Car rental company Enterprise shifted gears in brand positioning last year to better reach consumers. The turn was designed to highlight their menu of offerings beyond just car rental. The 60-year-old car rental brand wanted to be known as a total-transportation-solutions company. To support this move, a new marketing strategy surrounded by content was introduced.

Since the reposition last August, which was billed as “Moving You,” Enterprise has gone the extra mile with a content marketing mix leveraging sports, music and travel, including: experiential through a concerts partnership and video series with Live Nation, a digital magazine heavy on travel, destination and lifestyle topics (Pursuits with Enterprise), an ad campaign featuring TV and digital and most recently, the debut of The Road Through Warroad: Hockeytown USA, a long-form documentary that premiered on NBC Sports Network.

The 30-minute Enterprise-created-and-produced story marked a major milestone for the brand because the film was their first long-form piece as part of their fundamental redirection.

The made-for-TV story—originally expanded off of a four-minute short—is about Warroad, Minnesota, a town of about two-thousand people that has produced seven Olympic hockey stars, five NHL players and more than 80 Division I college athletes. The story chronicles the town’s overachieving DNA and ties in to their seven-year-strong sponsorship with the NHL and converting a group of 40 million fans and ice hockey lovers into Enterprise customers.

According to a September study from Forbes, branded content leads to 59 percent better recall than other digital advertisements, and consumers are 14 percent more likely to look for additional content from a company after a single impression of branded content. Marketers from a variety of brands like Coca-ColaStarbucksCap’n CrunchNutella and Lexus are increasingly using branded content in favor of traditional ads—which typically have a limited shelf life—to improve recall, brand perception, intent and consideration.

Lee Broughton, vice president of Enterprise North American brand marketing, joined AListDaily to explain why their passion-oriented branded approach is more than just being snackable pieces of scroll-through content and sticking to definite business boundaries.

Lee Broughton_2014
Lee Broughton, VP of Enterprise North American brand marketing

Why was content creation in the form of a documentary the next step for the Enterprise? Why was this a specific story you wanted to tell?

Creating a documentary wasn’t necessarily the next step for Enterprise. It came quite naturally out of a quest to tell the best story we could. The days of brands simply talking to customers are long gone. Today, in order to truly form a connection, brands need to move customers emotionally. Creating those connections, for us, is about bringing our brand to life in the form of compelling content. So, we are placing a big bet on storytelling. One of the stories that we felt we just had to tell was about hockey in Warroad, Minnesota. Warroad is a town with a deep passion for hockey. Everyone is connected to the game. In partnership with our creative agency of record, Cannonball, we first profiled the town in a four-minute video. But there was so much more to tell, and we needed a longer form to do it. That’s how the documentary came to be.

What are the engagement insights you can share for The Road Through Warroad: Hockeytown USA?

While ratings were significantly up year-over-year for the timeslot the documentary debuted in and the teaser videos we released on social promoting the documentary before it aired earned nearly two million engagements (views, likes and/or shares), the key component to recognize is that this was created for a specific group of hockey fans, and not broad reach. That level of targeting is something new we’re trying.

How will the documentary connect with your target audience in ways that typical brand sponsorships don’t? Do you think it will turn heads among other advertisers?

We’ve been an NHL sponsor for the past seven years. This documentary, and the other content we’re creating, is a natural facet of our marketing mix. It delivers what people want from stories—inspiration, engagement and emotional connections. We know that many of our customers are passionate about hockey. We’re excited to share this documentary with them, a piece that tells the rich story of one of the most hockey-crazed towns in America. We know they’re gravitating toward it. The thesis that we’re working on is based on the belief that we don’t want to be the brand that interrupts what you’re interested in. We want to be what you’re interested in.  

What are you trying to accomplish in the content production and storytelling space? How has your content marketing strategy evolved to what it has become today?

Our marketing team is innovating like never before. We’re focused on creating emotional connections with customers that go beyond the car rental category. Sure, we rent cars, but so do other companies. We’ll win today, and into the future, with storytelling. What do I mean by storytelling? At its core, I’m talking about compelling content that—through laughter or tears—really moves you emotionally. At the end of the day, it’s the things that move us that make the biggest difference in our lives. Making that difference is an important way for us to differentiate our brand. One of the most exciting elements of our content strategy has been the launch of a new digital magazine we call Pursuits with Enterprise. It features travel-related content that you can’t get anywhere else. This is content that may make you laugh; it may make you cry; it may do both. But ultimately, you’ll form a connection with the people and places featured in our stories. You’ll learn about what moves them, and what they’re passionate about. It’s content that explores places around the corner from your neighborhood—a car ride away—that haven’t been told, at least from the story angles we’re taking.

How does allocating a budget on something that doesn’t sell Enterprise a good marketing method to further grow your brand equity?

When you think about it, effective sales and marketing have everything to do with creating emotional connections with customers. These connections will drive brand affinity, and ultimately in our case, we believe, increase car rentals. Take the Warroad documentary as an example. In my view, it’s a natural way to develop a group of passionate hockey fans into loyal customers. You see the documentary and our passion for the game. So next time you’re taking a road trip to watch your favorite hockey team play, we believe Enterprise is in a better position to be at the top of your consideration set. We’re finding that “love of a brand” directly correlates to relevancy—and relevancy correlates to brand preference.

What has been the main learning from the change in your brand positioning campaign announced last year?

At Enterprise, we obviously rent cars—but we do a lot more. We also rent trucks and luxury vehicles. We sell cars. And we have a car-sharing arm, too. We like to think of Enterprise as the one place to go for all the places life takes you. Our new brand positioning campaign highlights our comprehensive transportation offerings beyond car rental. And our new content strategy aims to move you emotionally. So we’re a brand that has you covered at the functional level and the emotional level. As we continue on our content and storytelling journey, I think it’s important for us to keep pushing boundaries, and testing new and different approaches. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to content.

Why is branded entertainment currently in favor over traditional ads? Why does that kind of content outperform traditional pre-roll ads?

We view branded entertainment as a part of our comprehensive marketing mix. There is no “favorite” type of marketing execution, per se. All must work in concert together. Branded monologue is of a different era.

Are advertiser-sponsored programs a sign of the future for TV?

Innovation is a constant in the advertising space, and every brand is different. Speaking for Enterprise, I can tell you that we’re focused on creating emotional connections with customers. And we will keep looking for ways to do that successfully, which is why we’re trying new things.     

What are the best content marketing practices you’ve learned? Anything you plan on building out on for this year?

Content marketing isn’t easy—there’s no silver bullet. It requires constant creation and is insatiable. The consumer is sophisticated, wants to be entertained or emotionally moved versus sold to and also wants their problems solved. In the age of experience, we don’t think there’s a destination or a finish line so much as it’s an evolutionary journey.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan