(Co-Authored by: Mark Dutlow)
What was the last thing you shared with someone online?
Chances are it was a video. When you consider that video is twelve times more likely to be shared online compared to text and photos,* it is no surprise that brands are quickly realising that it is one the most effective ways to engage with consumers. In fact, video now makes up most of the shared branded content online. *(source: http://mashable.com/2012/08/24/visual-storytelling-brands/)
The Branded Video – It’s A Subtle Art
There are, however, some brands getting better results than others. These are the players pioneering the online video space.
Red Bull are a prime example of a brand doing very well with video content, precisely because they intentionally de-emphasise the brand and place more emphasis on the interesting, visually compelling content.
Red Bull have got non-branded branded content right. They produce video content with fast cars, high-flying action and big name personalities...and with absolutely no scantily clad women.
Ok, so it is not entirely true that the video content is unbranded - there is a logo on a ship or cap, or a shot of someone taking a sip from a can, but by and large Red Bull have avoided the usual heavy-handed product placement approach to which most branded videos subscribe. They let the videos do the talking. Check out the example below:
How much branding did you see in that video?
Red Bull shifts the focus away from pushing the product, and directly towards pushing high-end visually rich content that fits well with their brand.
But how do they achieve this? Well, for one thing, they have become a dominant sponsor in the extreme sports world and relish the chance to showcase the innovative and the downright awe-inspiring stuff that people do. Why? Because they're an energy drink, and you need a lot of energy to achieve the extreme. Whether people actually use their product while taking part in these sports/activities is beside the point, because it just so happens that this is content that people want to see and share. Here is another example:
Brand marketers can certainly learn a thing or two from Red Bull's approach to branded content. But they are not the only ones doing cool things in this space. Volkswagen pulled off an amazing piece of non-branded brand video content when they made use of the ever-popular Star Wars in their ‘The Force’ commercial.
Watch it below, you don't realise who the brand behind this bit of content is until the very last moment:
Yes, ‘The Force’ is an ad, but first and foremost it is a piece of entertainment. As more brands move away from producing video content specifically for traditional media (television and cinema) and more towards producing video content that can be broadcast on multiple platforms, there is going to be less of a need to differentiate between branded content, and content produced for the fun of it.
‘The Force’ did well for a number of reasons, firstly it was entertaining and compelling and secondly it resisted the temptation to push the product on the viewer until it was really necessary.
Branded Video Content – The shift
Research from Harvard* shows that the more prominent or intrusive a logo is, the more likely the viewer is to stop watching.
Brands, then, need to rather find creative ways of injecting their identity into the spirit of the video - thus making the content work for that brand rather than the brand working for the content. In this world, the content rules (only the best of it will be shared), and everyone wins. The viewer will get better content crafted to their interest and thus something they want to see. Brands get more viewers who are better engaged and, in turn, those brands get to become true content creators, effectively removing the stigma of advertising from their videos.
Currently ‘branded video content’ is just what we call video content that is not user generated, and has a commercial component to it. In the future there may be no need to differentiate between branded video content and non-branded video content. What we may see is that they’ll simply merge into one.