Sainsbury’s TV show signals more sophisticated branded content

Branded content is nothing new, but it is evolving and it’s the evolution that is making it interesting. Sainsbury’s ‘What’s Cooking?’ TV show on Channel 4 is just one example of the kind of sophisticated branded content marketers should be aiming for.


Whether it’s advertising, or corporate communications, sponsored content or advertorial, brands have been producing content as long as there have been brands.

Hopefully what we’ll see this year is a more sophisticated style of branded content that doesn’t look like clunky product placement or tactless plugs for products.

The fact that Sainsbury’s What’s Cooking? is on mainstream TV shows that this isn’t an amateur move. Sainsbury’s has moved beyond being a retailer that could sponsor a food show to being a content creator using its wealth of knowledge and expertise as a food retailer to offer more than products.

It’s a real life TV show that just so happens to be produced by a brand. As a consumer I don’t care if content is funded by brands, developed by brands or sponsored. What I care about is that I enjoy what I’m watching, reading or listening to and I get something from it.

Without having seen any full episodes of Sainsbury’s What’s Cooking?, it’s difficult to gauge where on the scale of good to bad it will sit, but as a concept it fits so seamlessly with what Sainsbury’s is trying to achieve through the rest of its brand communications, online resources and stores it should be a success.

Topshop has also signalled that content is going to become more important for the way the brand communicates. Topshop is a brand that hasn’t done that much creative marketing before. It does fashion advertising, shot beautifully, but very little beyond that.

Appointing its first CMO, Justin Cooke who joined from Burberry last year, is one sign that the retailer is getting a lot more creative and smart about the way it uses its brand.

Digital video content and social media are now high on the priority list. Burberry spent upwards of 60 per cent of its marketing budget on digital and I wouldn’t be surprised if Topshop follows suit.

There is a never-ending calendar of seasonal events that Topshop can latch on to and create content around. One example is the Chinese New Year campaign launched this week, another is last year’s Halloween activity that was relatively inexpensive to create but sent fan engagement off the chart.

Sainsbury’s and Topshop are both examples of brands that can continue to create relevant content on an ongoing basis.

This is one of the key factors in whether a brand can make a success of branded content. Sainsbury’s and Topshop are both examples of brands that can continue to create relevant content on an ongoing basis.

The inspiration isn’t going to dry up – buying food and cooking meals are not going away,The inspiration isn’t going to dry up – buying food and cooking meals are not going away, neither is fashion or clothing. It means neither brand will have to labour a point or stretch their brand into territory it really has no right to be in.

It’s when a brand is obviously shoehorning a message or a product push into an otherwise informative or entertaining piece of content that the credibility of both brand and content are undermined.

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