Why organisations invest in branded content – and how to find the winning formula

Excitement filled the air on May 6 when the South China Morning Post’s (SCMP)  Morning Studio hosted a lively inaugural breakfast event titled “Embracing #Ad”. Industry leaders and influencers were invited to the fireside chat and panel discussion to share their insights on the power of branded content. The event was held in Hong Kong at The Upper House. 

Kevin Huang, chief operating officer, SCMP, kick-started the event by challenging the audience to think about what it means to deploy a successful branded content campaign and how marketers can maximise their returns. 

The Business Case For Branded Content 

With that in mind, Haymans Fung, managing director, head of marketing, wealth and retail banking & head of global partnerships marketing at Standard Chartered Bank, and Michala Sabnani, executive director at Morning Studio, engaged in a fireside chat to discuss the importance of storytelling. Fung explained that evoking emotions is by far the best way to ensure and grow branded content investment. 

Haymans Fung, managing director, head of marketing, wealth and retail banking & head of global partnerships marketing, Standard Chartered Bank.

“Branded content is storytelling that allows you to connect with your audience on a more personal and emotional level, something that’s harder for traditional advertising to do,” she said. 

She argued that storytelling creates a return on investment and value as it builds trust, loyalty, and familiarity with the brand. She added that brands can then use the opportunity to take on a thought leadership role or be a go-to source for expertise and knowledge — something advertising cannot do.

How To Craft Successful Branded Content 

Next up was a panel discussion that looked at the pivotal role of storytellers and content creators and how they can craft high-quality content that speaks to audiences. Moderated by Sabnani, the panel included influencers and well-known content creators, including filmmaker Jazzie Sillona and travel photographer Derek Tang (each with more than 450,000 Instagram followers). Also on the panel was Nick Jones, video producer at Morning Studio, which has created close to 200  branded content episodes in the last 12 months, of which more than a third were in video.  

Nick Jones, executive producer (video) at Morning Studio, SCMP.

Aside from discussing personal successes, the panel highlighted challenges often faced by creators, such as balancing creative freedoms, tight deadlines, and stakeholders’ expectations, as well as maintaining financial sustainability and creating authentic content that resonates with audiences. 

“A perfect collaboration really comes by having trust between all parties,” Jones said. Sillona agreed, adding that communication is key and can foster longevity and synergy between client and creator to master the process of storytelling. 

“I know I’ve hit success when I can work with my client again in the future; it’s about being able to have a good relationship with the client and being able to understand each other on a shared vision and to compromise,” he said.

Jazzie Sillona, filmmaker, video creator.

Tang, on the other hand, outlined the limitations of content innovation. He believes it is more effective to take a soft-sell approach, challenging creators to go beyond the hard sell to think about how to make engaging branding videos. 

“Audiences are very smart right now, they will know in the first few seconds what you are doing,” he said. “Create branded content that will attract the attention of the audience to visit your page.”

As the event drew to a close, the speakers discussed ways of measuring success. They noted that while data will always have its place, the real win comes from building relationships and forging the right emotional connections with audiences. 

Derek Tang, travel photographer, video creator.

“People don’t really get caught up in the information, but they will always remember the emotion – and that’s what storytelling and branded content can do,” Fung said. “Choosing the right content creator and partner should always be a key priority.” 

The audience and speakers engage in a lively debate.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Why organisations invest in branded content – and how to find the winning formula



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