Branded entertainment is a form of marketing where companies produce, fund, or license the creation of entertainment media. While the term overlaps slightly with content marketing, the two techniques serve unique purposes. The distinction is that branded content is not promotional in and of itself — instead, branded entertainment generates awareness by creating associations between brand messaging and engaging media content.
In other words:
- Content marketing seeks to advertise branded products or services to customers.
- Branded entertainment seeks to entertain or educate audiences using branded content and messaging.
What are some popular examples of branded entertainment?
Branded entertainment has become especially popular in recent years, corresponding with declining engagement rates for traditional advertising methods. Despite these trends, branded content has existed since the earliest days of sponsored broadcasting. In 1951, for example, Hallmark produced the Hall of Fame television program. In 1984, Hasbro licensed a Transformers animated series to generate awareness for its toy line.
Perhaps the most popular branded entertainment line of 2019 is LEGO, which encompasses critically-acclaimed films, television series, and video games. Yet customers can find many examples of branded content today, ranging from short films to newspaper articles. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the development of branded mobile games and apps.
What are some popular branded entertainment apps?
Mobile apps represent an especially promising, if relatively untapped opportunity for branded entertainment — especially in the mobile gaming category. The restaurant chain Chipotle recently sponsored a top-rated mobile game with gameplay mechanics inspired by healthy eating. Meanwhile, Dorito’s sponsored a gaming app that rewarded points to a linked customer loyalty program. Once again, LEGO is also a branded entertainment leader in the mobile space. The company has licensed multiple games and entertainment media tie-ins on Google Play and the App Store, including LEGO Batman, LEGO Star Wars, and LEGO Ninjago.
What are the benefits of branded entertainment apps?
On their own merits, mobile apps have become one of the highest-performing marketing channels available — and that’s before we account for branded entertainment. Across the developed and developing world, an overwhelming majority of adults own at least one mobile device. Roughly 90% of mobile browsing time is spent engaged with mobile apps. The Google Play storefront alone hosts approximately 1,300 new apps each day. Users clearly enjoy downloading and experiencing apps, making them an ideal branded entertainment channel.
Branded entertainment also gains unique benefits from app ecosystems that are difficult to leverage in other media formats. For example, branded entertainment apps are easier to distribute and monetize compared to media like film or television. Mobile apps also have a significant return on investment compared to other media, partly because they can monetize multiple revenue channels — apps support advertising revenue, in-app purchases, direct app storefront transactions, or any combination of the above.
On top of these benefits, branded entertainment apps:
- Are inherently less disruptive than other marketing techniques, including in-app advertising.
- Cultivate high user engagement through two-way communication pipelines, such as branded membership profiles or customer service channels.
- Act as a valuable source of consumer data, which brands can apply to future marketing initiatives and advertising campaigns.
What are the challenges of producing branded entertainment apps?
If creating a branded entertainment app was easy, every single company would have done so by now. Unfortunately, branded entertainment faces the same production challenges as any other entertainment media. Even in 2019, it’s incredibly difficult to know whether a branded entertainment product will succeed or be ignored. In the 1980s, Transformers became a pop culture sensation, but Nintendo’s The Wizard was a critical flop — branded entertainment apps face the same risks.
For a branded entertainment app to succeed, developers must conduct extensive market research and testing to optimize the experience for their chosen market segment. Brands should also seek out app development expertise where possible. If you’re producing a mobile game, consider licensing the project to successful mobile developers. There are many top-tier mobile studios who would be willing to design games for the right brand under a favourable partnership agreement.
Finally, mobile app publishing itself also poses unique risks and challenges. Branded entertainment publishers should be prepared to address the following issues:
- Discovery: With 1,300 apps launching each day, you can never guarantee that your branded entertainment app will rank on app storefronts for long. You’ll need to promote the completed app through other marketing channels to encourage discovery over the long-term.
- Competition: Your app will compete with every other app in the category for the time and revenue provided by users — branded entertainment or otherwise. That said, brand recognition can go a long way towards cutting through the noise.
- Making a strong first impression: If your branded entertainment app fails to attract an audience — or worse, drives fans away — it’s almost impossible to get a second chance. Always test your app during a soft launch for the most optimal experience, and make sure to offer customers something of value.
Mobile games and apps have immense value for entertainment brands looking to expand their reach. Yet these benefits aren’t just exclusive to entertainment brands — non-entertainment media companies also attract new users by adapting their brands into engaging mobile apps.
For help promoting your branded entertainment apps, contact the mobile experts at Tapjoy today!