You can’t turn on a screen in 2016 without seeing an example of branded content or native advertising flit across your eyes. Interestingly, while most of the branded content out there is well-produced and indeed entertaining to audiences, it doesn’t really hit home as it’s just not serving the corporate social responsibility or CSR purpose of bettering the lives of those consumers or even the world around us.
It’s a topic close to our hearts here at Launch Factory. So much so that I wrote on the topic of branded content two years ago, with a core business focus in this field since our inception. Here’s how to get it right…
Moving CSR beyond Mandela Day
Brands are certainly spending money on corporate social responsibility or CSR initiatives, especially in July, known as #MandelaMonth as it’s home to many companies’ focus on their Mandela Day/67 minutes campaigns. Sadly, in most instances consumers aren’t even aware of these initiatives, or simply blow them off as corporate puffery, they’ve become so run-of-the-mill. So while money transfers hands and sometimes meaningful activations are carried out, the resulting message or spirit of truly ‘doing good’ goes nowhere, fast.
We’ve turned this situation on its head by making the CSR our stand-out factor by making reality TV shows about it, and as such have been at the forefront of the branded content revolution in Africa for the past decade.
How do we do it? Well, we tend to give the show a ‘TV name’, so it looks like the TV station has actually commissioned the show, then use techniques inside the show to make the brand the hero. We also focus on topics of interest to our audience. As Africa’s the mobile-first continent of the ‘screenager’, our content focuses on their specific needs and interests, namely education and healthcare, with an entertaining angle that leaves the broadcasters, brands and consumers alike equally satisfied. At the end of the day, that’s the basis of CSR too, so it’s a seamless fit.
Long-form video means you can really make a difference in the lives of your audience. Instead of just entertaining them for a few minutes as you would in an ad break, you’re uplifting them by empowering them with knowledge and services that are otherwise lacking and actually change their lives for the better.
We’ve already worked this magic across the continent, with shows like Touching Lives for Airtel and Healthline for Vodafone proving immensely successful, as they highlight the power of getting medical knowledge and services to those that need it most. Yes, the shows are branded by telecoms giants, but their content is in no way a push to buy airtime. Instead, in meeting its vision of becoming Nigeria’s most-loved brand, Airtel’s CSR focus lies in being socially responsible, providing education to the underprivileged across the country. Touching Lives is just one aspect of that overall socially responsible mandate, and is something we’ll continue to focus on as we begin work with Airtel in Rwanda. It’s no coincidence that the Airtel brand is adopting the CSR content model in its business units on the continent, as it has incredible results.
It’s about making a connection, getting consumers to notice your brand as you entertain and educate them with purpose, getting them to interact with you across multiple channels as they come to know and trust the information you’ve shared, and ultimately improving their lives in the long-run. All proof of the power of long-form content in the CSR space. That’s how you really capture consumers’ attention and build on brand loyalty.