The mission, magic and transparency of engaging branded content

21st May 2018

Why do we happily accept some select pieces of branded content, whilst rejecting others? I’ve been thinking about why some branded stories work, and why other branded content just looks too … well, brand-ey.

Last week I was sent a Vimeo link from a friend, with the words ‘watch this’ in the title. Clicking play, I found myself fully engaged in the story of a Syrian refugee navigating his way through modern American life to make a living for himself and his family.

It didn’t strike me as a brand piece until the end of the video, when I realised it was created for US company Square. Square provides mobile payment solutions for small businesses and have created a series of branded mini-documentaries that provide snapshots of real US entrepreneurs.

We’ve all had that feeling reaching the end of a video, where we suddenly realise we are being sold to and feel that uncomfortable pang of frustration. But I didn’t get that with this film from Square, “Yassin Falafel”. The video was so well crafted and the narrative was so strong, that I just felt glad that I’d taken the time to watch. It was this that got me thinking about why this story works, where others fail.

What are the 3 ingredients of effective branded content?

I’ve managed to distill it down to 3 key ingredients that make this an effective piece of branded content marketing.

Mission – How does the story link to your brands mission?

The narrative of Squares film fits perfectly with their mission of empowering small businesses. It acts to inspire entrepreneurs to feel that they can achieve their goals, just like Yassin.

Magic – What’s the magic ingredient that will drive people to care?

In ‘Yassin Falafel’, the magic comes from the heartfelt story of a man trying to make the best life for himself and his family in the face of adversity. I cared about his journey and wanted to find out where it led. The story and production in this example have so much magic that the film has gone on to win several short film awards.

Transparency – Are you being 100% transparent about your objectives?

Square’s objective seemed to be to raise brand awareness by telling interesting stories about real people. They’re not trying to hide that, but at the same time they weren’t subliminally trying to sell me products or services in the film.

Questions to ask about brand video content

Try asking yourself these questions when you’re reading through your next branded content idea.

Is the subject matter really something that deserves to be heard and given a voice? Also, can you genuinely say that you are making this content to get a message out there, rather than purely making it to promote your product, brand or service? The key is in changing the typical mindset that you might have when you approach creating a standard marketing video.

Creating really engaging branded content isn’t about featuring your product or logo, or talking about your brand.

It’s about providing a voice to a story that you genuinely believe in and putting it out in the world.

For me, these three ingredients can act as a great starter litmus test to judge branded content ideas by.

If an idea doesn’t tick all those boxes, then maybe it’s time to get thinking again.

If you want to discuss how content marketing can help your brand, do get in touch for a chat.

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