The year was 1996. George Clooney was an ER doctor performing death-defying procedures on your analog TV set; the world couldn’t get enough of Jim Carrey; and the only thing remotely close to a global pandemic was the “Macarena.” 

It was also the very beginning of the Internet... and the year that Bill Gates would make an incredibly prophetic statement in an essay published on the Microsoft website. 

“Content is King,” proclaimed Gates to all the marketers, advertisers and brands of the world. That phrase would live on in cliched infamy for decades. Now, here we are (25 years later!), and all of us marketers have become jesters in the court of the King, juggling for relevance and kneeling for Likes, Shares and those sweet, sweet, Impressions. 

Did you know that 62 percent of consumers say they are more likely to buy from brands that create one-of-a-kind, custom content? 

We’re living in an era when marketing and branding are in a constant state of flux. More and more people tune out traditional advertising. Welcome to the generation obsessed with on-demand shows, viral videos and unique experiential activations. We block banners, skip ads and throw full-blown fits when an ad interrupts our three-hour-Instagram-scrolling-sesh! Companies are now forced to rethink how they get their message across. And this is a GOOD THING. Thus the rise of Branded Content.

Enter “the King,” Stage Left.

What is Branded Content?

Simply put, branded content, rather than having the look and feel of overt advertising messages, is more in line with content that users seek out for themselves. 

With branded content, the marketing message is so subtle that it’s almost invisible. It’s a way for companies to engage with their audiences, improve their reputation and cultivate new relationships.

In understanding branded content, it’s important to have basic knowledge of why people seek out certain media. This process gets a bit complex, as there are several sets of “Content Needs” that your customers may be trying to satisfy at any given time. For the sake of simplicity, these Content Needs can be grouped into two larger categories: Rational or Emotional. A successful branded content strategy takes into account both of these needs and delivers content to satisfy each

Let’s take a look at a recent example of branded content from Designsensory as an example that appeals to both needs. 

The Wild Life

Zoo Knoxville came to Designsensory with a unique challenge: 

Create an entertaining and informative digital content series that showcases 

(1) individual animals at the zoo, 

(2) the zoo itself, and 

(3) the people who work there. 

Armed with these clear goals, we set out to design a show to inform and entertain. “The Wild Life” was born from the strategy of fulfilling the two Content Needs: Rational and Emotional.

We knew early on that the show would be a hosted experience going behind the scenes of the zoo. Why? Because this particular show format is well known to consumers and easily digestible, leaving plenty of room for the host to tell stories and jokes and have fun interactions. 

We met the Rational elements of the content by presenting facts about Zoo Knoxville and its animals. The Emotional pieces of the content came from interactions with zoo personnel, learning about the daily efforts of conservation and giving consumers a window into the never-before-seen places of the zoo.

The end result is a fun show that goes behind the scenes at Zoo Knoxville. Each episode is a blend of conservation messaging and adventure, showcasing the life of the animals and the people who care for them.

Currently, we have two episodes of “The Wild Life” available to watch: The Giant Anteater and Giraffes. Stay tuned for episode 3, Turtles, coming very soon. Check us out on YouTube or even Amazon Prime.

Wrapping Things Up

Now we know that people seek out content to satisfy a need, and that demand for content is growing—so much that it’s outpacing the supply. What does this mean for the future of your marketing strategy? Branded content is here to stay, and it will continue to become more popular. If your company hasn’t gotten on the branded content wagon yet, it’s not too late to get started. Make 2020 the year you connect with your customers in an authentic and engaging way. Put on your creative caps and begin the development process. Long live the King!