Marketing is a results business, but this doesn’t always have to involve the incessant promotion of products and services. Sometimes a different approach is needed, which is why many brands turn to branded content. 

As branded content marketing specialists Pitch explain: “Branded content involves creating exciting stories about your brand for your audience to enjoy”. This is unlike traditional advertising, which is primarily focused on marketing specific products and services. Branded content encompasses various types of content and aims to align with the interests and preferences of the target audience.

However, despite direct promotion or like with drink labels taking a backseat, this approach can still deliver significant results for brands, increasing their reach, improving their authority, and boosting conversions. With all of this in mind, we’ve outlined three branded content successes that all marketers can learn from.

  1. Red Bull: Stratos Space Jump

Energy drinks behemoth Red Bull is known for its extreme sports and adventure-themed content, and one of its most iconic branded campaigns of this kind was the “Stratos Space Jump” from 2012.

Here, Red Bull sponsored Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner to ascend to the edge of space in a helium balloon, before freefalling from a height of 128,100 feet. The entire event was broadcast live on YouTube and garnered millions of views.

Despite only subtly promoting Red Bull’s products, the campaign represents an exceptional example of branded content and has even been lauded as one of the best marketing stunts of all time. Here’s what made it so great:

  • Great storytelling: The Stratos Space Jump told a compelling story of human potential and courage, all while naturally weaving in Red Bull’s iconic “It gives you wings” tagline.
  • High stakes: The daring feat captured the public’s attention due to its high-stakes nature, creating a thrilling and ultimately unforgettable experience.
  • Real-time engagement: Red Bull leveraged digital platforms to stream the event live, enabling real-time engagement and interaction with the brand’s audience.
  1. Cadbury: Worldwide Hide

Back in April 2023, chocolate giant Cadbury celebrated the Easter holidays with a third instalment of its now annual “Worldwide Hide” Easter egg hunt.

Like previous years, the campaign involved a virtual hunt for Easter eggs, with the public able to hide a virtual egg for a loved one to try and find using Google Maps. Add in the ability to give clues and the option to send a real Easter egg after finding its virtual counterpart, and it’s clear that the campaign was a masterclass in audience interaction via branded content.

What’s more, Cadbury partnered with food bank charity the Trussell Trust as part of the campaign, donating 75,000 Easter chocolates to over 200 Trussell Trust branches throughout the UK. 

The Worldwide Hide worked so well for the following reasons:

  • Audience interaction: While most marketing campaigns are one-way, Worldwide Hide put the audience front and centre.
  • Technologically advanced: The innovative use of Google Maps and Google Street View API made the campaign available to almost anyone, showing how technology can be harnessed to a brand’s benefit.
  • Campaign coherence: The campaign successfully leaned into the themes of giving, family, and togetherness that Easter is all about.
  1. Dove: Real Beauty 

The personal care company Dove is renowned for its “Real Beauty” branded content campaign that promotes self-confidence and challenges conventional beauty standards. The campaign features various types of content, such as videos, print ads, and social media engagement. 

One of the most notable editions is the “Real Beauty Sketches” video, released in 2013. Here, Dove asked women to describe themselves to FBI trained forensic artist Gil Zamora, who drew a portrait of them based on what they said. This ultimately showed that many had a distorted perception of themselves, with the campaign encouraging women to reconsider their view of their own beauty and remember that they’re more beautiful than they think.

This example branded content was remarkable for these reasons:

  • Emotional connection: The video tapped into viewers’ emotions by showing women describing themselves and how they perceive others. The result was a powerful message about self-esteem and the influence of societal beauty norms.
  • Positive social impact: The campaign aligned with Dove’s commitment to fostering self-esteem and body positivity, making it not just about selling products but also making a positive societal impact.
  • Viral spread: The video quickly went viral, showcasing the power of content that resonates with its audience.