BOBCM curator Justin Kirby asked branded content practitioners in Australasia to share their advice about when and how to use branded content, and their insights into the region’s emerging trends during 2016 (see responses below). After analysing input from 16 experts with help from Molly Gray, Justin summarises the situations in which local experts recommend you should use branded content:
- When it’s the right fit for the brand problem. Work out the best way to use it in any particular instance.
- Brands must explore alternatives to traditional, interruptive advertising in order to be seen and heard. More and more marketing activities are leveraging branded content as a less intrusive way to reach, engage and influence audiences.
- Almost always, and in any and every situation.
- When a brand needs to convey a large amount of information in order for its market to make decisions. Long-format storytelling unlocks the full spectrum of content for brands to attack challenges and opportunities.
- When you have a brand that understands the need for seamless integration of the brand into the content, and is willing to spend good money and give creative freedom to the right people for the job.
- Any brand wanting to build a lasting relationship with customers should use branded content, not those wanting a quick fix or immediate ROI. Branded content can be a slow burner, so use other means for quick response retail activity.
Emerging trends from the region in 2015 include:
- Bigger budgets are on the way. Some brands are already assigning more money to branded content and starting to make less but better content. Others need to accept that quality costs money, otherwise agencies will have to stop making video content (well) at a loss.
- Branded content is starting to be seen as a vital, integrated part of a broader set of channels, rather than a communications solution.
- Demand for branded content is increasing, particularly for longer-form, video-based branded entertainment. The huge youth market and rapid penetration of smartphones in the region is causing an explosion in content consumption and the rise of a new layer of localised influencers creating content.
- Brands will still need to pay people to make sure their content is watched – going viral is a thing of the past; content distribution channels achieve the scale that’s required. However, some businesses are getting better at creating content that consumers choose to engage with where there’s no money spent on distribution.
- More brands will create and develop their own content platforms, which has the added benefit of aligning internal business silos. However, with technological changes, algorithms now decide what content holds someone’s attention for how long, so there is also a rise in distributed publishing where the publisher no longer cares where the content is consumed, so long as it is.
- Branded content producers are starting to make the transition from being timid to being more confident and challenging about the use of the brand in the content. Some brands will be able to become the culture and the presence.
- The rise in investment in the experiential channel in the US may play out in Australasia.
- Reach is no longer as important a metric as distribution/success in the social space. Branded content will be tailored to advocates. Monitoring where content goes online and how people react to it is a growing area of focus.
- There are several rising reactions to the fragmentation of media and the clutter of ad content: brands will need to focus on helping the audience through relevant education/utility and entertainment content; more brands will develop content strategies and base content creation around longer-term ideas to deliver consistent value to audiences, moving away from campaign-based work; creativity will become king and marketers will have to be brave to find more original and insightful ways to reach their audience.
We’ve included snippets of experts’ opinions below with links to full responses:
I believe good branded content isn’t just one film on its own: it’s a body of work; it’s tiers of continually updated content that transforms the brand into a broadcaster.
Where you have a brand that is willing to give creative freedom to people who have proven credentials in telling great stories. There is a huge amount of content out there nowadays, so the content needs to be great to compete and it won’t be if it has a marketing manager interfering too much in the creator’s vision.
Though branded content can work for all audiences, it tends to translate most effectively for those born after (circa) 1995. It’s this audience that is spending more of their time searching out new content to consume via the channels they’ve already vetted, than tuning into traditional disruptive based media.
The work led by Dr Karen Nelson-Field shows that branded entertainment spreading purely organically via being shared is still extremely rare. It’s tough for things to go viral. There’s a lot of branded entertainment out there that’s very high on the former and very low on the latter – and that starts to look and smell a lot like advertising. But don’t worry, it’s a tried and tested model.
I think the really interesting movement at the moment is the shift from branded content trying not to look like branded content to being much more confident and challenging in the use of the brand in the content. This is the next wave, and I think you see it most successfully explored in tribal industries like fashion, surfing, snowboarding where the brands are part of the culture and not perceived as hangers-on.
Branded content means different things to different people. Therefore, knowing what situations to recommend for using branded content can be complicated for both marketers and advertisers. Anything with a storyline these days seems to be considered branded content – but having a firm understanding of the intentions behind branded content will help marketers and advertisers determine the role it plays in the communication mix.
Banners are slowly dying as a result of ad blockers and we as marketers need to find better ways to get our clients’ messages out there. One of the simple and easy answers is branded content – something that provokes a reaction, something people seek out rather than avoid, something as simple as a Facebook post all the way through to a 10-part TV series and beyond.
We are seeing increasing demand for content. The penny has dropped for savvy marketers that they can achieve massive ‘bang for buck’ with branded content or branded entertainment. The right piece at the right time can have a massive impact on business.
Content has become today’s social currency. What we’re seeing is that for young people, the number one topic of conversation between peers is what they are watching. On-demand platforms and content creators like YouTube, Netflix and VICE are very much driving this trend, and the influence of YouTube bloggers on culture is rapidly increasing, particularly for the younger generation. What does this mean for brands? It’s a remarkable time for marketers – there’s a fantastic opportunity to create great content and become the topic of conversation. The challenge is actually creating content that people want to watch.
Branded content in Australasia is playing a big game of catch-up with the rest of the world and, while this market has been slower to embrace the format, it has now well and truly passed the tipping point in both volume and ambition. Marketers across the industry have embraced branded content, from FMCG brands such as Nutri-Grain and Listerine, to telecommunications brands Telstra and Optus, automotive brands Lexus and Audi, along with Qantas, Air New Zealand, Heineken, and New Zealand Transport Agency among a host of others. The challenge for brands moving forward is to ensure the content is relevant and entertaining enough to continue to cut through and engage with audiences.
Danielle Long, Editor, Branded Arts Review; Curator, Festival of Mumbrella’s Branded Entertainment Festival
The rise of digital technology has made it much easier for anyone, brand or consumer, to become a publisher. But it hasn’t changed some fundamentals: attention is essentially a zero-sum game and companies should create branded content, whether it be audio, video, the written word or something else entirely, only when it is going to drive real value
Creating branded content means we must focus on the audiences, who they are as individuals and how we can help them through information and entertainment. It’s a long game, but a lot more fun.
Branded content is a good strategy for brands who are ready to drop the sales pitch and build a lasting relationship with their customers by providing them with something meaningful, authentic and, above all, valuable. Brands who want a quick fix – or an immediate return – should not bother with branded content because it’s a long-term play
We need to move away from suggesting branded content as a communications solution and instead see it as a vital and integrated part of a broader set of channels, all selected for the role they can play and how they work together
Content should be the result of landing on an amazing insight or the best possible solution to a problem and then finding that the answer comes with an opportunity to tell a great story by sharing that content through the most effective channel for the audience
In a world where audience have more choices than ever before to avoid intrusive and interrupting advertising, branded content that engages and entertains is the ‘new black’. Through that lens, branded content, content marketing, branded entertainment… call it what you will, is just the new way to reach, engage and influence audiences. So I see more and more marketing activities leveraging conten