Guest Column: What is the future of branded content in India?

Branded content in India has been growing at a rapid pace of 130 per cent to 150 per cent annually, according to an Adage report and its time to ride the wave

e4m by Oshan Guliani
Updated: Nov 2, 2017 8:38 AM

Content is undoubtedly one of the most important pillars of your marketing strategy. Though content marketing has been in the industry for a very long time, what’s new is the evolution of content in different categories, be it video content or native content. Yet, one of the most preferred content-type that have been picking up lately is ‘Branded Content’ also known as ‘Branded Entertainment.’

What is Branded Content?

Branded content is any form of advertising that uses articles, videos, podcasts and infographics on websites and social media to promote a product or service. Branded content is more focused on the buyer and hence, it delivers the information in a manner that makes the consumer consume message without being forced to watch it. However, the end goal of Branded content is about storytelling and not selling the features and benefits of the product.

Company's top marketing challenges:

With the rapid and ever-evolving disruption in the marketing industry, every marketer faces immense challenges in terms of budget, investment, ROI, etc. The main challenges faced can be seen in a report from the State of InBound as below:


Penetration of Branded content in web-series:

The youth now splurges over anything they find fancy or relate to themselves. Hence, brands are leaving no stones unturned to grab their attention. One such and foremost example could be a ‘Web series.’ The trend is lately picking up in India as it has been proven to garner the right kind of exposure and visibility a brand requires. Let’s look at some recent campaigns in India.

Ola Permanent Roommates: Many are aware of TVF’s show ‘Permanent Roommates.’ The web series is a massive hit as it holds a proper fabric of youth in today’s generation. Season 1 started off with the Common floor being its first sponsors. However, season 2 doubled in viewership due to its concept on the new age rom-com. Ola came on board as the sponsor in the second season ensuring the brand’s message was penetrated smoothly through the characters without making the audience feel it was advertised.

AIB OnePlus Integration - If apps were people: There is no denial that OnePlus have been aggressive in their digital marketing approach by exploring numerable avenues. They took the route of storytelling in the viral video world by associating with AIB for a series featuring well known stand-up comedians. It portrayed the OnePlus features in a storytelling format without the consumer knowing the content has been consumed. The video created a lot of buzz resulting in a second part in the same series showing the features of OnePlus’ latest flagship – One Plus 5.

What is expected to work?

a. Subtle integration of brands:

With the strengthening of digital ecosystem and the disruption in the internet world, people are more exposed to content either through apps or web. Initially, traditional ads were uncomplicated as its focus was only to advertise the product. However, over the time it made viewers uncomfortable for being too in the face. The best thing about branded content is its entertainment factor which distinguishes it with a 30 second TV spot or a print ad, ensuring that the consumers are not uncomfortable while watching it. In present as well as in future, marketers will have to adapt and explore new ways to keep their viewers engaged.

b. Real –time content integration with current trends:

Going forward, brands will have to be extremely pro-active to catch-up with the latest trend. One such recent case could be #MeToo where women share stories of sexual harassment, a hashtag that has taken over the social world by storm in a short span of time. Though it is a sensitive topic, a lot of brands can use this to generate a mix match of content and plug-in with the latest trends. Going forward, real-time content will become an integral part of advertising as viral trends are the time when the consumers reach a peak in engaging and expressing their views and hence, brands will hold dedicated teams looking only into this.

c. Designing content around your audience, keeping the emotions alive:

Believe it or not, all of us make most of our decisions on an emotional level first. Emotions do play a vital role and are at the core of all our decisions. A content designed around emotional touch will keep the audience engaged towards a brand if it’s not pushy or involves sales elements.

d. Meaningful stories and integrations:

Though emotions belong to the first level, what triggers these decisions is a story; a story built in our mind. The main purpose of branded content is engaging its consumers through a storytelling ad and at the end, the viewers should be able to identify with the situation they came across in the ad – if they do so, trust me, your branded content was right.

What's expected to happen?

Increased budgets:

As per the survey conducted by the Content Marketing institute, 73 per cent of marketers say that creating more engaging content is a top priority of their organization. Branded content is the new wave, although not very new, but can be considered a top priority for now. An increased budget can be expected in this domain.

Series built around Instagram / Snapchat stories:

Since the consumer behavior changes faster, the brands will have to constantly measure and re-adjust themselves in order to cope with the ever-changing consumer interests. Based on the same, companies will explore new avenues/platforms to market their content. According to a report by data Science Company 4C insights, Snapchat and Instagram have seen ad spends rise by 73 per cent and 55 per cent as new offline features added value to advertisers. Brands telling stories through social networking platforms isn’t too far.

Localised platforms to capture attention:

As said earlier, the consumer’s interest is ever-changing. Branded content may reach its peak however, it doesn’t last too long. As and when the attention span would reduce, we can expect localized platforms to capture attention, for example Terribly Tiny Tales.

Digital first adoption: Content produced for digital to be adapted for Television/Print

Media consumption has risen tremendously due to the increase in the number of devices capable of supporting digital media along with increasing internet access making the consumer access content of their choice anytime and anywhere as per their preference.


• Branded content in India has been growing at a rapid pace of 130 per cent to 150 per cent annually, though at a small base, according to an Adage report.
• The digital video market is expected to be worth $1.6 billion by 2022, according to Media Partners Asia. The size of the digital advertising market in India is Rs 76.9 billion and the digital sector is growing at a rate of 28 per cent.
Looking at these stats, we can assume that brands are stressing on content integration more than ever. Going forward, the tonality and message conveyed through storytelling will play a major role in engaging the audience, as with growing internet penetration audience will be all the more exposed to the content. Based on the same, brands will be experimenting with different forms of content and hence, competition is set to increase. Though traditional ways of advertising have existed for a very long time and are not going away anytime soon, branded content is the new wave and is seemingly here to stay.

Oshan Guliani is a Partner and Director at SoCheers. 
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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