Branded Entertainment is still a relatively new practice, and as such, it can be difficult to find and deploy branded entertainment best practices. While many organizations have founded success with branded content, it’s not always immediately clear how their success can translate to other brands and other industries.

Currently, when Branded Entertainment is discussed as a new opportunity—depending on who is having the conversation—one of three common scenarios usually follows. In each case, these scenarios often look more like a way out of trouble than an approach to doing business in a different way. But if we look at these scenarios from slightly different angle, some Branded Entertainment best practices do emerge


Some quick-fix Branded Entertainment scenarios that are presently missing the bigger picture (as seen from their respective perspectives) include:

  • Brand Manager: Our brand has found a way into desirable content. Perhaps, but is this situation creating a real shift for the brand? Consider this frequent scenario. A serial show becomes a hit, and brands want to be a part of that success no matter what. For instance, when talent-search shows were hitting big numbers and capturing instant success, powerful consumer product brands had to get a piece of the action, even if it only meant having a glass with their logo on the table of the show’s celebrity judges. Achieving the presence of the brand on the show was accomplished, but did it really create a significant shift?
  • Content Producer: How are we going to get the series off the ground? We need a brand! The content has a chance to be produced only because of a brand’s investment; but, is there real creativity put toward the inclusion of the brand into the creative? This scenario is the traditional method of raising funds for production through standard product placement. Think of hugely successful prime-time competition shows like America’s Got Talent, seen by millions. Slap a logo on the cup the judges are drinking from, front and center to the viewer. There’s not a great deal of creativity to this approach. The goal to reach a particular number of consumers may be reached, but is this goal good enough to create a personality for the brand?
  • Agency: Branded Entertainment definitely sounds innovative enough to keep our agency’s billing growing. Has the creative work been done to really think through the brand fit? In the case of an online series, created solely by the brand’s agency, the brand is well positioned in each webisode, but is the content authentic enough to create a viral following and true consumer engagement? Health and beauty brands have often taken this approach in search of in-content participation, but in doing so did the approach create a real shift for the brand? Most importantly, have the webisodes really been watched by a wide enough audience to make an impact?

In each of these examples, Branded Entertainment is viewed most often as a solution to a problem, not as a new approach to doing business. Branded Entertainment is looked at as an immediate problem solver. Now, you might be wondering what’s wrong with that? Well, immediate solutions have a tendency to die young. When Branded Entertainment emerges as a simple solution to common media problems, the engagement process gets shortened, creative corners are cut and, as a result, partner goals tend to be ignored and there is little reach into spreading a brand’s audience. This is where problems begin. Now you have a new set of obstacles to overcome rather than a truly new approach.

Moving Past a “Quick Fix” Mentality

The “quick-fix” misconception misses the mark because it fails to fully appreciate the concept being put in motion as a complete business methodology. That said, as we look at the various ways Branded Entertainment is understood, or partially understood, in the industry, a three-dimensional image is beginning to emerge from the many observed sides. In addition to having the potential to solve problems, Branded Entertainment is also:

  • A cool trend
  • An alternate approach to the 30-Second Spot
  • The 2.0 version of product placement

Each of these trends can help us develop a branded entertainment best practices approach:

  • Cool. Industry insiders who view Branded Entertainment as “cool” are latching onto it because they see Branded Entertainment as both new and innovative. Branded Entertainment reflects modern thinking for the brands and an unexplored way to get consumers.
  • An Alternative Approach: Recognizing Branded Entertainment as an alternative approach implies an acceptance of the concept that brands have options to choose from. Brands can create content beyond traditional 30-second spots. A brand can opt in on ideas for entertaining content and play an integral role in the development of the content.
  • Product Placement Version 2.0: Ultimately, embracing Branded Entertainment as “Product Placement 2.0” reveals an understanding that content and brands can now live side by side – the brand is no longer relegated to the background. The 2.0 upgrade specifically refers to the potential of Branded Entertainment to create a more even relationship between the content and the brand.

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