Last month, brand innovation consultancy BBMG and sustainable-lifestyle platform SHFT announced they are joining forces on a new branded content offering for organizations aiming to reach and engage Aspirational consumers, a fast-growing consumer segment that cares about looking good, feeling good and doing good.
Combining BBMG’s consumer insights and brand-building expertise with SHFT’s creative and production capacity and the SHFT.com lifestyle platform, the partnership offers a new approach to developing and delivering original branded content designed to disrupt and delight.
We caught up with BBMG’s Mitch Baranowski and SHFT co-founders Adrian Grenier and Peter Glatzer to find out more about the new project.
Sustainable Brands: Congratulations on lauching this new initiative with an impressive roster of clients, including Sprint and Recyclebank. What are the top factors that you think attracted them to this idea?
BBMG/SHFT: This is a new initiative for us both, combining the brand strategy expertise of BBMG with the content strategy and curatorial power of SHFT, so we wanted to launch with clients that made great sense and who could benefit from the synergy. Sprint’s new Good Works platform has many underleveraged stories. The Weather Channel wants to engage climate change in new and exciting ways. And Recyclebank has a lot of interesting storytelling opportunities given its mission and platform.
SB: You state that all concepts and programming ideas are designed to extend brands in authentic and meaningful ways. How much advertising or product placement should we expect? Can you give an example or two of 'extending' a brand in a meaningful way?
BBMG/SHFT: Branded content blurs distinctions between conventional advertising and entertainment. And unlike conventional forms of entertainment, branded content is generally funded by a brand or corporation rather than a studio or group of producers. We’re not envisioning much advertising or product placement, if at all. No one likes to be sold to. We’re intrigued by examples like the Jack Daniel’s documentary on Lynchburg, Tennessee. Or “The Hire,” a series of short films presented by BMW. Or what Mercedes-Benz has done with “The Avant-Garde Diaries,” an original interview series featuring cultural creatives.
SB: You mention feature-length documentaries as an option — are there already specific projects on the table? What topics or issues do you see as most likely to be common in short or feature-length films of this series?
BBMG/SHFT: We will be exploring a range of content strategies, channels and formats, including feature-length documentaries. The topics here will be informed by the issues we all care about — regeneration and resiliency, biomimicry, waste, water, sustainable design, etc. Many of our brand partners will make great executive producers of such films or webisodic series.
SB: Interestingly, BBMG's research shows that Aspirationals trust global companies to act in the best interest of society. How do you yourselves feel about that? Are you being selective with potential clients based on their experience or track record in sustainability?
BBMG/SHFT: We believe sustainability is an innovation imperative and that incremental change won’t cut it. The issues are too great, too urgent, for us to dilly-dally. We believe global companies have an incredible opportunity to do well and accelerate positive social change by innovating to promote sustainable consumption. Increasingly, Aspirational consumers will demand it. Both BBMG and SHFT are on a mission to make cool stuff better and better stuff cool. We are quite selective and use key criteria to help select client partners based on their track record, vision and commitment.