The ability to opt out of ads changed the advertising game and set the stage for a new era of branded streaming content—here’s why. The rise of new digital technologies that let audiences ixnay the ads—from DVRs to cable networks and then the internet—made it infinitely more challenging for brands to buy fame (aka get ROI from their paid TV advertising). Getting a brand noticed meant competing in the same arena as the entertainment companies—which meant that brands had to up the ante.
According to Harvard Business Review, “BMW pioneered the practice of creating short films for the internet. Soon corporations were hiring top film directors (Michael Bay, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Wes Anderson, David Lynch) and pushing for ever-more-spectacular special effects and production values.” These nascent digital efforts led brands to believe that delivering Hollywood-level entertainment content at the speed of the internet would garner huge, engaged audiences around their brands. “Thus was born the great push toward branded content.”
A Brief History of the Golden Bull
Red Bull is hands-down one of the most acclaimed branded-content success stories—they transcended being a single-product energy drink company into a world-renowned multihyphenate brand with a particular focus on extreme and alternative sports—we’re talking TV, YouTube channel, magazine publications, radio, live events, and high-end documentary films. They’re doing it ALL.
Dietrich Mateschitz founded Red Bull in the mid-1980s, taking inspiration from functional energy drinks he discovered in East Asia. The launch of Red Bull heralded the birth of a whole new drinks category—today, Red Bull has the largest market share of any energy drink product in the world and sold 11.58 billion cans in 2022. Welcome to the world of Red Bull!
Red Bull found their customers and audience early in the game—in 1988, they sponsored their first-ever sporting event, “The Red Bull Dolomitenmann,” known as one of the most challenging relay races in the world. And through that, discovered that extreme sports are fueled by adrenaline, and that adrenaline could be fueled by (cue drum roll)…Red Bull. They leveraged this first success into an empire built on branded content, which catapulted their brand into the stratosphere. And now, others are looking to replicate their success with their take on the branded content streaming game.
Enterprise Giant Enters the Streaming Branded Content Space
Sales enterprise software juggernaut Salesforce has just stepped into the branded content game in a big way with Salesforce+. The pandemic shifted the media landscape and how people consume content. The days of white papers in B2B settings had lost luster—it was time to pivot.
When asked how the idea to enter the branded content game arose, Colin Fleming, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President of Global Brand Marketing, shared that “…people watching Disney+, the people watching ESPN+, are the same people watching Salesforce content in a business setting, so why wouldn’t we follow that sort of direction? That’s really the genesis of this idea.” Salesforce’s goal was to provide opportunities for professionals to hear and learn from inspirational trailblazers in their field—and that people at multiple levels could have targeted content that would speak to where they are on their career journey.
Salesforce already amassed a library of original content, like Leading Through Change, The Inflection Point, and Connections; Salesforce execs took a long hard look at successes and viewer behavior before deciding to greenlight Salesforce+, their upstart, branded content strategy.
When asked who Salesforce+ is for, Fleming replied, “You’re going to see content within Salesforce about individuals that have gone from hairdresser to senior vice president; some incredibly impactful stories we think are really critical for us. You’re just going to hear people tell their authentic stories.”
FORTUNE Favors the Brave
FORTUNE decided to leverage its best-in-class business acumen and storytelling prowess by founding FORTUNE Brand Studio, dedicated to telling authentic, insights-led brand stories to influential global business audiences—focusing on streaming video, digital, and social. Their mission? To help brands make their business better by crafting purpose-driven content—tailored to their audiences—that’s delivered the right way. FORTUNE Brand Studio has fueled many businesses’ entrees into the streaming branded content space, working with Salesforce+, PayPal, Target, Boston Consulting Group, and more.
In partnership with Salesforce+, they produced a series called The Ecopreneurs, a docuseries in which the production team traveled worldwide to profile pioneering entrepreneurs leading the charge on climate action. Within the first month, the premiere episode had amassed over 3.3 million views on YouTube alone. The idea? Drive engaged audiences to the Salesforce+ platform, where there are long-form articles on climate issues, animated infographics detailing data and insights, and exclusive interviews with ecopreneurs highlighting the mission behind their companies.
With PayPal, FORTUNE Brand Studio produced a two-time Anthem Award-winning video focused on the company’s actions to close the racial wealth gap, where PayPal CEO, Dan Schulman, talks about PayPal’s commitment to creating structural changes to effectively fight racial inequality with the company’s partners, Samara Hernandez (founding partner of Chingona Ventures) and Bill Bynum (CEO of Hope Credit Union).
Brands succeed when they break through culturally and generate cultural relevance. Digital media and technology have given rise not only to influential social networks—they have radically transformed how culture works. If you are looking to maximize your impact and ROI with branded streaming projects, having the right team can help ensure success. Creative Circle can provide streaming content specialists that can help your content reach more people and get maximum results.
About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist—Karina writes, produces, and edits compelling content across multiple platforms—including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Yahoo News, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties and has spanned insight pieces on psychedelic toad medicine to forecasting the future of work to why sustainability needs to become more sustainable.