What’s in a word? Why ‘branded content’ makes no sense

tim hodgsonIn this guest post, Tim Hodgson argues that ‘branded content’ is a misnomer for the business of brands creating original content.  

Whilst the industry seems to have settled with the broad term ‘Branded Entertainment’ to capture disciplines such as sponsorship, events, activations and branded content there still seems to be a fair bit of debate around the right term for branded content itself. Everyone seems to be trying to find a new angle, a market leading term. Well, at risk of instigating multiple eye rolls, and even the odd Dame Edna sag of the side of the mouth, I wanted to share the only term that I believe works.

You see, “ad funded programming”, “brand funded content, custom content, “editorially led marketing”… None of these say what they need to say.

Brands don’t just write the cheques any more. They aren’t marketing in the old sense of the word. They are not paying for the right to just customise content.

Brands have a history and heritage. They have stories to tell. They have values, and personalities, carved over years of thoughtful marketing and interactions with their consumers. Many have channels to speak through. No, not just speaking at people any more, but speaking with people. They actually have ‘friends’ now, an ongoing relationship with likeminded people. All brands know their audience inside out, what they like and dislike, how best to reach them, how best to pull their strings.

Make no mistake, these brands can inspire great content. Content that viewers choose to watch – these days no one watches anything other than content they choose. But also, lets be clear, they are not experts in carving and narrating stories in longer form and harnessing the power of engagement that they can build by doing this. That’s where the collaboration piece comes in.

The media owners and production companies of the future need to embrace the personalities behind the brand, and work creatively with them to offer clever and unique content ideas inspired by everything the brand has to offer. We need to move away from creating formats and expecting brand funding to follow. Offers of just product placement, verbal mentions, supers and billboards to pre-existing content will no longer stack up other than for the FTA blockbusters.

We need to actually work with the brand to co-create from the outset. That is when the messaging will be right, the relevance will be spot on and the brand won’t feel forced into content. Viewers are always comfortable with brand involvement in the content if the content is great. And it is up to the brand inspired content experts of this world to translate all the languages(media, production andbrand) to ensure that great intentions lead to greatresults.

Hence the only term I believe describes this evolving discipline correctly is… ‘brand inspired content’.

Tim Hodgson is general manager of Ensemble.


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