Ditching Marketing 101: The New Approach to Branded Content Marketing

We all know the old tricks of the trade for branded content marketing—close-ups of smiling children demonstrate your company’s strong family values, majestic shots of redwoods tell consumers you care for the environment, fast motion and time-lapse cinematography indicate that you know how to navigate our ever-changing world, etc. The stock footage company Dissolve decided to take all of these clichés and throw them into one smart and poignant branded content video.

The video might make you chuckle, but it should also make you think. With the rise of a new generation of Millennials who have grown up with these tactics, it might be time for your brand to change up their strategy. Sure, the image of the car gliding along the hillside might still work, but the story of a little girl describing her Audi-driving father as an alien is more likely to engage the consumer. Let’s take a look at some other branded content marketing that has surpassed the stereotypes and ventured into exciting new territory.


When one thinks of the typical fast food marketing strategy they picture the perfectly arranged fries, the revolving burger and the free toys enticing children to request (or beg for) their favorite kids’ meal. “The Scarecrow” is part of Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” campaign. The intent of the video is to promote the new iOS game, “The Scarecrow” by Chipotle.

By using cause marketing, Chipotle has succeeded in stepping outside the happy meal box. The company has mastered the art of setting aside brand promotion in order to tell important stories. This approach is admirable and has lead to a viral video, an iPhone game with nearly one million downloads and the new Hulu series, “Farmed and Dangerous.”

Intel and Toshiba

Technology companies have been known for marketing spots filled with green and black binary shots, colorful wires and the sounds of typing on keyboards. Directed by a Sundance-winning director, “The Beauty Inside” web series hacked the typical techno box. Intel and Toshiba seamlessly placed their products into this romantic, social film.

As Alex’s identity changes every day, viewers could submit their own videos to have a chance to be in the next episode – making them the center of the campaign. There are no cheesy lines about how much the main character loves his Intel Dual Processor. There is no speedy talk at the end listing laptop specifications. The computer simply fits into the story, organically. In this way, Intel and Toshiba have obviously learned the most important rule of branded content—the story isn’t about you.


We’ve all seen those token marketing images that scream feminine hygiene —blue water, horseback riding and groups of women playing volleyball. The startup company HelloFlo took feminine hygiene to a more relatable and humorous place by shattering that little blue box.

Getting your first period is scary and life changing and HelloFlo is sharing in this human experience with a little humor. With six million views, this video has helped HelloFlo mold into a larger operation with a clear mission. As CEO Naama Bloom says, “This is still a business, but the response we’ve gotten has shown it goes beyond that, to get people more comfortable talking about things they were previously uncomfortable talking about. That’s been so rewarding. One of my goals is to turn something that’s usually a negative into a more positive experience.”


The auto insurance marketing game was changed forever on a quiet day in 1999, when a small, green, gecko took center stage. Geico has arguably one of the greatest marketing strategies out there. With this new Gecko book, it would appear they’ve done it again.

With lines like, “You can do anything you set your mind to. As long as you don’t set it to bringing back tail warmers from the 80s,” this book engages the consumer without beating them over the head with auto quotes and policy details. The Gecko is an adorable mascot that has captured the hearts of most Americans, so who wouldn’t want his book? People bought Snooki’s book, didn’t they?

What brands do you see bursting out of the box?

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