I’m an easy mark for a good “reality” show marathon. Nothing fuses my pants to a couch on a Sunday more securely than a snackable show running all day long. One in particular that draws me in is Bar Rescue.
I’m an easy mark for a good “reality” show marathon. Nothing fuses my pants to a couch on a Sunday more securely than a snackable show running all day long. One in particular that draws me in is Bar Rescue. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a show where a failing bar hires a large, loud, and needlessly furious expert to come in and help them turn things around. The premise in a nutshell is that John, the expert, gets to verbally humiliate you, your staff, and maybe even your family for several days on TV in exchange for sinking a couple hundred grand into a complete physical rehab of your establishment. It’s great.
As a reality show, it’s got everything:
- People at the lowest stage of their lives given a shot at redemption.
- A business being irresponsibly run into the ground in ways that we the viewers would never do because we’re soooo much smarter than them.
- A larger than life character who expresses himself in only the most extreme ways, from yelling at the managers, to yelling at the staff, to yelling at the manager’s parents for enabling the bad behavior, to yelling at the cooks for not keeping the kitchens clean (and man, that is where the MOST yelling occurs) to ultimately holding all of the above in his arms and offering genuine, loving encouragement while they tearfully thank him for changing their lives.
- And then they redecorate the whole bar for free.
So, it’s like a home makeover show AND an intervention show AND a look-into-someone-else’s-life-and-job show all in one.
But what it’s best at is selling product. And for my money, it’s one of my favorite examples of branded content I’ve seen.
The best kind of branded content allows for inclusion of a product without feeling like a commercial, and this show does it perfectly. As part of every remodel of every bar, they create a new drink menu. A mixologist is brought in to show the bartenders how to make the new drinks, and they always use liquor from the same family. (And by family, I mean sponsor.)
“Here, this one’s called a Sunny Beach Surprise, made with this brand of vodka.” “And here’s a Fanhatten, made with the same brand’s bourbon.”
Oh! So it’s also kind of like a cooking show, because it gives viewers like me drink recipes that I always want to try, while telling me exactly what brand of ingredients to use.
The brilliance of this type of branded content is making the brand PART of the content. It belongs there. The opposite of this effective use of brands happens on the same channel. I won’t name any names, but an example would be where the proprietors of say, I don’t know, a pawn shop, suddenly stop everything they’re doing and sit down to eat subs from a chain store. (The way nobody eats sandwiches, by the way, by going around the table and announcing what kind of sub they’re eating and how much the meal deal costs.)
The liquor in a show about rehabbing a bar not only fits in, it enhances the experience. Any good approach to branded content should consider how well the brand will be received by the viewer by how well it adds to the story.
I’d love to hear of other examples that fit into this category. While I’m waiting, I’m going to mix up a five-flavored layered cocktail I just learned about. I’ve already bought all the ingredients.