Some say it is the "fusion" of advertising and entertainment.
But, the potential for audience enjoyment can be seen as a dimension of any media content. Advertising has long been evaluated in terms of its entertainment value. Indeed, "attitude toward the ad" has been an aspect of advertising research for well over a century.
Some say branded content began with sponsored radio programs during the 1930s. The term "soap opera" comes from the prominence of packaged goods companies as sponsors and producers of their own radio programs. Advertising agencies once had specialized production departments to provide the needed creative services.
However, the origins of branded content and its definition as a marketing communication practice go back even further in time, long before the age of broadcasting.
Here's an 1880 trade card for Ayers Sarsaparilla.
Trade cards are a long-standing advertising practice. They can be packaged as a premium or gift along with a wide variety of consumer products. In the 1880s, trade cards were often distributed by traveling salespeople long before national advertising media became a centering factor in marketing.
As branded content, the information and enjoyment provided by trade cards can be valued by consumers for its own sake. The ideas and feelings imparted in this manner support favorable brand associations. Importantly, these associations are made in an implicit, natural manner.
So, what is branded content? It is a new term for a very old practice.
Broadly speaking, branded content is brand storytelling. It is a broader term than "brand journalism," an idea that inherently likens advertising to commercial news.
Here is a recent example of branded content in a video format, the kind of material that can be placed in paid media or released to find its audience in a viral manner.
Actions to provide consumers with enjoyable and meaningful experiences such as the John Lewis holiday video are not a new marketing communication method. What is new is that the media environment has changed.
The competition for attention is increasingly intense in today's accelerated and complex electronic media. Marketers are finding value in actions that are truly consumer centric. This underscores the growing importance of a newly minted term for a longstanding practice, branded content.
Copyright © 2013 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.