Here we are. The year 2015. We’ve got access to the sum of the world’s knowledge right in our pockets. We can speak face-to-face with almost anyone in the world at any time. We can spend our whole day looking at hilariously captioned cat pictures without ever seeing the same one twice.

What a world.

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The digital age is upon us, and things that, even 20 years ago, would’ve seemed idiotic to even suggest, are now part of normal everyday life. And as the world has changed, so too has the relationship between brand and consumer.

In the 50s and 60s, you couldn’t get on TV unless you were a particularly sharply dressed man. On top of the tight threads, you needed presence, good diction, and an air of trustworthiness that gave the home viewer a chance to relax, and not question what you were saying.

You needed all this because advertisements went something along the lines of:

‘J. WENTWORTH’S LARD-INFUSED BATH SOAP

‘GOT GREASE ON YOUR PAWS FROM A LONG HARD DAY OF BEING A 1950’S BLUE COLLAR MAN?

‘HAS THE WIFE GOT CHARCOAL STAINS FROM CLEANING THE OVEN, OR SOME OTHER WOMAN’S HOUSEHOLD CHORE?

‘J. WENTWORTH’S IS THE BEST SOAP THERE IS. NONE COMPARE

‘YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME, AS I’M A SHARPLY DRESSED MAN ON THE TELEVISION

‘J. WENTWORTH’S. FOR GREASE, CHARCOAL, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN’

And people lapped it up. Television was a new and exciting medium, and the fact that the advertiser had the both the initiative and the means to screen an ad spoke volumes about the pedigree of the brand.

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Times have changed. Consumers have a far more discerning palate when it comes to advertising these days. And they’ve had to develop the understanding of these nuances as the playing field of advertising has changed.

The block letter newspaper spreads, the infomercial style television ads – they’re still around, but are far less successful in capturing the attention of the public than they once were. Smarter, more creative and less recognisable forms of brand exposure are the order of the day, and thanks to the internet, anyone, from tiny start-up to multi-billion dollar mega-chain, can have a swing at it.

“This is all well and good”, you say, tapping your foot on the ground impatiently like a pensioner waiting for his last bingo number, “but how do I advertise smarter, more creatively, and in a way that is less obviously an ad?”

Branded Content.

“But what the heck is branded content?

Glad you asked.

Branded content is a way of getting your brand out there through content that doesn’t directly sell a product or service. Instead, branded content informs or entertains the consumer, so that recognition of the brand is increased, without attacking anyone with a bloodhound style hard sell.

And the internet was built for it.

With the success of social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, your branded content masterpiece could go viral without you doing any more than uploading it to the world wide web.

Taking a look at the branded work of some of the big boys will make your realise how immense digital content marketing can be for a brand. Having a gander at Red Bull or GoPro’s YouTube channels reveals the lengths that these companies go to stay relevant in their faithful’s eyes.

But you don’t need to be a titan of industry to utilise the seemingly unlimited potential of internet. Smaller start-ups have also managed to crack the content code.

In 2012, just nine months after opening for business, Dollar Shave Club came up with an idea for a video to help kick their little start-up along.

They went with a very familiar theme.

They had a sharply dressed man. They spoke directly into the camera about their product in an analytical, feature/benefit sort of way.

But they did so with a wit and charisma that surprised the viewer so much that it went gangbusters, and exploded them into a multi-million dollar household name they are today.

Surprise your audience. Make them think. That’s what branded internet content is all about.