Spotlight: How well can Branded Content solve strategic business problems?
Even with technology taking huge leaps with each passing day, here is something even the best of ad-blockers still cannot block - branded content. There is no ‘Skip Ad’ option and consumers are voluntarily watching the content with very little or no push from the marketers themselves. This is especially true if the content is in digital video format. The numbers speak for themselves: the digital video market is expected to be worth $1.6 billion by 2022 (Media Partners Asia) the size of the digital advertising market in India is Rs 76.9 billion, the digital sector is growing at a rate of 28%, and the total number of internet users in India has surpassed 400 million in 2017, more than half of these are on Facebook (KPMG India FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2017).
Digital advertising (Industry Size in INR Billion)
Media Sector Growth in 2016 over 2015
Internet Users in India (in millions)
Undoubtedly, snackable content has many takers and can successfully engage with viewers, but the question the industry is trying to answer is whether branded content is well-poised to solve strategic business problems.
The ‘viral fever’ that brands were suffering from seems to be finally dying down. Brands are now looking at branded content with objectives that go beyond the mandate of merely going viral on the internet. Marketers now look at branded content as a means to an end. “Branded content is not brand new in India anymore; we have all experimented with this medium. I am now looking for people who can demonstrate how they will get their content across but organically also show me how their content is helping in the achievement of my business goals,” said the CMO of a leading telecom company, who did not wish to be named. “In fact, a marketer does not want to do content, and is rather looking for a solution to a business problem,” observed Devendra Deshpande, Head Content Plus, Mindshare India.
Finding business solutions is what will take branded content to the next level, some feel. “I don’t know what branded content is solving,” said Anil S Nair, CEO and Managing Partner, Law and Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi. According to him branded content also needs to be held to the same scrutiny that traditional advertising agencies are subjected to. “We as a team will be judged by what impact we have made for the client’s business. Currently branded content agencies don’t have that pressure. The moment there is a performance link people will get far more responsible,” he noted.
Content creators say branded content can address a variety of objectives: for smaller brands it could be about building brand awareness, larger brands may look for brand positioning, internet brands may look to drive up user traffic. “But brands should not look at quantitative metrics alone, they should look at qualitative metrics,” said Ashwin Suresh, Founder, Pocket Aces. Noting that branded content has helped brands increase user traffic and in one case even drove up bookings on a hospitality website, he said, “Content marketing can solve a lot of objectives, but what it cannot solve is direct sales.” That he says is up to the brand. “There are few instances where we can drive sales, but largely we can get people to the website and then it is up to the brand to convert them,” he says.
The objectives of increasing mind share and creating awareness are best achieved through branded content. Pravin Shah, Founder & CEO, Six Inches Communications, agrees with Suresh. “Some brands ask us about the ROI of branded content and our response is: you cannot expect ROI-lead generation from an awareness campaign.” Branded content is purely about creating awareness; the brand is not selling, but participating with the consumer, Shah said. And that is why a young brand like Brand Factory is leveraging both branded content alongside traditional advertising to achieve different brand objectives. “My marketing mix is skewed towards television advertising currently because the objective of the TVC is to drive business,” says Roch D'Souza, CMO, Brand Factory. He adds that the digital/branded content journey of Brand Factory is focussed on the brand objective rather than driving sales.
The difference in results is deeply rooted also in the approach of a branded content creator versus that of a traditional agency or ad production house. In the words of Mandheer Singh, CMO, BigBazaar, an agency understands the brand and what it represents whereas a content creator offers an interpretation of a brand.
Noting that the craft of storytelling is the same across TVCs and branded video content, Sachin Dingankar, Head of Marketing at Zydus Wellness, said, “Some are able to bridge the divide of being able to deliver a 30 seconder and deliver long form content or a movie even. Yet communication agencies are taking time to understand how the medium has changed. And that’s where I think agencies have some distance to cover,” he said.
That said, it is not hard to find the sweet spot that will deliver results and drive up engagement. “Consumer research and insighting lends itself to a direction. And once I have that strategic direction, we get the right content partner for that campaign,” said Deshpande. As an agency, Mindshare collaborates with multiple content creators, picking and choosing the most appropriate creators and mediums for the task at hand. According to KV Sridhar (aka Pops), founder, hypercollective, “If you understand the brand and the audience, you can create any content.” He said that once you have a well-defined brand story you can collaborate with content creators to develop content that fits well with the brand and stays true to the brand positioning across mediums.
Twitter Users in India (in millions)
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