The Branded Content Conundrum

Over a decade ago, the term “branded content” emerged in the realm of video production and storytelling, holding the promise of revolutionizing how brands and businesses communicate in the digital age. At the time,  I truly believed we were entering a new and exciting phase of brand storytelling. However, despite its potential, this approach has primarily been adopted by larger brands such as Coke, Dove, Tom’s Shoes, and Ben and Jerry’s, while many others have remained hesitant to embrace it fully.


What is Branded Video Content?

Let me set the stage by explaining what Branded video content actually is. It involves creating powerful narratives or cinematic stories that are seamlessly integrated with a brand’s messaging and values. It goes beyond traditional advertising by offering engaging and valuable content that resonates with the target audience. The benefits of branded video content are manifold: it allows brands to connect emotionally with their audience, create a memorable impression, enhance brand awareness, and foster long-term customer loyalty.

To illustrate the power of branded content, let’s explore some notable examples. 

BMW Films is often hailed as a pioneer in this field. They produced a series of short films that showcased their vehicles in thrilling and innovative ways, capturing the attention of both car enthusiasts and general audiences. 


BMW Films: The Calm


BMW Films: The Hire


Other successful examples include Red Bull’s adrenaline-pumping extreme sports videos. 


“The Switch” is a branded short film directed by Ringan Ledwidge for Nike. It debuted during the 2016 Euro Cup and at five minutes and fifty seven seconds it is Nike’s longest film. At the core of the film is the message that anyone can reach the status of Ronaldo (whom many would argue to be the best player alive), through hard work, focus, and dedication.



So What The Hell Is Going On?

Despite the potential benefits, many brands, business and even some of my own clients have been hesitant to embrace branded content and storytelling in the digital age. One possible explanation is what I refer to as the “selling syndrome.” Business owners and in-house marketing teams often believe that they must always be focused on selling something. They often operate within a bubble, assuming that everyone should care as much about their business as they do. However, in reality, customers are primarily concerned with their own problems, values, and aspirations. It’s really a misunderstanding and confusion about what truly drives their customers motivations. 

The classic approach is brands tend to pour all their efforts into developing messaging centered around themselves, their services, and their latest products. However, customers are not always particularly interested in these self-centered narratives. They seek content that aligns with their beliefs, values, and aspirations. They seek content that inspires them to live better or even help them contribute to making the world a better place. 


It’s a Long Game

Branded content is not a quick fix or an instant solution for brands seeking immediate results. It’s a long game that requires patience, persistence, and a commitment to building meaningful connections with the audience. While the allure of viral campaigns and overnight success stories may be tempting, the true value of branded content lies in its ability to create lasting impact and sustained engagement.

One of the primary goals of branded content is to establish trust and credibility with the audience. This cannot be achieved overnight. It takes time to develop a consistent and authentic brand voice, to demonstrate expertise and thought leadership, and to prove that the brand genuinely cares about its customers and their needs.

To build trust, brands need to consistently deliver high-quality content that aligns with their audience’s interests and values. By providing valuable information, entertaining stories, or thought-provoking insights, brands can position themselves as reliable sources of information and build a reputation as industry leaders.


It’s a Mindset Shift

To unlock the true potential of branded content, brands and businesses need to shift their mindset. Instead of solely focusing on selling, they should aim to create content that resonates with their customers on an emotional level. By crafting powerful narratives that align with their audience’s values and aspirations, brands can forge deeper connections and foster brand loyalty. This approach requires brands to take a risk and be willing to leave their self-promotion behind momentarily and prioritize storytelling that engages, inspires, and entertains.

Furthermore, brands must understand that the success of branded content lies in its ability to deliver value to the audience. Content should offer entertainment, education, or practical information that enriches the viewer’s life. By providing content that genuinely benefits their target audience, brands can position themselves as trusted sources and experts in their respective industries.


Branded content has the potential to revolutionize how brands communicate and connect with their audience in the digital age. By embracing the power of storytelling and shifting the focus from selling to engaging, brands can build authentic connections, inspire loyalty, and drive long-term success. It’s time for brands to leave their fear behind and embrace the world of branded content, transforming their marketing efforts into meaningful and impactful experiences.