out of this situation, one needs to keep toying with newer ways to keep their customers hooked.
With the branded content strategies representing a conspicuous blend of Advertising and Public Relations, the educational institutions need to take stock of this emerging trend and represent them in their curricula.With branded content making inroads big time, Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication (PG), Pune has stressed the need to emphasize on novel storytelling as well as digital adaptation in an integrated Advertising-PR context. The Brand Communication-Public Relations Conclave to be held at the institute on 24 July is one such step in the direction.
Written by Vanessa Viegas