No Lego Movie for India! Should Indian brands too create Original Content?

Branded Content vs Original Content

Branded Content vs Original Content – which way do brands need to go? Is it time for India to have its own Lego Movie, one of the best made pieces of original content by a brand to promote a product?

The concept and impact of original content by brands isn’t new. It started way back when Doordarshan advised brands to create original content for the channel, during which they could advertise about their products/services. Ever since, creating content IPs for varied objectives including user acquisition, brand building, and more has been a norm, the much evolved version of which would be The Lego Movie.

A classic example of original content created by a brand, The Lego Movie (or any Marvel & DC films for that matter) is an elaborate and extremely well made ad for the product.

“Sales for LEGO increased by 25% in 2015 after the release of the movie,” shares Sameer Gogate ‎-Head Monetisation & Distribution – ‎Vuclip Inc.

Branded Content vs Original Content – Understanding the difference

Branded Content is brands associating with popular content properties to drive their message, like Tiago Tripling or AIB’s Honest Engineering Campus for Swiggy. Original content is brands creating an IP for themselves to build, nurture, and eventually earn from. Examples of this would be the Assassin Creed film released globally and Chikipedia by AXE Deodorants back home.

So, why should brands resort to Original Content? To begin with, the content ecosystem has evolved. Brands are now publishers (or creators) and publishers are distributors – the former seeking to associate with a content vehicle to drive a message and the latter in the search of diverse content formats to stay trendy and populated.

Let’s try to understand the concept better with Facebook Watch, a property launched in 2017. Here, Facebook (the brand) is trying to push its product (the social networking platform) with original content which will be exclusively available on Facebook through Facebook Watch.

Varied formats

While we might not have The Lego Movie, Indian brands have been playing around with the idea of original content.

In 2010, Virgin Mobile launched Indian Panga League, an integrated digital campaign with original content at the core. The brand created 100 videos which featured quirky and witty banter between friends, supporting different teams to promote Virgin Mobile’s STD offering.

Within a week of the launch, Virgin Mobile claims to have witnessed 39,480 YouTube views; 1,643 Facebook fans and 50,000 mentions on Twitter.

Harshil Karia“There are various ways to treat original content,” shares Harshil Karia, Co-founder & Managing Director, Schbang. “It can be long form content, long form consumable content or short ad snippets.”

SBI NRI Service launched a mini-series, consisting 5 short episodes, featuring TVF Pitchers fame Naveen Kasturia with a few other familiar faces to advertise about their NRI services. Conceptualized by DDB Mudra, the series was based on the family of a soon to be bride, as she communicates with her NRI brother, who in spite of the distance fulfils all his duties, thanks to SBI NRI Service.

“Original Content still has the ability to make an impact to the consumer however there have been very low success rate for original content emerging out of the clutter like Nescafe, Google, OnePlus, OLA have still managed to create good stuff,” says Shreyansh Pandey, AVP – Content Strategy & Creative Producer – TVF Originals, The Viral Fever

Kingfisher on the other hand has a YouTube channel named Cheers, featuring an array of original long format content presented to the viewers by Ultra Shorts, a premium beer by Kingfisher. Cheers publishes content formats such as web series and short films throughout the year on regular intervals.

Kingfisher has cracked the content space with multiple formats, including TVF Pitchers which was a piece of branded content created in association with The Viral Fever.

“A good content piece should be able to drive engagement, affinity and relatability; with the brand being able to gauge the success of the content from a ‘Return on Objectives’ perspective compared to the traditional Return on Investment,” exclaims Samar Singh Sheikhawat, CMO, UBL.

Sheikhawat shares that their association with TVF for the web series ‘Pitchers’ was based on the lexicon ‘Tu Beer Hai’, implying that the beer is of no use if bottled up, it needs to flow. “Similarly, for human beings, we can’t be confined with the mental barriers,” Sheikhawat adds.

The celebrity factor

Over the last few years, new age celebrities such as Sumeet Vyas, Tanmay Bhat, Biswa and Kalyan Rath (to name a few) have managed to construct a digital aura, making them a crucial part of both – Branded & Original Content. While the approach towards the celebrity in a campaign stays the same irrespective of the content format, the execution bit changes dramatically.

Firstly, while creating original content, the brand is directly in touch with the celebrity, giving them full control over the costing, approach, and other related factors. In case of going through content creators (for branded content) the brand might have little say in the same altering the cost dramatically.

Also Read: Original Content and KPIs – Are big budget web series paying off?

“The rules of the game are changing because sometimes the content houses charge exorbitant prices for celebrities even if they might be working for free. The trick is if you’re working with a content house work for a long term partnership and work in a way they are invested in you and you’re invested in them, such that you can get the economies of scale. If you’re doing one of instances which don’t require a celebrity then you can always chose to self produce as you have a lot more control. The trick lies in figuring out which kind of talent you want to work with,” Karia says.

Second and the most crucial difference would be that in case of original content the brand doesn’t have the benefit of the content creators’ reach, as the content is majorly distributed through brand channels, with a few posts from the celebrities involved.

Various brands have roped in celebrities for content pieces, resulting in completely different outcomes.

Netflix roped in many digital celebs including Biswa Kalyan Rath for the House of Cards video and Sumeet Vyas & Nidhi Singh for Netflix promos on various occasions. The videos being backed by famous series, enjoyed genuine popularity on the internet.

Simultaneously, Honda Jazz created a campaign series titled, #SexyAndIKnowIt featuring Rohan Joshi. The series was a chronicle of an innocent guy madly in love. The campaign however, was majorly promoted through Honda Distribution channels and didn’t see much virality.

“Content created by brands is more like an extended advertisement. It is mostly driven by targets, demo of a particular product, hence its always 70% brand and 30% content,” Gogate adds.

Also Read: Hits and misses of Honda Jazz’s Sexy and I know It
What should brands do?

This obviously depends on the brand’s objective. But what are the elements that brands need consciously keep in mind before taking the leap?

“When you’re working with celebrities, outsourcing is much more effective, just make sure you do it on a long term basis and the brand doesn’t become a by the way, shares Karia.

Explaining his thought further, Karia said that sometimes the brand becomes a by the way. For instance, the content series with Mallika Dua, titled The Trip, of which Lakme was the key sponsors; so Lakme wasn’t integrated in the story line, it appeared as forced by the way sponsor.

Usually the production house is more focussed on the storyline and the brand is by the way available. Whereas in original content it is more focussed and you have acute insights of what the brand really wants.

Sheikhawat however opines that users don’t care if that content is coming from a brand or a content creator, as long as it continues to entertain, engage and involve them.

“For us, the only thing that matters is how seamlessly the brand has been integrated into the story. As long as your brand is a part of the narrative and a character in the story being told, you will have an audience online,” stresses Sheikhawat. “It’s called ‘content’ and not ‘advertisement’ for a reason!”

Pandey shares that brands need to keep two important elements in mind before taking a decision. “Two important parameters while choosing the format for the Brands should always be on the TG/audience they’d be talking to & secondly on the relevance of communication/messaging for the particular TG.”

“I strongly believe the best bet for the Brands is to bestow their confidence in the Creators and bet on the Branded Content being created to make it Original Branded Content,” Pandey concludes.

Gogate seconds the opinion. He believes that branded content gets more attention and creates brand recognition. Consumers like branded content because they believe the content is more consumer-focused.

“According to the us – branded content. Because, when a consumer watches branded content, their brand recall is up to 59% higher(as per sources). Viewers are also 14% more likely to seek out extra content from the same brand. As far as ROI goes, these are strong numbers,” Gogate shares. 

So, what is it going to be for your brand? Is it time for India to have its own Lego Movie?


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