MUMBAI: Hindustan Unilever (HUL), the FMCG giant, is exploring with content creators how it can embed its brands in ways beyond simple product placement.

Gaurav Jeet Singh, HUL's head of media services in South Asia, explained the thinking to the Economic Times. "Through popular culture, how can we ride on content that is designed to entertain, engage and connect? Something that is not force fit. But something that naturally fits into the content and can carry the brand story seamlessly."

Over the past six months, HUL has identified those brands it wants to push in this way and sought ideas from content creators, eventually narrowing the field for a recent Content Day where 13 companies met individual brand teams to discuss these further.

While details have yet to be revealed, the participants welcomed the new approach. "There was no strict brief and it was unstructured and gave us a lot of freedom to do as we thought," said Myleeta Aga Williams, MD of BBC Worldwide.

"It was a proactive and innovative idea," she added. "This is an opportunity that is more open about possibilities of collaborating across brands."

Nor is it a one off, according to Ashish Patil, business & creative head and vice president at Yash Raj Films, who reported that HUL plans to make its Content Day an annual event.

"It's a cultural shift for them [HUL]," he said, "It is about looking at content differently, as an important marketing tool. And it is about infusing new thinking which they or their ad agency may not be geared to do."

HUL's media agency, Mindshare, is a partner in the initiative, and it, at least, is attuned to the changes taking place. "We understand the need to create and curate differentiated communication platforms, to build lasting brands with an engaged audience," explained chief executive Prasanth Kumar.

"Brand ideas and content that resonate with the audience are further seeded by them into their own circle of influence that has a far more powerful effect," he said.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff