How brands represent who they are is continually evolving. So too is the role they play in the cultural domains of the tribes with which they wish to engage.
For brands to remain relevant, articulating who they are and what they stand for is now an essential part of communications.
It’s widely known that branded content done well is one of the most effective ways of enabling brands to become an integral, authentic part of popular culture. As we enter 2021, there are more reasons than ever to embrace branded content, and this year we will see more brands investing and collaborating with like-minded partners, producers and content experts. Here’s why…
Purpose is more important than ever
The Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report 2020 reported that the public’s trust in companies and governments alike has fallen, and that capitalism, as exists today, does more harm than good. Linked to this is a new era of activism, from racial equality to the climate emergency. The spirit of insurgency is strong. Covid has changed our priorities; how we work, interact with others and spend our time and money.
86% of Gen-Z consumers believe companies should take a stand on social issues, whilst 75% pay more for sustainable products.
A desire for less waste, less haste, more life balance and more community engagement underpins the growth of conscious consumerism, especially in younger adults. Story Science’s report, The Science of Generation Z Consumers: How to Avoid Irrelevance in a Post-millennial World, found that 86% of Gen-Z consumers believe companies should take a stand on social issues, whilst 75% pay more for sustainable products. More importantly, 54% would consider stopping buying from unethical brands. For brands to remain relevant, articulating who they are and what they stand for is now an essential part of communications. Storytelling through content is the most effective and engaging way of doing so. But it must be backed up by brand behaviour to have credibility.
Above: YouTube's Does the Shoe Fit? is made in partnership with Foot Asylum.
Viewing is shifting to ad-free platforms
Share of content consumption continues to shift to digital platforms. High end, big budget productions are increasingly consumed on-demand through Netflix, Apple+, Prime Video and VOD services all over the world, with lower cost productions using platforms like YouTube to their strengths. Younger audiences continue to consume more peer-created content on TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram.
Skilfully-crafted content enables brands to cut through in [an] updated landscape.
The migration has seen traditional broadcasters, from the BBC to Discovery, prioritise their VOD services in the commissioning, releasing and marketing of programmes. Time-shifted PVR, SVOD and YouTube viewing can all skip conventional advertising messages. Skilfully-crafted content enables brands to cut through in this updated landscape. The most recent series of YouTube dating show, Does The Shoe Fit?, is a great example. Developed in partnership with streetwear retailer Foot Asylum, the show attracts over 2m views per episode within a week of episode publication.
Channels and platforms are embracing branded entertainment
Media channels are embracing a collaborative approach to working with brands. Commercial UK broadcasters like Channel 4 are actively convening brands, agencies and producers to stimulate growth in long-form branded entertainment. OTT content services are realising the appeal of combining their technology, data and platforms to offer brands exciting new opportunities.
Starbucks’ This is Football is a great example of what brands with big budgets can do.
The ability to self-publish on Amazon’s Prime Video service presents huge benefits, a brand’s editorial proposition need not perfectly align with a broadcaster’s programming strategy and, better still, the ability to utilise Amazon’s first-party data to target the right audience with paid-for promotional ads can drive an audience to branded content without requirement of a schedule.
Also game-changing is being able to target those who have viewed your content with product advertising in the retail space. Starbucks’ This is Football is a great example of what brands with big budgets can do. And it’s not just Amazon; other VOD platforms, like the soon-to-launch YouLook AVOD service, are building branded content into their proposition from the outset. All in all, there is now a greater range of distribution opportunities for brands and a genuine desire to collaborate.
Above: The Starbucks series, This is Football, features on Amazon Prime.
Brands will behave like content publishers
Brands themselves are behaving more like publishers. LEON, the healthy fast food restaurant brand, launched LEON Presents at the start of 2020; a platform created to tell stories of wellbeing, sustainability and environmental responsibility, bringing to life the brand proposition of providing food that is ‘good for you and kind to the planet’.
2021 offers brands huge opportunities to collaborate, create and distribute entertainment.
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Mexican-brewed beer brand Corona recently announced the launch of Corona Studios, an in-house company producing original content for distribution across their global social channels and owned digital channels. A response to what the brand says is the biggest challenge to marketers: engaging consumers in an authentic way.
Listen up! more branded podcasts
Last, but by no means least, the continued rise of podcast consumption, its significantly lower cost of production (than film) and high engagement rates have brought more advertisers to the branded content space than ever before. Leading podcast platform Acast reports that 2020 will have seen more than double the branded podcasts on its platform than the previous year with 2021 set to be bigger still.
This all creates a very exciting backdrop for brands. 2021 offers brands huge opportunities to collaborate, create and distribute entertainment. The shift in consumers’ desires and innovations in the content space mean there has never been a better time to do it.