is it content branding if we’re having fun?

This morning, I attended “Grow Your Customer Relationships With Branded Content,” an overview of content marketing with some solid discussion of experiments in brand experiences. Examples from the panel included compelling EMS stories to foster community and pride among first responders; Notch beer‘s owner carving a spot in discussions about session ale; and Converse feeding off the creativity of its fanbase by building a studio in which bands can record for free — a rich source of audio and video content that allegedly asks nothing from the artists other than the right to use their likenesses.

Before I learned that a brand can be my best friend in terms of offering a firm foundation for good content, the journalist in me would bristle at the thought of it (“What’s this bullshit, telling me how to write?!”) These days, I salivate at the opportunity (and the budget) to devise something that really wows a Web audience. What’s more, it’s clear that when content managers are encouraged to go beyond the obvious associations that go with their brand, there’s still room for a great story to emerge. Observe:

Talk at the panel turned to the future, and it was all about engagement and soliciting user-generated content. I realized that I had just participated in such a ploy, submitting an entry to the video contest. Perhaps you’ve seen it?

In a nutshell, the simple contest requirements put a site promo in every entry, and contestants were encouraged to garner votes, using provided social media tools. The result? has their next Passover e-card. Also, I’d never been to their site before, but the process of participation has made me a more engaged user. The iPad prize for first place doesn’t hurt, either.

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