It sounds like a contradiction when you explain to anyone that creating content without showing your product or talking about it will leverage your brand. Classic advertisement is about showcasing the product, branded content about telling a story about it, but non branded content is entertainment aligned with your core values and in my opinion the most powerful tool companies have these days.
Budgets are already shifting from classical advertisement to digital and while we see the landscape of media changing the next logical step is not from ads to branded but to nonbranded content. Digital adverting, product heavy branded content are not things people want to watch and they can ignore ads much better today than in the past where the TV set just had a commercial break
Nowadays companies that are build on content create products and sell, Glossier and Goop are perfect examples how strong, interesting content can generate sales. Content that was non branded and editorial can sell. This is why for so many years female magazines like VOGUE had the power to decide who will be big in fashion. Today the digital landscape makes magazines thinner and less powerful. We need new forms of content, digital, video, shorter, more modern and since the big media houses don’t have the advertisement money they used to have their content is getting weaker.
Over the past 15 years I have worked on non branded content for clients such as Swarovski, Mercedes, Smart, Stylebop… Online Magazines and Video Series that did not mention any product, but told stories about cool creatives, new initiatives, how to make the world a better place, the avant-garde, artists, fashion, design, interesting people, opinion leaders. The content pieces or articles were timeless, often times written and directed as mini series that worked together.
For one of the mini documentaries for Avant Garde Diaries for Mercedes-Benz, I even go an award as best fashion documentary. There were no cars involved and not even Brand Logos. Mercedes would place those videos on a separate website with images and texts and play them also on their own website. Why? Because as brands sponsor sports events, charities and brand ambassadors, they should also sponsor creative content about them. In the future this content can be shown at the mobile versions of Netflix - whoever will take that role and deal with more short form content will see that most of it will be finances by brands. Maybe the produced by one day will be a logo, a brand name or a company. Because streaming platforms don’t have advertisement and brands will want to reach the audiences they will find their way in by producing content.
If you want to disagree and show the product, I get it, but who cares about your product? Millennials and Gen-z consumers are more aware about conscious companies and about values. We live in a world where politics have failed and where you don’t need to look far to see that also companies are failing us. If they want to stay relevant they need to do and be more than just selling. They need to be like well rounded human beings, with a heart and a soul, values, and with a sense of helping the community, engaging in charitable causes, caring about people and speaking their values propose and mission though a channel that is non branded content. They can align with influencers and authentic spokespeople, brand ambassadors, scientists to stand for something. If that something is adding value to our lives. It can be a piece of content that makes us smile, something that shows us beauty, something that touches us or makes us think, but it cannot be someone selling us something.
This is especially valid for huge corporations and companies, even if they cannot change their product to catch the wellness, organic sustainable wave, they can grasp whatever they want to be associated with and magnify those voices. A few million spend on an advertisement can now go on social media videos that inspire people. If you see what viral videos do or have is that they entertain us in some way. The next level of entertainment is to let it be pure and then let the brand communicate about it.
Yes, we will probably still have branded content and commercials. But if a company these days misses the huge chance to really move the needle and get to the core of its values and what it stands for, looking for the right non branded content that is a perfect extension to their voice is crucial.
The biggest opportunity in creating non branded content is its distribution, while you have to pay for advertisements, you might get contacted by platforms to share your non branded series. Or you might be able to collaborate with media partners, blogs or influencers that might have been out of your reach in a branded campaign.
The best solution is for big companies to have one or even several non branded platforms that serve as home for the new outlets, non branded magazines, video series or channels. A simple presented by, maybe a tiny logo at the end is enough to build a connection. The official company pages can cross share and promote the newfound content outlets and improve the image of the company quickly. Imagine your trusted reader or viewer finds out that your company was behind a piece of content that they enjoyed after they consumed it. The perceived value of your brand and its image would grow exponentially.
The idea of using creativity for good causes in my opinion doesn’t have to be about charities in a world where media outlets have less and less money to produce great content pieces a company can make the difference by producing niche market high quality content. It is not always about the views but about targeting the right audience and about sharing your taste as a company. Investing in good content is always a good idea.
By Katharina Baron