4 Pieces of Branded Content That Marketers Love

Contently invited over 200 top marketers from some of the biggest brands in the world to gather at the Bowery Hotel last Wednesday to discuss the future of the industry, how to build—and keep—an audience, and why content marketers are using the wrong metrics.

While the Contently Summit gave us an excuse to make mad libs with marketers and get them tipsy with ice cream, it was also the perfect opportunity to find out what was on the radar of the some of the biggest names in the storytelling industry.

After asking around, I discovered what branded content has been creating the biggest buzz, and why:

1. Friskies + BuzzFeed: “Dear Kitten”

This sponsored video was mentioned multiple times when I asked conference-goers what content had caught their attention recently. And for good reason: It’s smart, adorable, and promotes Friskies from the unique perspective of an omnipotent cat narrator.

The ad is undeniably memorable, and yet the company’s brand name isn’t mentioned once in the video. (This also makes sense since cats can’t read, but I digress.) Instead, the company promotes itself by playing it dirty. They have the feline voiceover insult dry cat food by assuming humans use it to “train them to be astronauts.” By using humor and a new point of view, Friskies drives their brand name into consumers’ minds far more than they would by simply listing the benefits of their product.

Consumers seem to agree with our content marketers: The video has over 12.7 million views on YouTube so far. Talking cats #FTW.

Bonus: Friskies + BuzzFeed: “A Cat’s Guide to Taking Care of Your Human”

2. “Banned” Grey Poupon Commercial

I’m going to be honest—at first, I thought that this was an actual Grey Poupon ad. OBVS, the comedy group behind the video, did a fantastic job spoofing the company. But why did I want this “commercial” to be real? Because Grey Poupon, usually labeled as a luxury brand of mustard, would be making a smart move by taking themselves—and the “luxury” condiments market—less seriously, just like they did with their original iconic, tongue-in-cheek commercial. After all, it is about time they admit that their name sounds exactly like a verb that is, let’s just say, less than appetizing.

If the company had actually been behind this video, and taken the risk of parodying their own product, they could’ve made their brand more appealing to a wider demographic. Take note, Grey Poupon—everybody likes a dirty joke every once in a while. And it never hurts to laugh at yourself.

3. Chevron Energyville

Learning the fine details of alternative sources of energy can be dull, to say the least, yet a piece of Chevron content was the choice of several attendees. The energy company created Energyville, an in-depth simulator that allows players to manage a fictional city’s power needs and learn about energy in an engaging way. Imagine The Sims, but instead of nonsensical lemmings you’re dealing with energy management scores and droughts. (Okay, that makes it sound boring, but it’s really cool. I swear.)

The site is extra awesome because it’s a hands-on learning tool for students. This is a bonus for Chevron, because they’re gaining brand recognition with millennials who will need to choose an energy provider in the future. Wouldn’t they want to pay the company that let them play games in the middle of science class?

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4. Whole Foods’ Dark Rye Magazine

A few ladies at the conference could not stop gushing about Whole Foods’ online magazine. According to its website, Dark Rye is “an online magazine from Whole Foods Market® that explores the realms of food, health, sustainability, design, tech and social enterprise.”

Along with the website, Dark Rye is also boosted with Tumblr and Vimeo accounts. However, what’s most notable about the magazine is that none of its content is specifically about Whole Foods. Rather, it’s filled with infographics, videos, and articles that connect to the company’s values and brand message. Some notable posts include a visual study on food deserts, how to make your own coffee roaster, and a diet guide for people who want to be healthy but aren’t quite ready to get rid of those steaks in the freezer yet.

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All of the brands mentioned have one thing in common: They created memorable content by giving their consumers interesting material to engage with. Grey Poupon and Friskies, two companies that don’t deal with serious issues, took a risk making funny, self-referential videos. Chevron and Whole Foods pumped out articles and games that educate consumers in a fun way.

Thanks to the precedents set by these brands, content marketers are now challenged to follow in their footsteps and, better yet, break the mold in their own ways. Or, you know, just make more awesome videos about talking cats.

Contently arms brands with the tools and talent to become great content creators. Learn more.

Image by BuzzFeed Video

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