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Four Simple Ways to Build Long-term Engagement for Your Branded Entertainment Campaign

So you’ve got a great idea for a marketing campaign involving branded entertainment?  Superb! And you’ve executed it brilliantly so the content is definitely entertaining and ready for public consumption?  Even better…but what steps should you take to really maximise the impact of your brilliant content?  After all, great ideas don’t come about every day so you best make the most of this one.

Here are 4 simple steps to ensure you wring the most from this juicy campaign (again, assuming the original content you have is entertaining).

1. Be ready with quick response mechanisms and to run a dynamic campaign

Nothing is more exasperating than seeing a great idea that isn’t set-up for user feedback.  As a seasoned social media marketeer I’m sure this is teaching you to ‘suck eggs’ but it is worth repeating.

Branded entertainment is not one way, it is not a loud speaker set to bludgeon the masses into hearing your message, and if it is they’re going to get bored.  People want to get engaged!  So let them.

This is exemplified by the Old Spice campaign where they responded to the enthusiasm of viewers for their original content by making 180 additional videos in direct to response to their comments.  Of course there were thousands upon thousands then desperate for that kind of recognition, with everyone trying to outdo each other to get the attention of the Old Spice Man.  The link above is a good analysis of the campaign.

Are you able to offer such a dynamic campaign if you get a great response?  What would happen if dozens of people wanted to see your character in x-situation, or respond to y-questions/requests?  Are you prepared?

Make sure you have a team ready for such a response because with it, you’ll really be cooking with gas and soon the flames of engagement will be high enough to sustain user generated content and community propelled content with minimal further input from you; but without that additional response that shows you’re listening and willing to go the extra mile it is like a big wet towel that will dampen the embers you worked hard to ignite in the first place.

2. Keep the content and the campaign open ended where possible and don’t be coy, ask for involvement directly!

Once you’re set up for responding to an initial wave of engagement…make sure you’re asking for it!  Otherwise you’ll have a lot of bored staff on your hands, and probably several million users walking away from your brand entertained – but not engaged.

Invite people to talk to you or your character, get them to suggest antics or to elicit responses from your character, suggest alternative (and mad) ideas for uses of your product, to use it in a project with others, to record themselves using it in an unusual or inspiring way etc. (I’m sure you get the idea) or even just to visit your website!

It can be as silly as the Subservient Chicken from Burger King or a slightly more innovative piece of interactive entertainment like the latest from Tipex (thanks to www.realseo.com for calling my attention to this one.)

But whatever you do and however you do it: please, please ask for some form of action at the end of your video!  While writing this article I’ve found many great examples of cool and interesting content, but once I’ve watched it that is it.  Game over.  Finito.  Engagement ended.  Why?  Becuase there was no follow up asked for.  No website or community that I’m asked to join or place to go and find out more, let alone get involved.  Don’t make this mistake, and lose your customer after you’ve sunk all your budget into a great piece of entertainment that has them on the hook but doesn’t reel them in.

3. Use a strong character or centrepiece so it can continue the narrative

You do not need a celebrity.

Let me repeat – you do not need a celebrity!

In fact I would suggest is better to not use a celebrity.  Why?  Well firstly because celebrities have their own personal brands so you’ll be setting up your brand against a formidable brand advisory in terms or viewers attention and recall.  And secondly how are you going to measure if they’re responding to your product and its message, or just the celebrity?

Better to create a character that you own, that doesn’t pose any brand competition, doesn’t expect exorbitant wages (at least not yet!) and will be perfect for your brand and not just a best fit.

My favourite examples (along with many millions of others’ favourite no doubt) is Aleksandr Orlov the aristocratic Russian Meerkat and brand ambassador extraordinaire of comparethemarket.com.  He has his own websites, family history, epic narrative, commercials, a book, and product lines (the Meerkat soft toy was going to be available exclusively for sale from Harrods at Christmas but demand was so high they had to give them away to charity in order not to be overwhelmed^)…

But, as powerful as great characters can be for branded entertainment, you don’t have to go to the lengths of ensuring it is a huge transmedia force in itself to be successful.

You could take a leaf out of the wonderfully simple Youtube classic ‘Will it blend?’ campaign from Blendtec,  which employs the same set-up/situation in each episode, and lets that run through the course of the campaign, (though admittedly the presenter Tom Dickinson does remain a constant too)…and notice it asks for an action at the end of the video?!

Ultimately where possible the entertainment should be built with your brand or brand proxy as the star of the show (so long as it doesn’t compromise the entertainment part of the proposition), and this will help its longevity.

4. Keep the content short and sweet

Almost all the examples above display this quality.  People don’t typically tune into Youtube to watch  full movies or branded epics, they tune in for quick bite sized parcels of juicy entertainment they can watch over the shoulder of a colleague in the office without attracting the ire of the boss.

Short, sharp and punchy is the key.  It doesn’t mean you can’t build up more complex narratives, character depth and deeper engagement over time (comparethemeerkat has evolved a lot since the initial adverts) but it does mean you don’t bore the viewer.

It also means you can iterate much more quickly and respond to what your customers delight in; and if (dare I say it) your incredible idea just doesn’t quite catch the imagination and take off as a viral hit, you can scrap it with much less money sunk into the production costs than, say, commissioning a huge transmedia campaign or cable TV series.

Ultimately social media is a great testing ground for ideas and if you can’t get your idea across quickly and succinctly (remember 2 minutes is roughly 4 times the length that adverts used to be), then the message is probably too complex to sink in anyway, and would be better broken down further and communicated in separate morsels.

Finally, lots of shorter pieces of entertainment means quicker and more frequent small ‘pay-offs’ for the viewer which is a key ingredient to engagement, as frequently noted in best practice game design.


So there you have it: Be ready for a response, then ask for one, try to create a sustainable character or narrative to hang more content on, and create small bits of content frequently.

If you follow these 4 rules you should definitely extend the reach and longevity of any great branded entertainment you think of.

If you have any other great examples that follow these rules, or other rules you feel need mentioning, please add them to the comment box below!

Join The Conversation

  • EasyLunchboxes's picture
    Apr 12 Posted 6 years ago EasyLunchboxes

    Hi Mark, 

    Really informative article! We're just starting out with our branded entertainment video marketing campaign. Our goal is that our musical web series not only entertains, but of course, builds brand awareness for my company,EasyLunchboxes. Since I am a professional actress/singer as well as the CEO, we have looked for ways to combine my talents with our marketing. I play host to celebrity guests (eeek ;) sorry - I have to disagree w/you a little there Mark!)  in our larger scale "Let's Do Lunch!" series, but then my new little spin-off series of shorter videos "A Couple of Minutes with Kelly" will feature me giving lifestyle tips and helpful kitchen hints. The smaller scale videos will allow us to easily up our video library by frequently adding content, as you mentioned. 

    One tip that I would add is for businesses to set up a YouTube Channel that is highly informative. There is lots of space in the channel profile section to tell viewers all about your company and include all pertinent links. I've seen a lot of  companies post videos on YouTube that have no links in the actual video description and very little company information. Since YouTube is a serious search engine these days, as much SEO as possible should be applied to every video and YouTube channel as is applied to the company's main website. - Kelly Lester, CEO, EasyLunchboxes.com

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