By now, it’s no surprise that video is a popular marketing tool for brands. The numbers are staggering. A whopping 86% of businesses use video content, and 93% of marketers who use video say that it's an important part of their strategy. With over two billion YouTube users it’s no secret why!
So yes, video is popular. But, just because brands use it and people watch it, doesn’t make all video effective. Video for the sake of video won’t cut it, which is why the savviest of marketers have set their sights on what’s called “branded video.”
What is branded video?
Branded video is marketing content that’s sponsored or created by a brand that — while sharing in the brand’s values — does not directly advertise or promote the brand. It aims to monetize on positive association, rather than self-promotion. So, while branded video is not a traditional ad or marketing promo, it often shares the same end goal of driving audience action (typically in the form of sales).
Need an example? Okay, think about “The Lego Movie.” Technically this is a branded video — albeit a multi-million dollar branded video (with not so subtle product placement), but still a branded video. Cookware brands that create recipe tutorials…branded video. A productivity app that publishes video interviews with successful entrepreneurs…branded video. An outdoor brand that sponsors enthusiasts or influencers to create and distribute video content supporting an active lifestyle…you guessed it, branded video.
There are many ways to do it, but one thing’s for sure: brands that do it right will reap the rewards.
Advantages of branded video content
With the growing popularity of digital video, brands must find fresh, effective ways to reach their customers. Branded video content helps businesses break through the noise and win the attention, loyalty, and (ahem) spend of prospective buyers. When done right, branded video offers the following advantages:
- Non-disruptive: By contributing to the experience, rather than disrupting it, brands are less likely to annoy viewers. Instead, they add value and contribute to the conversation, which is typically favored by audiences.
- Emotive: Many branded videos are narrative driven. They use storytelling to entertain, inform, or communicate a brand’s values, which is an effective way for brands to build more authentic, memorable connections with their audiences.
- Engaging: With the staggering amount of content on the web, many consumers develop a blindness to it. However, marketers that create the kind of branded content their target audience wants — be it funny, entertaining, or educational videos — will hold viewers’ attention and keep them coming back for more.
- Authentic: By swapping overly-salesy content for branded video, marketers are in a better position to show (not tell) customers that they are “the real deal.” It’s kind of like the secret password of marketing. It offers brands a way to prove that they are passionate and knowledgeable enough for the gatekeepers (aka: consumers) to let them in.
- Shareable: Outside of a Super Bowl ad or a particularly timely promotional video, people don’t typically share videos where the brand — not the content — takes the spotlight. Branded videos flip the dynamic, giving viewers a reason to share a brand’s content with their friends and colleagues.
Tips for creating branded video
The sight, sound, and motion of video gives it a winning advantage out of the gate. However, there’s a lot that goes into creating branded videos that are actually effective. There’s no template or magic formula (that would be too easy!), but brands can benefit from following a few tried-and-true best practices.
Think about the audience first
Just like with any content creation, marketers need to first understand who they’re talking to. Without a grasp on their audience’s unique motivations, passions, needs, and wants, a brand will struggle to produce effective content. And, no matter how slick or inspiring the content, it will fall flat if it does not speak to the right people.
Don't be afraid to outsource
With a cell phone in nearly every pocket or purse and the growing acceptance of live and rough-cut video, “producing” video content isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be. Even so, not every business has the resources or time to create branded videos in-house. For this reason, many brands sponsor existing content or turn to agencies, freelancers, publishers, and influencers to create content for them. No shame in this game!
Plan for no audio
With around 90% of video being consumed on mobile phones, it’s easy to see why sound isn’t always the default for viewers. In fact, the major social platforms have switched to automatically presenting videos with the sound muted as viewers scroll through their feed. If someone is watching a video in public or on the couch next to a friend, it’s sometimes more polite to just enjoy the video sans sound. So while branded video can have audio, many brands make sure the message is delivered even if it can’t be heard. They do this in many ways, like incorporating subtitles or leaning harder on visual storytelling where they just use sound as background or mood music.
Stick with what you know
Creating branded content for the sake of it isn’t going to get marketers anywhere. In other words, stay in your lane. Brands must produce content that aligns with their values and somehow relates to the products, services, and lifestyle they sell. Take Red Bull, the energy drink, for example. The brand has an entire digital channel — Red Bull TV — dedicated to branded videos about extreme sports. Now, wouldn’t it feel less authentic if Red Bull started a content series about knitting? We think so.
Skip the CTA
For many marketers, it’s hard to imagine producing video content without a call to action (CTA). However, in the case of branded videos, a CTA can disrupt an otherwise selfless and powerful piece of content. While most viewers understand that ultimately brands still want to sell or convince them of something, they still appreciate a break from the blatant push through the sales funnel. Instead, many brands opt for the subtlety of logo or product inclusion or “brought to you by” messaging.
Consumers today hold brands to higher standards. Gone are the days of intrusive, “me-based” marketing. Businesses must rise to the occasion and find new ways, like branded video, to win the attention, trust, and advocacy of audiences. Because without this, brands are just adding to the noise.
Note: This article was originally posted in September 2019 and has been amended to include updated information.