What is Branded Content?


Client: JCPenny | Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi | Director: Brian Buckley, Hungry Man




Like so many things in marketing and advertising, Branded Content sounds vague but expensive. And it is and it can be, but what is it? Branded Content combines storytelling with advertising outside the bounds of a commercial or print ad. In other words, it's a mini-movie that features a brand, product, or service.

Now, this isn't too much of a stretch from what we're used to. In fact, branded content goes all the way back to print before radios. Then, radio programing came along and branded content was adapted into program sponsorships. In movies and television, we typically got treated to product placement (re: Wayne's World Epic Product Placement). As close as we ever got to Branded Content as we know it now were TV commercials. In a lot of ways, most commercials with a storyline are Branded Content.

But there is a new form of Branded Content that has emerged with the advent of online video. No better example exists than JCPenny's 'Dog House' short (from Agency Saatchi & Saatchi and Director Brian Buckley). At no point, does it feel like a traditional advertisement. Characters are actually developed. Ideas are communicated that take more than 30 seconds to get across.

Oh, yeah, and it's organic.

That's the most important element of any piece of Branded Content: it must look and feel organic. Yes, the brand will work it's way in the story at some point; it has to. However, you're going for so much more with the problem/solution paradigm of advertising and that's complete understanding; of you audience, your customers, and your brand. 

We integrate brands organically into our lives every day-even minute by minute. They've become things we can't live without. Most people who start using an iPhone can never return to life without out. Branded Content draws on that necessity to form stories that integrates a customer's real life experiences with the brands they rely on. 

That's what can make branded content effective. It shows the brand as part of your everyday life because it is part of your everyday life.


Look for ways your brand, service, or product integrates with people's lives and base your story around that. Try not to call attention to special features or benefits because in context, it's not the way we relate products to one another. If you must highlight those items, make sure they concrete benefits of use not fringe benefits Lastly, have fun! People will only spare you their time to watch your three minute branded short film because it looks fun and entertaining!

Here's another example of Branded Content: Friskies "Dear Kitten". Enjoy and think about how you can put Branded Content to work in your marketing strategy!

Patrick Kirk

No one knows the exact day Patrick Kirk was born, because he was carried into town by a pack of wild coyotes, but the end of March seems to have some consensus built around it. The townsfolk hadn’t much need for a coyote-raised wild boy seein’ as they already had a town idiot. So, they set Patrick off with the next traveling circus that rolled through town. It was there that the young boy learned of books and math and writing and other cultural offerings from Martha, the kindly old bearded lady, and her husband, Harold, the world’s tallest midget. In between shows, he would explore each new town, never having the chance to make friends with children his age, mostly because they didn’t speak coyote… However, it was on one such trek in his later teen years that Patrick happened upon a small cinema playing an engagement of Major League II. From then on, he knew that he must dedicate his life to motion pictures. The members of the circus were sad to see him go, some angry calling cinema ‘beneath them’, but Patrick took his leave and headed off to university to study the filmic arts. Over nearly half a decade of study, Patrick learned from notables such as Fritz Kiersch, director of Children of the Corn, and Gray Fredrickson, producer of the Godfather Trilogy. Patrick has worked locally in the Oklahoma City market as a grip, camera operator, and editor. He has directed a number of short films and commercial projects and aspires to do more. When not in the editing suite or on set, Patrick can be found relaxing at local sporting events or playing a round of golf. He is particularly fond of poker and has been known to frequent the local casinos. Patrick also experiments with cooking and can make a mean batch of tacos. Among things he still would like to accomplish, Patrick hopes to fly to the moon one day and get into an old fashioned pistols at dawn duel; preferably both at the same time.