Best Branded Content

Best Branded Content of May: Is Augmented Reality the New MVP of Advertising?

This past month, I’ve received more sponsored content from friends than I ever could have imagined.

It started on Cinco de Mayo, when my friends transformed into Taco Bell tacos and flooded my Snapchat inbox. Next came the giant gold mouths, devouring Crunch Bars. And finally, there were the Cyclops eyes, attempting to murder me through my iPhone 6.

It’s like content marketing had gotten so big that everyone suddenly cared about #brands as much as me. But in reality, Snapchat has just made an advertising feature so good that people (millennials!) can’t help but make ads on behalf of brands. (For more on this, check out Dillon Baker’s insightful take on Snapchat lenses from earlier today.)

Now, I know what you might be thinking: Joe, are Snapchat filters really branded content? I’d argue yes—they’re a content tool, one that inspires folks to make millions of pieces of user-generated content.

With that in mind, let’s kick off this month’s roundup of the best branded content.

Taco Bell: Taco Filter

Taco Bell is already one of the most successful brands on Snapchat, with over 225,000 followers, but the company smartly built on that success by purchasing a Snapchat filter to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

We talk about augmented reality like it’s something that’s not coming until the 2020s, but newsflash: It’s already here.

The lens—which turned a user’s head into a giant taco—was viewed 224 million times. That’s a great return, considering it costs between $450,000 and $750,000 to sponsor a lens, which isn’t that much more than, say, a native ad campaign with a major publisher. Call me when Time magazine or even BuzzFeed gets you 224 million views.

We talk about augmented reality like it’s something that’s not coming until the 2020s, but news flash: It’s already here. And it makes for a ridiculously successful advertising product.

Cadbury: Open Your Mouth Filter


In mid-May, Cadbury turned into the Willy Wonka of Snapchat with a series of magical candy filters, delighting candy fiends and dieters who want a virtual taste.

As Digiday reports, Snapchat is an advertising Mecca for Cadbury’s target demographic of 16- to 24-year-olds, and the candy brand is spending half of its estimated £6 million ($8.7 million) digital budget. Forty percent of Snapchat users in the UK are teens, and in the U.S., 60 percent are under 24.

As for older users, well, who doesn’t love candy?

X-Men Apocalypse: Snapchat Filters

via Mashable

X-Men went big with the first 24-hour takeover of Snapchat’s filters—giving users access to nine different X-Men: Apocalypse characters in all. It was a pleasant break from all of the usual Coachella flower crowns and dog faces, and I was absolutely terrified I’d done something wrong when my girlfriend snapped me a video of her trying to destroy me with her Storm eyes.

The smartest aspect of the campaign ultimately might have been that users could buy tickets to the movie, which opened on Memorial Day Weekend, through Snapchat. Who says that content can’t drive direct revenue?

Mountain Dew: DEWcision 2016

Normally, my reaction to the words DEWcision 2016 would be just… No. But in this case, I’m all for it.

DEWcision 2016 gives Nascar fans a chance to race as one of the brand’s endorsers—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Chase Elliott. Users can race either the Baja Blast track or the Pitch Black track, and whichever track fans choose most often will be crowned the brand’s chief new flavor.

Mountain Dew set up a VR station at the JR Motorsports Fan Day over Memorial Day weekend in addition to connecting with fans through Samsung’s Milk VR library, YouTube 360, and Facebook 360.

Mountain Dew has long been an early VR adopter with accompanying 360-degree videos. The brand launched VR Skate in 2014 and, per Digiday, there will soon be an entire VR hub on Maybe the technology will even let me go back to those glorious days when I could drink Mountain Dew without immediately gaining five pounds.

Grey Goose: Fly Beyond

This 90-second video by Grey Goose is one of the most visually stunning pieces of branded content I’ve seen this year. A group of friends—who either live in the 1940s or are just hipsters, it’s unclear—chase down and board an airship stocked with vodka and a pilot who appears to be the brother of the Most Interesting Man in the World. Their goal? To pursue a goose. How do they accomplish this goal? Dining in a lighthouse, chopping ice off a mountain for vodka tonics, and projecting an old movie against the clouds.

In other words, it makes no sense, but it also makes you want that life. Isn’t that what drinking overpriced vodka is all about?

Anything I missed? Suggestions for next month? Find me on Twitter @joelazauskas or email me at

Get better at your job right now.

Read our weekly newsletter to master content marketing. It’s made for marketers, creators, and everyone in between.

Trending stories