Branded Content and Why it Matters

Branded content is marketing content which takes on the characteristics of the home environment it lives in.   It can appear as a great investigative journalism story, a funny video series on YouTube, or an informative podcast.

While it most likely will include the goals of informing or entertaining, the content also has another agenda which is to meet the marketing objectives of the companies that pay to produce it.

Most controversy around branded content centers on the authenticity of the content and how it is presented to viewers.   In some cases, particularly in news organizations, there’s a lot of concern about maintaining the integrity of news content and ensuring that branded content is clearly marked so viewers aren’t “fooled” by it.

With video being the fastest growing, and most viewed content on-line, news sites are setting internal branded content production divisions.

Organizations like Buzz Feed consider branded content as part of their lifeblood and don’t even take banner ads.  Hailed as the go forward on-line business model for journalism it focuses relentlessly on providing shareable content like listicles, celebrity gossip, pictures and breaking news.

It launched its commercial video studio in California in the summer of 2014 and has scaled rapidly trying to capture as much of the 1B dollar branded content pies as possible.  (See full article by Jennifer Fall at the Drum).

Other legacy news organizations like the New York Times are also coming to the party, as the pressure of banner and pop up ad blockers makes diversifying their ad revenues essential.  According to Business Insider It has launched its T Brand Studio to produce what it calls native advertising (branded content by another name).

So what does any of this have to do with you or your organization?

If you are thinking about producing video, looking at the branded content that these news organizations produce on-line can be helpful in thinking about your own strategies for video, and how suitable your content/channel “fit” is.

It also highlights that when you produce your video you want to  try to pick producers who have the right expertise for the content.

Here are two branded content examples which reinforce the points above.

When Netflix wanted to produce branded content to support their widely successful series Orange is the New Black they chose to work with the NYT.   The result was an in depth interactive piece of journalism that took a hard look at how the penal system designed on male models was failing women inmates.   You can see the piece here.  While it is branded content the form of that content brings the journalistic strengths and integrity of the NYT brand to the endeavor.

When Purina wanted an on-line video campaign for their new wet cat food they went to Buzz Feed.  Along with its other attributes, Buzz Feed is well noted for its adorably shareable pet pictures.   Purina’s Dear Kitten campaign was a viral hit.  You can see the first video in the series here.