Two examples of “branded content,” from Subway and Taco Bell. One I finished watching.

I admit: Taco Bell clearly has the more “fun” brand. Living mas is a lot more fun than eating fresh.

That said, Subway (whom I’m usually critical of) has found a way to “use” Jared in an appropriate and potentially engaging way.

Oh, hey, Jared. Nice job not being huge. What are you up to today? Interviewing folks? Oh. Nice. Good idea. Well, um, good luck. See you around. Bye.
Oh, hey, Jared. Nice job not being huge. What are you up to today? Interviewing folks? Oh. Nice. Good idea. Well, um, good luck. See you around. Bye.

Except in the end, they didn’t pull it off, in my opinion. (sad trombone wah-wah sound)

After fifteen years, Jared is still the clearest brand symbol for Subway, even though he’s not exactly charismatic. He’s just a good-natured guy from Indiana who helps position them against all of fast food. And that’s the best place for them, I believe: when you’re looking to spend a certain amount of money in a limited amount of time, they’re the perfect alternative to a guilt-inducing QSR choice.

But they’ve never driven that message home consistently, except by bringing Jared back like he was a marauding cow who misspells words.

Only he’s just…not, um…not interesting.

Watch the video at this link.

That’s “content,” the buzzword. And having Jared interview Mario Lopez is a good idea on its face: maybe Jared’s not interesting, but you could have him talk to interesting people! (Jared interviewing Mario is what’s at that link; I couldn’t embed it… you didn’t go look at it, did you? Because you aren’t that interested in Jared. Right?)

If you followed that link, here’s a question. Be honest. Could you watch the whole video? Yes? Then you must be a franchisee who delegates most of his day’s work.

I found it very tedious.

Then on my Twitter feed came this tweet:

Hm. I should be working, but this is ...this is ... I can’t help it, I have to find out more...
Hm. I should be working, but this is …this is … I can’t help it, I have to find out more…

And it led me to this delightful video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9oDCdz-AkI&feature=youtu.be

Now THAT is “content.” I watched that not because I felt I had to “as a restaurant marketing X-pert bloggerman” but because it was entertaining at every moment. The editor realized he was going to lose me if he didn’t keep the story—and the promise that the story would get better—movin’ right along.

There’s the lesson: when you make “content,” don’t just be branded and appropriate and dutiful. Like Subway.

Be scared you’re about to lose your viewers, whom you must entertain or lose forever. Like Taco Bell.

Be as entertaining as that BuzzFeed list your target customers were about to click on instead.

You’re competing with the whole web on behalf of your brand. You have to lure people in, then make them forget they’re watching something that promotes your capitalistic objectives. You have to make people enjoy your “content” period, plain and simple—otherwise they’ll click on over to Funny or Die.

That’s why everybody’s so freaked out about “branded content.” Nobody’s brand is more entertaining than Li’l Bub.

Li’l Bub does not care about your business objectives, and is here to occupy the time your customers spend enjoying themselves on the internet—time that you want, but Li’l Bub is not going to let you have. Ha ha.
Li’l Bub does not care about your business objectives, and is here to occupy the time your customers spend enjoying themselves on the internet—time that you want, but Li’l Bub is not going to let you have. Ha ha.

Still, you have to try.

I applaud Subway for having a relevant brand message (besides “we hired a star to promote a flavor”).

But I was entertained by Taco Bell’s extreme fan mini-documentary.

Guess which one I’m liable to RT on my personal Twitter feed?

Yeah. The branded content that doesn’t smell so much like “branded content.”

2 comments

  1. Every time I read a post here about Taco Bell, I crave it for about a week until I finally break down and go get a #7. Now THAT’S powerful content!

    1. Yep. Yours is a terrific example of why “great” (ie, “enjoyable”) content may seem disconnected from direct sales, but definitely is not.

      The #7, eh. In my neck of the woods, I’m thinking that’s the quesadilla. (I think the numbers are different in different markets.)

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