Branded content – storytelling that sells

A lot of attention has been given to storytelling in marketing and selling, but the focus has rarely been on using storytelling as an entertainment vehicle.

Years ago, BMW created a series of branded content videos that were directed by famous movie directors. BMW was really at the forefront of the movement to create stories that entertained customers. They understood the value of entertainment as a soft way of selling and of the power of using Hollywood star power, without the typical endorsement deals.

More recently, millions of people have watched NBA star, Kyrie Irving, play ‘Uncle Drew’ in Pepsi Max’s branded content videos. In these videos, Kyrie plays the role of a senior citizen who schools a group of younger players on the basketball court. The focus of the videos is not on the story of Pepsi Max, nor its features or marketing messaging, but on the story of the most unlikely of playground heroes. This form of storytelling allows Pepsi to target a specific market segment and provide it with entertainment that it will enjoy. Pepsi then reaps the benefits of the association that the audience forms between Pepsi and the funny videos, while also providing product placement opportunities for the company.

The experiment was a success, and Pepsi Max released another set of videos. This time around, Jeff Gordon played the role of a nerdy, middle aged man who test drives a Camaro with an unsuspecting used car salesman riding shotgun. Hilarity ensues as the NASCAR star takes the salesman for the drive of his life.

Consumers are tired of blatant attempts at sales, and are asking brands "What more can you do for me?". Entertaining them is one way of answering that question, and branded content provides the vehicle for doing so.