Not Your Parents’ Branded Content

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Content branding has evolved and grown to the point where it seems like, as Keith Hernandez, SVP of Brand Strategy and Sales at Bleacher Report, said, “everyone has a studio” for creating brand content. With the growth that has taken place, brands need to know how to make their content stand out from the rest. To do this, Hernandez said brands need to elevate their content to a level that’s inclusive of their audience, not exclusive. Although this was one of the first statements of the seminar, this idea of engaging with the audience proved to be steady theme throughout the event.

In addition to Hernandez, the panel of speakers for this seminar included Otto Bell, CCO of Courageous, Jennifer Cohen, SVP of Entertainment Content Partnerships at Turner Ignite, Jill King, SVP of Marketing and Partnerships at Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang and Hallie Johnston, SVP of Client Services and Strategy at Refinery29. Kelly Liyakasa, a senior editor for AdExchanger, moderated the panel.

When it comes to inclusive content branding, King discussed the importance of bringing the audience into the brand’s universe. To show this, she used the popular Adult Swim show “Rick and Morty” as an example. Adult Swim produces extra “Rick and Morty” content, such as mobile games, to bring the audience further into the show’s universe. King added that, even though the release of new seasons takes about a full year, their team is constantly working to develop additional brand content.

Members of the panel also touched on the importance of knowing the right platforms to use to promote your content. The length of your content, whether it’s visual or not and various other factors play into the decisions of where to post and promote brand content. Certain platforms also have extra benefits, such as YouTube and other online platforms that allow the audience to engage with the content through reactions and comments. These engagements act as greater insight into the brand’s audience and can allow for changes to the brand’s strategy.

The use of new platforms such as virtual reality and AI can also bring content branding to a higher level. For example, Bell talked about his organization’s work with Volvo to create a live-streamed virtual reality experience of the 2017 solar eclipse. Through their thoughtful use of technology, they were able to create brand content for Volvo that the audience could fully engage and interact with.

One of the final important pieces of content branding advice the panel ended with was to create content that the audience could not only connect with but also relate to. Johnston referred to this as “going from IRL (in real life) to URL.” She described this practice as an organic move that highlights experiences instead of just showcasing a product and its abilities. Hernandez elaborated on the idea of relatable content by discussing how audiences make a greater connection through relating to the content, rather than just simply enjoying the message.

The panelists agreed that content branding will continue to grow and evolve to fit the needs of the audiences. They predicted that due to the effectiveness and demand, a high number content branding will move in-house so brands won’t have to cut as many checks and will be able to produce their own content for the right audience.

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