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What is Branded Content Marketing? Definition and Examples

What is Branded Content Marketing? Definition and Examples

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Whether you’re interested in building brand awareness or in luring potential customers away from the competition, branded content marketing can help you out. Branded content is different from a traditional content marketing campaign, but this type of content is directly linked to your brand.

How Is Branded Content Different from Content Marketing?

Content marketing usually aims to raise awareness about your products and services, while branded content marketing focuses more on your overall brand. Your content can also be broad, covering your industry and helping you establish yourself as a topic expert.

For example, if you own an art studio, you might post a blog featuring an interview with a local artist in your area. This would be considered content marketing. However, if you posted a video giving customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how you set up installations to highlight the artist in their best light, this would be branded marketing. This is because the video would give customers an insight into your brand values and personality.  

Why You Should Use Branded Content

When you hear the term “branded content,” you might think of old, poorly produced infomercials that aired at 2 am on local television. But branded content can be powerful when done correctly. Branded content marketing helps you influence the way customers see your company.

With more people opting to block popups and hide banners, you have to find more organic ways to engage. Branded content can make it easier for people to find you online, particularly through sponsored social media posts. Branded social media content can improve ad recall by 7.6% and product awareness by 5.7%.

It also helps you build trust with your audience. Valuable content, even when branded, helps potential customers understand your core values. it has the power to build stronger connections than traditional advertising.

Here are some tips for how you can incorporate branded content into your marketing strategies.

Tips for Branded Marketing

You and your content creators can follow these steps to create branded content that can help grow your business.

1. Set Your Goals

Before you start creating branded content, set your goals. Are you trying to improve brand awareness? Or are you more interested in establishing your brand voice with users? The top content marketing goals for most companies include:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Boosting sales
  • Customer relationship building

Knowing your goals will help you come up with content ideas that help you achieve them. A behind-the-scenes video that introduces your restaurant to people in the area won’t have the same message and imagery as one that aims to establish your brand values in the minds of existing customers.  

2. Know Your Target Audience

After you’ve set your goals, start researching your audience. To be successful, your branded content marketing needs to hit the right audience. You need to figure out where they are online so you can target them with the right kinds of content.

For example, if your content marketing goal is to connect with your community, you would likely create targeted ads aimed at people in your area. You would use images and text that appeals to local customers, rather than creating a message that appeals to a wider audience.

You can gauge your target audience by your existing customers. Look though your social media posts and your website analytics to see who’s already interacting with you and how they're finding you online. Knowing your target audience also helps you create language that appeals to their needs.

3. Stay Consistent with Your Brand

Your content should feel authentic to your company. It should fit with your existing tone and voice. Whether you’re creating a sponsored social media post or writing a blog about an upcoming event, it should be in line with your other marketing materials.

Your branded content should also align with your core values. Look through your values, vision, and mission, and find issues that matter to you and your target audience. Then, you can create valuable content that appeals to these values. This helps strengthen your credibility, and it can help you build a relationship with your customers.

4. Create and Test Content

Once you’ve set your goals and have a good idea of where your target audience is gathering online, you can create your branded content. Since you probably won’t do it perfectly on your first try, test your content to see what works and what doesn’t.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through A/B testing. If you’re creating sponsored social media posts, newsletter content, or blogs, make different versions of the same post and target them to different audiences.

Social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram give you the option of targeting an audience based on a variety of factors, including age and interest level.

If you’re sending branded content to your email list, try sending the same piece to different segments on your list and see which one generates more interest.

A/B testing lets you refine your content marketing strategy based on tangible data. You can use analytics and other metrics to see where your content was successful and where it might need to change. Maybe you’ll find that you need to change your copy to appeal to people in your area. Or you might find that branded content on Instagram drives more interest than posts on Facebook. Use what you learn to figure out what connects with people most.

5. Be Accountable

When you start your branded content marketing strategy, assign someone to monitor the results. Your content marketing strategy won’t work unless you’re committed to learning from the outcomes. Set regular times to evaluate your branded content and report the results so you can keep improving.

How to Do Branded Content Well

Not all branded content is good. You could put up some how-to videos and employee interviews as a start, but they probably won’t achieve your goals if they don’t resonate with the audience. Before your create your branded content, consider the following:

Focus on Telling a Story

The best kinds of branded content take customers on a journey. Dove, for example, uses branded content to tell its customers’ stories, helping them air out their insecurities and learn to embrace them. Over time, this strategy has gotten the company known as a brand that cares about its customers.

Dove regularly connects with users with branded hashtags like #ShowUs and #ChooseBeautiful to spread its content across social media and to inspire user-generated content. It works because the brand has tapped into powerful emotions that resonate with people.

Appeal to Emotion

Branded content that works well creates an emotional connection with the audience. This doesn’t mean that all your branded content has to be sad, but it needs to go deeper than simply highlighting how you benefit the customer.

Branded content that makes people laugh or that appeals to their sense of anger to spur action is just as impactful as branded content that makes people cry. Use your mission and values to find ways in which you can appeal to your audience’s emotions.

Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource

If storytelling isn’t your thing, try partnering with a company that understands branded content. Find someone who knows what questions to ask to get the best branded content out of you. If your most popular form of content is a blog, then hire a content writer who is well versed in technical and fiction writing.

Or maybe you have a lot of followers on YouTube, but you haven’t quite nailed the art of making a video that tugs at the heart strings. Partnering with a local filmmaker could help you see your company from angles you may not have considered. Hiring an expert can be well worth the price.

Branded Content Examples

Before getting started on your own branded content marketing strategy, check out these examples of brands that have done it well.  

Dove

In the past decade, Dove has become associated with body positivity and breaking traditional beauty standards. The company has achieved this through several branded marketing campaigns, such as the Real Beauty campaign that featured models of all shapes and sizes, unlike what competitors were doing at the time.

Now that Dove is commonly associated with standards of everyday beauty, the company focuses on standing out as a company that cares about the environment. Current videos and articles highlight the brand’s commitment to eliminating plastics waste and reducing its overall footprint.

Red Bull

Red Bull has gone from one energy drink among hundreds of options to a well-known name in adventure sports, largely due to its branded content. The company’s YouTube page largely focuses on athletics with trick videos ranging from extreme snowmobiling to solo rock climbers hanging off the edge of a jagged cliff.

To solidify its dedication to these brand values, Red Bull sponsors professional athletes in a variety of disciplines, along with a cliff-diving competition. The company has been able to generate plenty of user-generated content, regularly partnering with sports influencers and fans of the brand.

General Electric

In 2015, General Electric partnered with media company Panoply to create a science fiction podcast called The Message that quickly became a hit with millions of listeners. The eight-part series followed an ordinary man as he tried to decode an encrypted message from extra-terrestrial beings.

The podcast was so popular that the company made a companion series called Life After in 2017, which would resonate with its customers who liked learning about technology. This type of branded content is original and creative, playing on General Electric Theater, which was a TV and radio show from the 1950s that the company sponsored.

Airbnb

Before the digital age, one of the main ways to create branded content was through magazine advertorials. These articles resembled content that would normally be published in the magazine, but they featured branded subject matter that the brand would sponsor.

Today, many brands still use advertorials, opting to write sponsored blog posts in digital magazines and blogs. Airbnb published a sponsored article on the Fatherly website offering tips and suggestions for traveling with family.

Instead of creating an article based on getting people to choose Airbnb over a hotel, this article focuses on how to make memories with your family through a vacation. The article appeals to Fatherly readers, building a connection with them based on shared core values. In the future, these readers will associate the brand with a family holiday experience.

Netflix

Netflix revolutionized the media industry when it began creating its own content. But the company doesn’t just know how to produce a successful television series — it also uses branded content to connect to viewers.

In 2013, riding the success of the original series “Orange is the New Black,” Netflix content creators partnered with The New York Times to publish an op-ed about women’s prison reform. Nearly a decade later, the company still uses its YouTube feed as a platform to bring visibility to pressing social issues.

In May 2021, the company produced a series of videos letting actors and other media personalities of Asian descent tell their stories. Titled “ Welcome to Our World,” the series was aimed at promoting positive images of Asians and Asian-Americans in the media.

Getting Started

Once you have an understanding of branded content and its purpose, you can start creating your own. If you’re new to this aspect of marketing, start by setting your goals and then figure out what parts of your core values and mission would resonate with your target audience.

Learn about your target audience, including where to find them online, what they do in their spare time, and what they value. Find values that overlap between you and your audience. Then, choose a marketing tool that will appeal to them and start making branded content.

You probably won’t go viral on your first try, only gaining a slight increase in brand awareness. Don’t give up. Test different types of branded content against each other to see what works. Maybe your audience’s most important value is one that you’d initially considered secondary.

Keep trying until you find what works, and soon you'll have content strategies that make your brand memorable.

Need help developing and executing your content strategy? Compose.ly has you covered.
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