Storytelling Inspiration

5 Amazing Branded Content Experiences

Nick Mirkin By Nick Mirkin December 12, 2014

If you can find the right sources of inspiration you’ll be able to hone your marketing strategy and craft the best content possible. Unfortunately there is also a lot of really bad, uninspiring branded content at there. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 5 branded content experiences that inspire us, in the hopes that they will inspire you too!

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1. Type R: The Most Engaging Marketing Experience…Ever

Honda’s Type R campaign is honestly the coolest ad I’ve ever seen. No exaggeration, I’ve never truly experienced a brand’s story quite like this.

Brands are attempting to create more and more interactive content; it’s especially tough making video effectively interactive. Honda has succeeded where all the others have failed. They’ve created an interactive video that is simple to engage with, and inspiring to watch. Type R is stunning.

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Type R allows the viewer to seamlessly switch between two stories. Both have the same cinematic shots and unifying character, but each has strikingly dissimilar themes. One video portrays the protagonist’s life as a getaway driver, the other as a father. The juxtaposing effect is most keenly felt as you type ‘r’ (‘Type R’ is also the name of the car) and move, with unbelievable ease, from video to video.

The story of the father is quintessential Honda; it could be a Civic ad from the 90’s. The story of the getaway driver skews that perception, creating an alternate story that imbues the protagonist (and therefore the brand) with an essence of dark suave. No one thinks of Honda as dark or suave, I certainly don’t. The supremely unique experience of Type R is powerful enough to redefine Honda’s brand story, giving their audience an alternate look into their brand identity.

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The power Honda gives the viewer is truly astounding. We are given free reign to switch back and forth as we see fit. With one keystroke we are able to engage with and immerse ourselves in completely different worlds. It’s the power of choice that makes Type R engaging. The contrasting aesthetic of the two videos makes the piece extremely entertaining. And as we all know, being fun and entertaining is one of the biggest pillars of successful content.

Pressing ‘r’ is disruptive. The constant juxtaposition of the two videos is what breathes life into Type R. Each story presents different themes, but the true power of the campaign is comparing and contrasting the two videos in real time. Honda seeks to disrupt their customers’ (and potential customers’) established view of the brand. By telling different branded stories on top of one another, Honda is inspiring a new population of customers to rethink Honda’s story and, hopefully, buy.

2. Doritos: A User-Generated Super Bowl Ad

Doritos is a brand pushing the limits of marketing convention.They are on the cutting edge of customer engagement and empowerment.

Super Bowl ads are the crowning achievement of the wealthiest brands and the most prestigious ad agencies. They are the most viewed, most important, and most expensive ads in history. And yet, Doritos lets their customers conceive, plan, and execute their entire Super Bowl marketing campaign…every year.

This is one of the most important examples of customer empowerment, and it’s not just because it’s the Super Bowl; the whole process, from start to finish, is in the audience’s hands. From creating, to judging which ad will appea, Doritos’ customers control the brand’s most important marketing plan of the year. And they execute it flawlessly.

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Doritos is able to generate essentially limitless pieces of user-generated content from all the ads that didn’t win. They are also able to garner customer engagement from all the people commenting, sharing, and judging. But the most important, albeit long-term, effect of their user-generated marketing campaign is inspiring deep and active brand loyalty. By showing authentic, abiding respect for their customers, Doritos has created an extremely powerful community of passionate content producers.

Doritos has evolved a perfect content production machine. They trust their customers. They are empowered to create the content, judge which they like best, and decide which gets circulated most widely. Doritos doesn’t need a content team; they’ve inspired all of us to make their content for them. It’s no wonder Doritos’ Super Bowl ads are always widely adored and wildly successful, we’ve already told them we love it!

3. Breaking the Mold One Action Figure At a Time

Goldieblox’s brand story is about thwarting the unrealistic image of ‘dolls’ by breaking “the mold with an action figure for girls.” Goldieblox uses the contemporary feminist movement to reach young girls, and the women raising them, in a socially responsible way.

In a modern re-imagination of Apple’s Orwellian 1984 Macintosh Ad, Goldieblox uses similar convention-shattering imagery to reshape the toy industry.

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The imagery is powerful and poignant. ‘Big Sister’ repeatedly drones: “You are beauty and beauty is perfection” to the beat of Metric’s “Help I’m Alive,” while young girls walk in-step, wearing pink, fur, and stilettos, gathering their standard-issue barbie-esque dolls from a conveyor belt. As the music builds, a frizzy-haired girl, wearing overalls, and a hammer strapped to her hip, smashes the master controls freeing herself and the other girls.

Goldieblox adds its voice to the chorus of voices speaking out about a larger cultural issue. It’s very timely; with the dialogue about gender politics coming to a boil in the past months, the release of this ad is at the very least tactically impressive if not genuinely revolutionary.

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The relevance of the ad lends itself to its authenticity. Marketing that is relevant, authentic, and creatively grapples with complex cultural issues, can ascend into the rarified air of cultural movement. This is any marketers fever dream, and Goldieblox has achieved it quite dexterously.

Goldieblox hasn’t just created a new action figure for girls. The ad is a call for young women to determine their own identity. Goldieblox adroitly places itself on the vanguard of a movement that already has a passionate and engaged community. Physically speaking, it’s just another doll (or action figure), but because of the intense cultural movement around it, buying the doll represents something much larger than the brand itself. You’re not buying an action figure; you’re buying a revolution.

4. CDC: Zombie Survival Guide

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The CDC’s Zombie Survival Guide has been circulating since 2011, and it’s amazing.

The CDC is well aware that attempting to teach the public about disease preparedness and prevention is a fool’s errand. Luckily, the Zombie Survival Guide is an utterly delightful workaround for this.

The first question many people, including myself, asked was “how does a zombie survival guide help anyone?”

Let’s be honest, if the CDC released a guide for an outbreak of Enterovirus D68 you wouldn’t even read it (I know I wouldn’t), let alone hear about it on every social channel out there. You might even ask “What the heck is Enterovirus D68,” and that is precisely the point the CDC addresses.

The CDC is cleverer than we all thought and they are masters of content marketing to boot. They agilely couch important, relevant, but otherwise dry material in fun, light-hearted content about surviving a zombie apocalypse, and that’s something we can all get behind!

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The CDC is able to convey essential health information in a way people will actually read and internalize. They’ve inspired the American people to digest valuable information they wouldn’t even bat an eyelash at before. This is fun, but more importantly, it saves lives.

The CDC is entertaining and engaging people with something that terrifies them: infectious diseases. This is an unbelievable success for content marketing, and a real indicator of content’s ability to engage people effectively.

5. Michael Kors’ Interactive Catalogue

Interactive Content has hit the retail space hard, and Michael Kors is riding the crest of that wave. MK’s 2014 Holiday Catalogue is a vibrant and kinetic example of the interactive design trend.

MK uses their considerable design assets to craft a catalogue that tells a rich branded story. The models interact with MK’s products in real life, giving the viewer an authentic experience of the brand, not simply of the products themselves. The audience is encouraged to “shop her look” instead of merely viewing individual products in isolation. The viewer gets to experience a range of products in their natural habitat, as it were, which gives the customer a much more immersive experience and realistic idea of the products themselves.

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Each of the catalogue’s 24 pages are crafted to delight the user; every page is stunning and interactive. Even the very subtle animations convey the feeling that the piece is a living, breathing entity, not merely a sterile catalogue of flat products. The care and effort put into it is palpable. Though customers may not specifically notice the animations, they serve as a subliminal reminder of the quality and attention to detail that is essential to Michael Kors’ brand ethos.

The written assets of the piece are sparse but clever and well thought out. The copy adds yet another dimension to MK’s already rich brand story. MK allows the audience to dictate their own experience but not without some queues to help keep focus. After all, theirs is an eCommerce site and engagement must end in purchase.

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As we are all keenly aware, the purpose of eComm is selling products. MK’s Holiday Catalogue certainly doesn’t sacrifice functionality for beauty. The experience is smooth, enabling the viewer to slide from scene to scene as they please, occasionally stopping along the way to add an item to their shopping cart. The cart is fully functional allowing the customer to purchase the products that inspire them at the precise moment of inspiration.

MK has created a very visceral digital experience by utilizing the full range of human imagery, interactive design, written content, and, of course, shoppability. Needless to say, with this Holiday Catalogue Michael Kors is ready for the holidays.

Looking for More?

For more inspiration please check out these 5 pieces of digital content that inspire, some mobile first content inspiration, and our pinterest page.

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