Branded entertainment is nothing new. Brands have been embedding themselves in content experiences for years. But as the noise in online advertising approaches a dull roar, brands today are turning more and more to these types of organic marketing plays. And to be sure, the digital world has amplified the effects of branded content like never before.
In a Spotlight presentation at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, Calif., Rich Sutton, CRO, North America, at MailOnline, noted that digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way that marketers think about branded entertainment. It's not just about product placement in a popular TV show these days. The experience might start there, yes. But it is then amplified across online, mobile, and social channels for an impact unlike anything that can be seen via traditional media alone.
So how are brands and agencies thinking about branded content on digital platforms? Sutton showcased findings from a recent survey conducted in partnership with Digiday. Key insights included:
- Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents planned to increase their spend on digitally distributed branded content in the coming year.
- Brands and agencies think differently when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of branded content marketing. About 32 percent of brands say they look for increased sales, compared to 20 percent of agencies that see this as the preferred metric. Meanwhile, 30 percent of agencies choose brand lift as their preferred metric, versus 10 percent of brands.
- In response to the question, "What prevented you or your clients from investing more in branded content marketing?" 24 percent of brands and 17 percent of agencies responded, "Nothing, we are fully committed!"
OK, so brands and agencies are on board with digitally distributed branded content. But how do you make it really work? To address this question, Cynthia Jensen, senior vice president of media operations at INNOCEAN Worldwide Americas, was on hand to present several branded entertainment case studies.
In her first case study, Jensen showed how Hyundai shattered conventions through a partnership with "The Walking Dead" that went well beyond the TV show itself. The brand tapped into the fanaticism surrounding zombie apocalypse survival tactics by transforming Hyundai vehicles into "zombie survival machines." The brand also developed an app, "The Walking Dead Chop Shop," that lets fans create their own modified zombie-proof vehicles. Playing up the scarcity angle, Hyundai also gave away limited-edition zombie survival manuals to fans. All these efforts and more were extended via social channels, homepage takeovers, sponsored webisodes, online pop quizzes and polls, and more.
Jensen went on to highlight a second case study in which Kia has partnered with "The Voice" in order to build brand familiarity and perception among viewers. The challenge: How do you organically integrate a vehicle into an unscripted music reality show?
Kia rose to the challenge in a number of ways. It blended into the fabric of "The Voice" as the featured vehicles driven in the context of the show. But notably, it went further via digital channels to engage viewers with Pinterest sweepstakes, sponsored backstage videos, social messaging, and more.
Ultimately, when done properly through digital channels, branded entertainment becomes much more than just entertainment, Sutton said. It becomes branded engagement.