Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Should You Brand Your Content? Yes, You Should!

Recently, this article on AdAge observed that some brands are so afraid of looking like greedy hard-sellers that they omit branding from their content entirely. But it argues that there’s no use producing great content if you don’t put your name on it. We agree, and here’s why:

Content with prominent branding can and does work.

Consider just two of many heavily-branded-yet-well-received campaigns:

  1. Nutella‘s Ultimate Day Out: Nutella ran a campaign just last year that got shoppers to draw their idea of an ultimate day out – on a 2m-high virtual slice of Nutella-covered toast. The campaign increased sampling of Nutella by 17%. Nutella’s brand was clearly identifiable, but its campaign was still well-received because participants liked the warmth and emotional connection, and easily associated that with Nutella, and its breakfast spread.
  2. Chipotle’s ethical supply chain: Chipotle’s campaigns criticizing factory farming, Fiona Apple the scarecrow, and its Hulu series “Farmed and Dangerous“, have great entertainment value on their own. Fiona Apple is a heartwarming tearjerker about the importance of rejecting factory-farmed food; and “Farmed and Dangerous” is a dystopian and hilarious satire of the food industry. Although Chipotle’s brand was prominently featured in both its campaigns, that didn’t matter – people liked them, they generated plenty of buzz.

Consumers demand content that is meaningful to them, and engages their thoughts and feelings. Content that doesn’t do that is simply ignored in an age where information is abundant.

So if your content isn’t at least funny, heart-warming, or otherwise engaging, neither you nor your audience benefit from it.

Content can be amazing, but if it doesn’t resonate with the brand, it doesn’t help much.

The article mentions Red Bull as a brand that heavily brands its action-sports content, that continues to enjoy fervent loyalty across the globe.

Here’s a thought experiment to consider: What if Red Bull to did an ad celebrating an interracial couple, like Cheerios’ did? They could, of course, but that would be rather tangential to the spirit of Red Bull’s brand: high-octane energy, extreme sports, breaking boundaries. It would dilute their brand.

A negative example makes this clearer. Take this recent ad from Snickers Australia. For the most part of the ad you see some male construction workers yelling empowering things at women like “YOU KNOW WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE? A SOCIETY IN WHICH THE OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN MAKES WAY FOR GENDER-NEUTRAL INTERACTION.”


Putting aside the fact that yelling things at passing women is hardly an appropriate way to make them feel respected, the punchline is out-of-place and offensive: At the end of the ad, Snicker’s hunger-related quip appears: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

The connection that viewers are supposed to make is that, somehow, anti-sexist attitudes are hunger-induced, and Snickers is supposed to fix that.

I mean…

We wish this was never utilized in advertising before. We wish.

The point is– it’s good to experiment, to be edgy and different, but it’s important to clarify how it all ultimately serves the brand.

Here’s a flowchart we put together to illustrate the kind of content you should produce, and show off:

Hey, we gotta practice what we preach! 😉

Branding is great on content that serves both brand and audience.

Content marketing tends to fail when it misunderstands one (or both) of those elements. If you have a deep understanding of your brand and your audience, then almost anything you put out will be worth celebrating.


Read next: Minimum Viable Content: Real Talk About Content Marketing (And The 4 Mistakes You’ll Make)

Melissa Tsang

Melissa Tsang

Melissa Tsang is a writer and speaker on the social impact of ecommerce and technology. She's also a bit of an impulse shopper. (A bit.)

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