Branded Entertainment

What is Branded Entertainment?

What is Branded Entertainment? It’s the next big change in how we think about our marketing strategy. In this post, I describe how a brand can bring entertainment value to the table and meet company goals. Chipotle is a great example of an industry leader that thinks on its feet. There is so much to be said about doing things differently and providing value in the moment.

Branded Entertainment is different. It’s not like a commercial-providing a 30second burst of temptation (fast-food commercials). It can bring as much value as your favorite TV show! In regards to creativity it is more about storytelling than selling. It’s non-interruptive because it is the main feature. It could be a TV series, movie, music album, animation, or comic book.

As a form of alternative marketing, this rout does take more creativity but the end results can speak for themselves. Chipotle produced its series-Farmed and Dangerous and premiered the series on Hulu. It was a major success; the results are shared latter in the post. Fast Company called it, “The latest and greatest milestone in the fusion of television, advertising and advocacy”.

Branded Entertainment Description

There are actually three different names for it: branded entertainment, branded content, and advertainment. The definitions are all very closely related. Here is my idea of all three definitions combined:
It’s entertaining your target audience with original content produced by a brand. This original content entertains its audience and is complementary to a brand’s marketing strategy. The original content is paid for by a brand and not a producer or a movie studio.

The term Advertainment has more of an emphasis on placing products in movies and TV. Today, most movies and TV series are produced by broadcasters, producers, and film studios. In the near future, I believe that this will be shifting and we will see more of branded entertainment.

How did Chipotle do it?

Before launching Farmed and Dangerous, Chipotle produced a PR campaign. Buck Marshell was casted as lead actor for multiple video teasers. The teasers raised awareness that the series was connected to Chipotle and that it would be on Hulu soon.


Farmed and Dangerous was a production of four episodes. It had a high production value and acting talent. Farmed and Dangerous costs about $250,000 an episode. The show then premiered on Hulu going up against shows like Modern Family. Both shows received a four in a half star rating out of five stars total. Farmed and Dangerous revived 25k Facebook likes, Modern Family: 4.7k. The premier of Farmed and Dangerous became the second most popular show on that day and 86% of the viewers watched the whole show. Viewers at the rate of 62% shared the content. It became the most successful Hulu premier to date.

Social Media & Farmed and Dangerous

On the social media front, Chipotle partnered with the Huffington Post and created a section on food and agriculture in America. The section is named: Food for Thought. The result was 1M unique visitors per month. Food for Thought also received over 4M social shares. This number also includes 223,000,000 Twitter mentions. It became the most successful social impact section in Huffington post to date.

Other Branded Entertainment-Chipotle

The Scarecrow, produced in 2013 is another success. Mark Crumpacker said because his company “is on a mission to change the way the world thinks of and eats fast food”. The animation takes us into a world of “Crow Foods Incorporated”. This world is not so different from the world we live today (In America). I have seen real footage of confinement farming used today and I will never forget that footage. It is disturbing and depressing to view. Chipotle takes a more creative storytelling approach that really works. The Scarecrow video had 13M + views.

At the close of the animation, a banner folds down with the words, “Cultivate a Better World”. Chipotle is very focused on how confinement farming affects fast food customers. They want quality food being served from more fast food brands in general. That is why The Cultivate Foundation was started. It’s all about sustainable agriculture. This kind of agriculture comes directly from family farming and not corporations. So far, the Cultivate Foundation has contributed more than $2M to help support the cause. It really does move full-circle back to Fast Company’s quote, “The latest and greatest milestone in the fusion of television, advertising and advocacy”. I would say it is not just Chipotle using Branded Entertainment as their medium. What makes this possible is the story that came out of their brand values.

Chipotle’s Brand Values

As described on their website, “Food with integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.” They then connected those brand values with creative partners, and developed Branded Entertainment like Farmed and Dangerous and The Scarecrow.

Take Away

There is a lot that we can learn from Chipotle. Who does not like to be entertained?
Chipotle does not just have one thing going on. It’s not just about Chipotle the restaurant. It’s also about the Cultivate Foundation that helps farmers. It’s also about expanding conversation on the Huffington Post. There is also the Cultivate Festival which I write about my other post. Chipotle has a lot going on and all of it brings value, cultural change, and entertainment.

How are the issues of your brand related to community or world issues at large?
How can you take your brand values and show how they are lived out? This is not just inside your company.
If you are on this track currently as a brand, Chipotle’s websites are great examples. There’s a different website for each of its brand goals.

What social media channels work the best as a flagship for your cause?  Chipotle’s entertainment matches their brand values and the values of their audience. On all branded projects we should constantly be working out of our values.