Did you know that Branded Entertainment is an old marketing discipline? But one that has actually evolved rapidly over the last years – and even more as a consequence of the pandemic. In this article, we’ll take a look at what the term “Branded Entertainment” means and how you can benefit from adding this discipline into the marketing-mix.
The short answer: Branded entertainment is an umbrella term for all brand produced content with entertainment in mind. The objective for a piece of Branded Entertainment is to have audiences watch or engage with the same mindset, as they would have when watching a selected film or tv-program.
The Journal of Marketing Communications defines Branded Entertainment as:
“A communication effort that employs a compelling authentic narrative to achieve brand resonance.”
With compelling, the narrative spoken about here is meant to be engaging and to draw you into an exciting story. The authentic part refers to a journalistic storyline as opposed to a more constructed storyline, that you often find in traditional ads. The overall purpose of the story is to create brand resonance. This means that the connections associated with the brand should stand out clearly based on the story that is told.
Branded Entertainment often draws on techniques and storytelling from cinematic movies, tv series and classical storytelling. This way, it differs from traditional marketing, because the focus is on telling a story rather than displaying a brand or a product. Branded Entertainment can be in the form of:
- Episodic content such as mini-series or webisodes
- Classical movie style films
- … and many more
(Why You Should) Use Branded Entertainment Film to lift Audience Engagement
Branded Entertainment as a discipline is often chosen by brands who want to strengthen the connection between themselves and their audience and lift their overall brand perception.
If you are looking to increase your audience engagement, you could for example begin to work with longer video formats or episodic content. The longer formats give you an opportunity to create a more compelling and nuanced narrative, perhaps with cliffhangers from one episode to the next in videos that keep driving engagement. And it can be combined with audience interaction in different ways to push even higher engagement on several levels (competitions, digital interaction, on- and offline events etc.)
Building a piece of Branded Entertainment is also a great way to connect with your users on a more emotional level and introduce your brand’s values and purpose.
When you work with storytelling or other formats typically used in the media entertainment industry, such as gameshows or drama-series, you focus on leaving an emotional impact on your audience. Whether it’s to make them shiver, laugh or cry, the aim of the narrative is to deliver something to be remembered. Let the story create the emotions or the insights that you wish your brand to be associated with.
Another good reason for venturing into Branded Entertainment is that it usually has a longer lifetime than other forms of advertising. Perhaps you find the production cost for a Branded Documentary a bit overwhelming and if it will give you sufficient return on investment. However, what you should keep in mind is that many Branded Entertainment pieces become company evergreens. Because the stories are created for the purpose of moving and entertaining an audience and to communicate the core values of the company, the films can often be watched long after they were produced – and still be relevant.
How do You get Users to Watch Branded Entertainment?
We have often heard the question from both brands and agencies of how “you get users to watch you branded content”? And the answer is usually, you don’t get them to do anything! People should actively choose for themselves to watch your pieces of Branded Entertainment, because they find them engaging, interesting and relevant. Creating high engagement times to your branded content (program) pieces are actually the best litmus test for your content. It also helps if you distribute your content to an audience in environments that are made for watching, and that does not disturb the audience with pre-rolls or irrelevant messages.
The purpose of Branded Entertainment is to create a strong connection between brand and consumer. It increases brand awareness and lets the brand connect with their audience at a more personal level. By focusing on providing great stories through using Branded Entertainment as a fixed part of your marketing mix, you turn people into lifetime fans (with a brand loyal behavior) rather than one-time costumers. Just let people enjoy the content in itself and in its full length – and distribute it in a way, which makes it easy for them to come back for more entertainment.
Build Trust by Labelling your Content Correctly
One of the most important things for a piece of Branded Entertainment to succeed, is to ensure that the brand is up-front with the film being brand sponsored. Good ethics and proper labelling go hand in hand. A piece of branded Entertainment should always be clearly labelled. This is particularly important, as Branded Entertainment belongs on platforms and in marketing eco-systems, in which it must be easy for the audience to understand that a brand is behind.
As viewers of Branded Entertainment, the audience buys in to the premises of the content being branded. Branded Entertainment is more transparent than many other forms of marketing. By nature, it only works if the audience is fully aware of the fact that the content has been produced by a brand.
Branded Entertainment builds trust between brand and audience. They two come together around a genuine shared interest in a story or a topic. For example, in this film from Jaguar, where people who love cars and design can get insights from some of the best designers in the industry: https://biites.com/jaguar/.
With a Branded Entertainment piece like this, the brand is turned into an expert within their field – and away from being a traditional advertiser. They become a trusted storyteller on a specific topic that is of high value and relevance to both the brand and the audience.
“At the end of the day, all of these brands understand that the key to retaining influence is to control the narrative by thinking like media companies. The first step is to find the topic that you can authentically create content around, build a community, and then drive commerce.”
As David Bebe writes, brands that work successfully with storytelling and entertainment formats actually begin to think and act like a media company. Understanding their target group, understanding their needs and creating authentic content, that connects the brand’s values with the interest of its target group. And based on these insights – and the strong brand preferences created – they begin to work with generating sales. Tell – before sell. And always be relevant to the audience. This will result in strong brand loyalty.