Photo from the cover of "Sell Out" by The Who

How to Create Branded Content That Engages

For starters, do not sell out.


by Dave Robson

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A long time ago, The Who released their third album, Sell Out. Forty-five years later it still holds up. And upon a recent listening, we were reminded of an important lesson for content marketers.

Take a second and watch this video by trivia magazine Mental Floss. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Back? Good.

You just watched some great branded content, don’t you think? Dos Equis isn’t in the business of selling champagne. And they aren’t selling champagne sabres. They’re selling beer, but more to the point, they’re selling the idea of being interesting. Interesting people want to know stuff like how to sabre open a champagne bottle, and enter Dos Equis, telling them exactly that — with nary a mention about how great Dos Equis is or why you should drink it. All that is implied. This content about champagne builds the Dos Equis brand, and ultimately brand-building content sells more beer.

Want to make your branded content more engaging and less shilly? Consider:

People don’t like most marketing

Sad truth. As much as we like knowing about cool new stuff, we also don’t like being the recipient of a sales pitch. And remember — it’s easy to walk away from branded content that feels like a sales pitch.

People like being entertained

Nobody’s clicking around the Net in the hopes of running into some great branded content — but they’ll be glad they did if they get a laugh or two.

People don’t like being lied to

Branded content should be upfront about what it is — because if a consumer smells a rat, they’ll never become a customer.

People like useful advice

An awful lot of products out there require some instruction (exercise equipment, kitchen goodies, anything from a hardware store). A stupid content writer writes those instructions specific to said product and calls it a day. A smart content writer writes something that serves the same need as the product in question (How to Sabre a Champagne Bottle is about drinking).

Create content you’d like to read

Not something you wouldn’t mind reading, not something you’d tolerate reading, something you’d genuinely enjoy reading. If  you won’t read or watch it, why would anyone else?

One more thing about Dos Equis’ Mental Floss video (sitting at 220,000 views): people want to watch it. People want to share it. That’s the test that separates weak branded content from great branded content.