The controversy means you might have missed The Receipt, Wal-Mart’s Oscar-style dose of ‘branded entertainment’. 2016 marked the first year of Wal-Mart’s multiple-year sponsorship of the Academy Awards, and to kick the partnership off in Hollywood style, the retailer sought out four well-known Hollywood directors, Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner), Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (Superbad, Neighbors) to create three one-minute branded entertainment films. The challenge to the filmmakers was simple: take a Wal-Mart receipt and integrate the six items into a compelling narrative. The platform guiding the film’s development was “Behind every receipt, there’s a great story.”
Despite several impressive examples of branded entertainment, like Red Bull’s events, SC Johnson’s ‘Glade Museum of Feelings’, and even the latest installment in the Lego movie series (Lego Batman), it appears that many are still trying to determine what it offers that traditional media channels do not, and how it should be used to build a brand, especially as most non-marketing people will describe it as advertising. Recognising it is not, let’s start with a definition. Our working definition (through Ipsos’ partnership with Oxford Brookes University and The Branded Content Marketing Association) is:
Branded Content is content fully or partly funded by a Brand which promotes the Brand’s values and provides something of value to audiences – often by entertaining, informing and/or educating.
To provide further context to the definition, there are two inherent foundations that must be acknowledged:
- It’s experienced
- It’s something people choose to spend time with
What increases the chances of success?
While branded entertainment enables new opportunities for brands to creatively connect with people, many of the challenges it faces are not new. Of first importance, it must effectively compete with the real world and reach and engage audiences. We all cultivate our own mediaconsuming microcosms characterised by habit and autonomy. Branded Entertainment needs to interrupt to get noticed but it cannot disrupt – discovery must be as organic as discovering pure content. To achieve cutthrough at scale, it needs to be found in relevant places and creatively sign posted to draw people in. In general, cutting through is getting tougher. Whether it be the impact of multi-screening or increasing use of ad-blocking software, it’s not as easy to get noticed.
Successful Branded Entertainment relies on resonance between people, content, brands and platforms. The implication is that Branded Entertainment must be planned with as much attention to detail as traditional advertising, and perhaps even more so to some extent. Part of the plan should be to determine where it fits in to your media strategy: is the aim to supplement a wider campaign by supporting the brand’s motives or to appeal to a target you struggle to communicate with through your standard channels. In short, is the content designed to inspire reaffirmation or reappraisal? So, where do you begin?
How to win at Branded Entertainment
- Start with people - Our proprietary research indicates that people generally use ‘just’ 18 apps and 15 websites each month.
- Ensure attention and engagement - As with traditional advertising, attention is vital.
- Effectively leverage the power of amplification - An inherent appeal of content and entertainment marketing is the potential to have your brand’s assets shared and sought out rather than filtered and blocked.
What about brand growth?
Branded entertainment has the potential to have a strong impact on brand. We found that positive response to the content has a strong influence on enhanced perceptions of the associated brand. Our proprietary research demonstrates that the Always ‘Like a Girl’ video had a profound effect on brand perceptions amongst their target group. Furthermore, positive brand impact occurred regardless of gender – proof that a universally appealing message and elegant execution can transcend any barrier. Always is a strong brand to begin with; the content acted very much as re-affirmation, strengthening brand affinity.