Why These Branded Content Underdogs Command R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Ragini Bhalla on Storytelling and Content Marketing.

What you want

Baby, I got

What you need

Do you know I got it?

All I’m askin’

Is for a lil respect when you come home…

Oh, Aretha Franklin. She sure knows how to make you feel the power of those words. She may not have been a marketer, but even back then she knew how to use her songs (aka content) to make people feel and become part of the content experience. Whether you’re on a brand’s multi-person marketing team or the Jack or Jill of all (marketing) trades for a small business, creating the type of branded content that can make or break your relationship with, and sales from, customers. You know customers, right? Customers are those all-important people (let’s not call them visitors, shall we?) who interact with your brand, feel bonded by the experiences you deliver, invest emotionally into the relationship, and even feel slighted and offended when your participation in the relationship falls short of their expectations or feels superficial.

It’s true. People treat brands almost as personally as, if not more, than we treat our own friends, family and even colleagues. So it goes without saying that the branded content stakes are incredibly high for both B2B and B2C brands. It’s just not going to fly to write and publish blogs that are one-sided, overly promotional, inauthentic and talk at, not with your customers. And blogs cannot just live and breathe on the blog channel – they need to spread their digital wings and push new dialogue in other channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Vine and Instagram. Commanding branded content respect – amidst serious pressure both internally and externally to hit sales numbers – is no easy feat. But the good news is that there is a good mix of both B2C and B2B brands that have begun to push their blogs to be more human. Here are two branded content underdogs, in my opinion, that are doing all the right things to command R-E-S-P-E-C-T.


Despite being a pretty lean startup, this fitness and lifestyle company has created multiple forms of branded content that command some serious R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Why, you ask? Well, it’s pretty simple.  Whether it’s digestible bits about all the many things that influence our health and fitness as a person on their blog, or rocking out-meets-DIY exercise videos to Bollywood-inspired songs on its YouTube page, Doonya makes it all about the people, not themselves.

When you read their blog, there is no wall separating the people from the Doonya World. You feel like you’re sitting on a makeshift blanket in the park, being goofy, munching on the family-style smorgasbord of snacks and comparing “remember when” stories with each other. But blogs are just one piece of Doonya’s branded content puzzle. When you head over to their YouTube channel, there are so many different types of videos to choose from. On one hand, you’ve got “Meet The Instructor” one-to-one chat sessions and behind-the-scenes glimpses into their local classes and adventures around the world. Then you’ve got all kinds of DIY at-home workouts choreographed to Bollywood-inspired songs. What stands out about this underdog’s YouTube channel is its refusal to just do one thing. And it shows when you look at their engagement numbers. Beyond the 21K+ subscribers to their YouTube channel, each of their videos becomes a social “gem. Just look at this workout inspired by Doom 3. It amassed over 677,000 views, over 133 comments and nearly 1,000 likes. Now look at their Facebook page – it’s an amalgamation of all things

While these numbers may not seem as high as what you’d see on the YouTube page for brands like Kraft or Oreo, it’s a great example of an underdog using human storytelling to drive organic growth and success.  Every single piece of content they create across each channel is about making people – you know, customers – feel like they’re part of an inter-connected Doonya World. That’s what brand content and journalism should be all about.


Unlike B2C brands, branded content can be a very hard nut to crack (pun intended). That’s where B2B brand Ceros does a great job of making its voice heard over the deafening industry chatter. If you visit their blog, it doesn’t feel like they’re focused on making superficial, one-sided relationships with readers. Again, like Doonya, the Ceros blog is all about the people. Rather than piling on SEO keywords into their blog titles and blog copy itself, each post offers insights on the good and bad examples in the industry, tips on how to be better brand marketers, missed opportunities, Q&As with their own internal people as well as industry movers and shakers, and best of all, visual representations of their own data. That’s the kind of B2B blog that I would glad read and share long-term. And that’s the kind of branded content trust and respect other B2B marketers should look to instill in their audience.

Now as a content marketer and communications professional myself, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight an example of their branded content success. I recently clicked on and read (and watched) the e-book, co-developed by both Ceros and Contently, aptly titled “How To Build A Brand Newsroom.” Now this could easily have been presented as a text-heavy, one-dimensional PDF that makes you snore and feels like it’s stalking you to buy its products and services. But oh no, that is not what the e-book does. Rather, it replicates and amplifies that “ooh and ahh” cooing and pointing experience that happens when you read a pop-up storybook to a three-year-old.

When you click past the cover page (or scene), the first sentence isn’t professing the company’s awesomeness or listing out keyword-after-keyword just so it can move to the top of Google’s search ranking. No, the first sentence gets to the point, faster and better than most. “Creating timely and original content can help brands build connections with current and potential customers, but it requires specialized skills, expertise, and organization.” In a matter of seconds, the reader knows the value of what the e-book will teach them and it’s clear that it won’t be possible as an easy fix without patience, strategy and collaboration. I especially like how the e-book takes its cue from children’s storybooks and use bold colors to highlight the area that should pop in readers’ minds. By doing so, Ceros will likely see the engagement time spent reading this e-book increase from Page 1 across the entire piece of content.

Ragini is a monthly contributor to The Makegood. She brings the PR, communications and content perspective to all things advertising and marketing. Her career background includes entertainment/TV PR and technology/B2B PR and communications.