Branded content is entertainment provided with a branded aspect, like a series of films that all revolve around the same product or family of products. Such content provides entertainment value to consumers and also sells them a product or idea. It often sets a specific tone or style to make consumers feel more attached to a given brand; instead of just selling an item like paper towels, the branded content also sells a specific lifestyle and enhances brand loyalty. The consumer's purchasing choices are not just about which brands he thinks will meet his needs, but which will fulfill his aspirations.
The origins of branded content are very old. A number of advertisers used short, entertaining narratives in magazine and radio advertising in the early 20th century to attract consumers. In the late 20th century, the concept expanded with the assistance of the Internet. A number of brands created interactive websites, short film series, and other forms of entertainment to draw in users. In addition to selling products, some also sold brands in the form of individuals, like pop stars who wanted to project a specific image.
Examples of branded content can include video series that feature a single product in different settings, often with a narrative surrounding it, along with websites that may draw users into an alternate reality game. A number of television shows, for example, expand their brand reach by getting users involved online. These websites may tie in with social networking so users can share accomplishments with friends and promote the brand through public postings and interactions.
This type of marketing tends to immerse the target demographic in an experience, and the branding may not always be immediately obvious. Some branded content takes the form of viral marketing, where a video or other phenomenon spreads and may not be immediately associated with a specific brand. Users may share content, adapt and remix it, or add their own content without realizing that they are participating in an advertising campaign.
Luxury and high end brands can use branded content to reinforce their exclusive nature, while other brands may use it to showcase a sense of fun, whimsy, and general consumer appeal. The content is always tailored to reach a specific demographic and to shape perceptions of the brand and the family of related companies. A company selling candies, for example, might want to stress a family-friendly company ethic, while other brands might position themselves as edgy and dangerous through their branded content to appeal to younger, single consumers.