Walt Clark

Branded content has existed for a very long time. If you look at Renaissance artists, most if not all of them were able to make their art by being funded by wealthy patrons and the Church. What has changed since Da Vinci’s time is that businesses are commissioning artists to create more than just portraits and statues, but content that will resonate with target audiences.

During the 1950s, Ronald Reagan hosted General Electric Theatre, where between plays and musical numbers, Americans would learn about what new technology GE was bringing them from the future. That work has continued to the present day, where now you have the Lego Batman Movie, a two hour toy commercial that people are eager to pay to see.

In a world that has become saturated with content, quality has become increasingly important for brands to stand out. The trick, as always, is in the execution.

Picking the right content to sponsor

Last year I was introduced to this video:

Take a minute to digest it.

What you just watched was a 2016 Gold Clio Winner for branded content. Do you know who the brand is? What they’re trying to sell?

This fake movie trailer was made in order to sell men’s fragrances. Here’s the website.

Considering this content had less than 20,000 views, it is unlikely it generated much in the way of purchases. I happened to find this video because I work in marketing, but if I was in a different industry, it’s highly likely I would never have heard of it.

As a business, it’s not just about the creative you’re making, but the distribution channels you’re using and the audience you’re trying to reach. Simply creating something and throwing it up on the web is not a strategy. Before crafting content, it is important to understand how content is going to be distributed to your target audience. Investing everything into a piece of content without the follow through becomes a missed opportunity.

More channels, more options

You don’t have to produce 10 seasons worth of programming to make effective branded content. You can cost-effectively produce branded content using modern technology.

A great example of this is House of Swank Clothing out of Raleigh, North Carolina. This business creates t-shirts that celebrate all things North Carolina, sometimes in ways that outsiders wouldn’t understand.

A post shared by John Pugh (@houseofswank) on

As part of staying up on everything current in town, CEO John Pugh runs several podcasts about what is happening in Raleigh and in the surrounding area, talking to local leaders and spreading the word to listeners. These podcasts serve as a form of branded content, allowing him to stay current with the local scene while also increasing his brand’s credibility as a member of the community. Running a podcast doesn’t have the same flash as launching a Hollywood production, but I would argue it has a greater impact on House of Swank’s customer base and, ultimately, its bottom line.

It can be tricky to break away from traditional advertising models, but many businesses are finding success by utilizing sponsored content to bring in new customers and enhance their images. It is in many ways the next logical step for content marketing maturation, as customers are demanding more in exchange for their attention.