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3 Branded Content Formats that Will Rule in 2014

overhead-painter with paper towelFor weeks now marketers have been wading through reports aimed at predicting the year’s upcoming media trends. Marketing strategies, publishing partners — everything’s up for debate as we gauge what’s in store and where to focus our branded content energies in the months to come.

Most forecasts like these are the product of data. Combine shifts in consumer behavior and media consumption habits with surveys of marketers’ plans and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of what to expect. We know, for example, that investments in social media are on the rise. It’s also evident that online video ad spending, which has been steadily growing for years, will continue to find favor with brands. 

But what form will those investments take? Which formats will continue to prove popular? How will our application of them change? These kinds of predictions are harder to make. What follows is an exploration of three content marketing trends. Based on their current trajectory, consumer interest, and industry buzz, these are the formats to watch.

Social video content for every occasion

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One study indicates that consumers are four times more likely to view a branded Vine video versus a more standard brand video. My assumption here is: Who can’t carve out 6 seconds to watch something animated and goofy? Additionally, 88 percent of brands have shared at least one video on Instagram. Since these video sharing tools launched last year — Twitter introduced Vine in January of 2013, while Instagram added video capabilities in June — they have captured marketers’ imaginations and inspired hundreds of short social videos from companies like Burt’s Bees, BMW, MTV, NBA, Nike, and Samsung.

Because they live on Instagram and Twitter, these tools are easy to integrate into existing social strategies. They provide a secondary avenue through which to engage users and encourage interaction. Both are frequently used as extensions of larger campaigns — but where we’re likely to see even more activity is in their correlation with special occasions. Look for Vines and Instagram videos in association with holidays, sporting events, pop culture happenings, and Hollywood award shows. Whether they take the form of a Lowe’s Vine in honor of the Fourth of July holiday, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Monday Night Football #DunkinReplay ads, or Barneys New York’s holiday window reveal, quick and dirty social video formats like these are ideally suited to timely and culturally relevant campaigns.

Branded Tumblrs take users behind the scenes 

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Tumblr offers a lot in the way of marketing options, many of which are outlined on the social site’s Marketr sales and brand strategy blog. Sponsored posts now tap Yahoo technology, while the recently launched sponsored trending blog unit taps mobile audiences and the most-read sections of the network. Despite these more traditional advertising options, branded Tumblrs will continue to thrive — in large part by showing consumers what they can’t see anywhere else.

We know Tumblr as a visual marketing tool. It’s built for imagery, to showcase photos and animated GIFs with style. Increasingly, we’re seeing brands leverage these traits to display behind-the-scenes footage, sneak peeks, and alternate versions of well-known ads.

For example, Calvin Klein’s Tumblr takes visitors to its photo shoots and highlights the supermodels forever linked with the brand, while retailer Ann Taylor posts videos of upcoming collections and styling tips from employees. This approach to branded content development and curation gives users a sense of exclusivity and helps build affinity with brands. Consumers are spending more time than ever interacting with brands online and embracing their role as ambassadors. Tumblr is a stylish conduit for delivering the visual marketing “scoops” they seek.

Online films will get even longer

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In sharp contrast to social media shorts, online video is branching off in an entirely different direction. Last year began with a star-studded 8-minute animated film from Coca-Cola. In April, Jaguar released its 13-minute-long branded film Desire. By Black Friday, we were watching Patagonia’s Worn Wear, celebrating the clothes we already own by sitting through nearly 28 minutes of footage.

There were many shorter branded films in between — Dove Real Beauty Sketches and Bounty’s portrait of artist Ken Delmar are among my favorites. Both pack aspirational, brand-positive punches while clocking in at about 3 minutes each. The abundance and success of longer films, however, implies the beginning of a welcome trend. We now know there’s an audience for branded content in long form, and that affords marketers a larger artistic scope. When a message requires it, and if we can find a way to make it worth consumers’ while, we can once again merge style with substance for a deeper, more memorable branded experience.

Any number of digital media forms and formats could explode this year. Any one could become the next darling of the online scene. Keep an eye on these three contenders, though. Odds are good you’ll be seeing a lot of them.

Want to see more examples of stellar content marketing? Check out CMI’s eBook, 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity.