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The Subtle Art of Creating Branded Content

It is imperative to create branded content that doesn't portray the brand in the face of the consumers but it should also not be the case where it gets lost in the narrative. explores the right balance of creating branded content that doesn't look like ads, and remains unique to the brand and compelling to the target audience

All brands are jumping on the content bandwagon at a time when gaining the consumer’s attention has become the most important commodity. In the race to be on top of consumers’ preferences, a lot of brands are creating content that is just not right for the audience and is adding no or little value to attain their goals set while creating branded content. The branded content should be unique enough to hold a consumer’s attention for long. It’s tough for brands to refrain from showing too much of the brand in content, but the key should be to create a narrative around the brand that acts as a catalyst in the story.

Deepak Lamba, CEO, Worldwide Media, said, “I believe that sometimes it is quite important to serve as thought leaders in your communication rather than doing in-the-face product marketing. Capturing the core emotion of the consumer with the essence of what the product stands for, rather than only focusing on product benefits or attributes, goes a long way in creating a higher recall value.”

Ankur Kansal, Brand Director, Jaguar Land Rover India, said that a content strategy is most likely to succeed when supported by a well-thought-out set of rules, especially regarding visibility and placement of the brand. Such brand placements must be authentic, credible and seamless to avoid the risk of it being rejected by audiences as undesirable publicity and marketing stunt.

According to reports, video content is likely to contribute 90% of all content viewed by 2020 and the number of people who will view video content in India is likely to grow to 450 million in the same time. Given the explosion happening in the video consumption space, it has become more and more imperative for brands to stand out in the clutter through a well-planned content strategy.

Kansal said, “This trend makes it imperative for brands to formulate sound video content strategies that enable effective communication of compelling brand stories to relevant audiences in an engaging and unique manner and it is imperative that a brand is able to break the clutter using its content strategy.”

Sharing JLR’s content strategy, Kansal shared the five questions they ask themselves while evaluating each piece of content:

1. Is the content unique?

2. Will it make the audience laugh?

3. Will it move the audience emotionally?

4. Does it involve a never-seen-before stunt?

5. Does it address our audience’s passion point?

The brands should create content in a way that if removed from the content, the content loses value or cannot survive, which is very rare. The marketers should focus on associating with content that adds value to the brand and not looks like a forced fit.

Asif Upadhye, who is Director and Darth Vader at Yellow Seed, a content strategy and development agency, seconds that it is definitely tough to find a balance between content that is widely relatable and content that is relevant to the brand. He said, “Creating something like this is not impossible though, and perhaps, rather than content that solely rests on the brand and is irrelevant without it, we need to approach content from the perspective of how it adds value to the brand identity.” 

Girish Bindal, Director, Content Marketing at Elara Group (Housing, PropTiger, Makaan), explained that for a brand to have a relevant role in the content, they should ensure they are positioned in either of the three ways:

1. As an expert offering solution.

2. As an initiative taken by the brand that resonates with the target audience.

3. The storyline aligns brand values with that of the audience closely.

Bindal added, “Given that the brand is able to manage any of the three, it becomes difficult to disassociate the brand from the content. Also, the content should speak to the target audience in the language they understand; once the content hits a chord with the audience, they will start to associate the brand with a certain content piece.”

Saugata Bagchi, Head, Global Content Marketing, Customer Success Group, Tata Communications, believes that the story or idea should always come first and ideally should be consumable by the audience irrespective of the brand plug. He added, “The brand should ideally find a place in the narrative and not the other way around. Good brand integration definitely makes it worthwhile for the marketer, but if that becomes the only benchmark, audience engagement will become an issue in the long run. It’s a fine balance keeping the story on-brand, while not going overboard. Audiences see through it.”

Brands are focusing on creating good quality content. In the process, a lot of times it is seen that one remembers the content and forgets the brand associated with it. In this case, the brand becomes replaceable by any other brand in the content and loses its uniqueness. Aparna Mahesh, Chief Marketing Officer at, said, “This is a question several marketers in the BFSI sector are dealing with. When it comes to factual content, there are bound to be similarities because of the topicality.”

One can take this problem only at the insight level. Upadhye said that it depends on whether the insights leading to the brand in question are relevant only to that brand or the category itself. He said, “You can segregate these into life, category and brand-specific and this means that certain thoughts will be relevant to life, some only to the category and some only to a particular brand because of its positioning.”

Suggesting some more measures to curb this problem, Mahesh said, “When many brands create content, there would definitely be some kind of an overlap. However, this is balanced out by the manner in which the brand keeps putting out the content. The style, voice, tone and frequency all count. Topics may be similar but the frequency at which it is released and the depth at which it is discussed makes all the difference.

Bindal concluded, “Each brand has a unique proposition; an ideal branded content strategy is one where the content is able to communicate the brand positioning, value proposition and the brand story while creating a favourable bias in the audience's mind. Any content piece that is able to communicate all three will end up being unique, and any force fit of another brand in the same category will seem false and shallow. Every compelling story needs to have a central character/idea, and I cannot see how one can create a good content piece that is not woven around that central character or idea.  The brand and content have a symbiotic relationship, and neither will work in the absence of the other.”

This article first appeared on BuzzInContent and features Yellow Seed: The Content Company


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