Content JAM: Experts Define Branded Content

Branded Content is a mega category in the digital space. Many brands are experimenting in this space, but are struggling with hitting the right notes. We find out what experts believe is branded content

Branded content is at least as old as the Michelin Guide for motorists that has become the definitive guide to fine-dining restaurants world-wide. That makes branded content a century old.

In the television era advertiser funded programming was branded content. Remember the Cadbury India with Bournvita Quiz Contest? Or the extremely popular Coke Studio@MTV? Well, branded content, right?

All this was much before digital came along and gave us data at an average of Rs 19/GB. That changed everything from user watching habits to the user’s discretion to not watch an ad. Branded content has resurged and advertisers want to leverage this new shiny thing that promises to engage the consumer without putting her off. The resurgence has also led to a wide range of experiments, some path-breaking and others that have been less innovative with the format.

We asked Audacity e4m Indian Content Marketing Awards 2018 (ICMA) jury members how they define branded content. Here is what we found out:

R Balki, filmmaker

I would define branded content as content that uses an idea of brand to tell an interesting story and make people be riveted by the story itself. Never make the story subservient to the brand; make the brand subservient to the story only then the brand will benefit.

Branded content should take the content forward; the brand should not make the content lose its joy. We are doing a lot in the name of branded content - branding the content, adding a message to the content, also creating content for a brand. I think it is about being impactful. Most brands keep borrowing from life; they should instead add to life. Because you are a brand that is intruding and saying “buy me” or “consider me”, I think you have to be a lot more interesting than normal content.

Abhishek Desai, Director, Marketing Operations, P&G India

Branded content is a broad concept for me. For me it is - content that a consumer consumes and how brands can weave into content like that. Sponsorships alone are a very small step towards branded content. We have had great sponsorships and integrations in the past but for me it really becomes part of the story versus coming across as a sponsorship. It is fine difference from a marketer’s point of view but a huge difference from a consumer’s lens. A brand should have a unique role in the story and not just appear as a layer added onto the story.

Devendra Deshpande, Head Content+, Mindshare India

The best piece of branded content is where the line between the brand and content is blurred - when a consumer stops noticing the brand and starts engaging with the content. That can happen only when the philosophy of the brand is integrated with the content piece. One great example is that of Audi’s integration in the Transformers series.

Advertising funded programming was mix of great content driven by sponsorship telecast a prime appointment viewing slot. The balance is now shifting from just sponsorship to co-ownership and co-creation. It might take some time for this change to consolidate on television but on digital it is a phenomenon. Television is still ruled by appointment viewing where broadcasters guard the 7-11pm slot. TV is not a medium where one can take risks and make mistakes, instead digital is a place where those chances can be taken.

Ronita Mitra, Founder CEO, Brand Eagle Consulting

While the term content marketing has become rather fashionable as a way of brand building, in reality content marketing has always been used to brands that have gone beyond conventional advertising to connect with their consumers. Given the pervasiveness of digital and technology, the opportunities for using content marketing has become more popular and feasible.  While earlier there were fragmented nomenclatures such as in- program brand integration, advertorials, customer education programs , AVs, vignettes, etc. 
Today it's all addressed under a single banner of content marketing. For example - Just as there's a huge opportunity of advertising on digital beyond conventional TV advertising, so is it now possible to make multiple small budget films to communicate the brand story and ensure reach through various digital channel. Or to build experiential programs on digital which would earlier be done through on ground initiatives.

Sagar Kargutkar, Director & Head of Marketing, McDonald's

Branded content on TV, especially in the case of sponsorships is more of a revenue generation idea than a content idea. There is no special effort in those cases. It is about marrying content with the brand when one has the access to the distribution channel - be that TV or print. A special into content marketing is actually unbranded content that leads one to the brand is Branded content should be talking about the brand in a subtle way but it should not be driven through one particular media vehicle.

Branded content today is what digital was five years ago. Everyone is trying, testing and learning from their experiments. As a food brand, content marketing a huge part of my digital strategy. We need to be differentiated in this space and the only way to achieve that is through content. For more updates, subscribe to exchange4media's WhatsApp Channel- https://bit.ly/2QUdLCK

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