What is Branded Content and why does it work?

October 11, 2021
October 11, 2021 Zee Dichev

Branded Content Story...

Future of Advertising

Digital marketing strategies continue to evolve. What’s working for you today, may not generate the same ROI long-term. In addition, between ad-blockers and the high rate at which we are exposed to in-app ads, sponsored content, and native ads—ad blindness can develop. This means your brand must continue to test new and effective ad strategies.

One of the fastest-growing types of advertising is branded content. What makes branded content unique is that its intent is to connect and engage in innovative ways. Advertising and conversions are still an end goal, but the strategies employed highlight your brand values.

There’s much confusion about what branded content is, and what it is not. So, let’s take an in-depth look.

What Branded Content Isn’t

Let’s begin by dispelling the misconceptions about what branded content is not.

Branded Content vs Traditional Content

  • Branded content isn’t a buzzword. It’s not a creative way of trying to make the traditional content sound more enticing.
  • It’s not in your face or obvious. While products or services are featured, they aren’t front and center, and they aren’t specifically mentioned.
  • The engagement method is subtle. Unlike TV ads or digital banners, pop-ups, and sponsored posts, engagement is typically consumer-driven.

What Branded Content Is

Branded content is created by and linked to a brand, but the completed ad takes an innovative approach. The objective is to add value, connect, and engage—not just advertise. It is designed with at least a few of the strategies below.

Value is central.

Every brand has core values. A reason why they do what they do and serve who they serve. Branded content highlights the brand’s overall values in a method that is creative and not in your face. For example, a pet food company’s video that shares the story of an adult finding their pet in an animal shelter and how they bond over the years.

Generates emotions.

Whether it’s happy tears, a sense of nostalgia, joy, or something thought-provoking the content connects personally with the target audience. The pet food company example above pulls at the heartstrings of pet people.

Generates organic awareness.

Conversions are the ultimate objective, but branded content focuses first on creating a conversation. Content that people want to share and talk about. Dove has a variety of organic branded content post and paid partnership strategies that are a shining example, such as their Real Beauty Campaign. All of their campaigns connect and engage by featuring a diverse group of everyday people, not models.

It tells a story.

The content tells a story of either fictional or real-life people. For example, content for an athleticwear brand that follows the life of an Olympian as they prepare for the next Olympics. It shows the athlete as relatable and human, but also extraordinary.

There are multiple format options.

Branded content can be created for digital videos, social media, podcasts, video games, events, interactive formats, websites, apps, brand story and more. One of the first types of branded content were soap operas. It all began with ongoing stories that were narrated live over the radio and sponsored by soap companies. These evolved into TV soap operas that weren’t connected to soap brands, but the radio was their origin.

Co-creation is common.

Co-creation is not required, but many brands partner with influencers, athletes, film directors, and other brands to find innovative ways to brand their content and increase brand awareness. For example, an Instagram influencer who receives an all-expense-paid vacation from a luxe hotel. Their posts tell the story of their vacation while featuring the hotel they are staying in.

Branded Content Goes Beyond Product Placement

Branded Content

Bike Brake Drive

While branded content and product placement have a few things in common, there are some distinct differences.

Product placement is obvious, branded placement is organic.

The Morning Show is a shining example of this. An Apple TV+ original, all electronics featured in the show are Apple products. Every character uses Macs, iPhones, iPads, and AirPods.

However, there’s never any mention of Apple specifically. This strategy works for Apple thanks to the high-profile actors and enticing storylines that draw in viewers.

Product placement is determined by the partner.

Have you ever watched a movie and thought “Everyone in this film drinks Coca-Cola?” This likely means that Coca-Cola invested in the film for product placement. The actors ensure the label is always facing toward the camera in each scene.

Branded placement features a product organically. So, maybe the label isn’t always facing outward, but it’s still recognisable.

Why Does It Work?

Now that you understand what branded content is, let’s look at some of the statistics.

Engaging equal memorable.

Sponsored posts, banners, and pop-up ads are easy to ignore. Even when you engage with traditional ads that promote a brand, the recall rate of branded content is 86% higher.

Brand recall is higher.

One of the challenges with traditional advertising is that you may recall the ad but not the brand. Brand recall is 56% higher with branded content.

Increases word-of-mouth referrals.

When consumers are emotionally engaged in a brand they are 80% more likely to refer friends and family.  Since 65% of business comes from returning customers, this alone is powerful.

Partnering boosts awareness.

Choosing the right influencer or business partner to promote can boost awareness of branded content by 50%.

It’s video-marketing-friendly.

Whether a few seconds or a few minutes, video content is the fastest-growing type of content. Branded content doesn’t have to be video, but is video-marketing-friendly.

It’s often designed to share.

Banner ads and native ads are generated by user demographics and interests, and they are not designed to share. However, branded content should be a major part of content marketing and s often designed to be shared across a variety of channels—email, website, and a variety of social media channels as well as feed and stories or just organic posts.

Examples Of Outstanding Branded Content

While the term is new, the concept isn’t. However, it has been taken to a new level in the digital age. We shared several examples throughout this article, but here are a few more ideas you can use as inspiration.

Branded Cookbooks And Recipes

Jell-O was one of the first food brands to create a branded cookbook. Their first cookbook was not their last, and the mouth-watering recipes showed countless ways to create fast and easy desserts. While you can still find branded cookbooks for a variety of food and food ingredient brands, most feature their recipes online. Or give it out as a gift.

For example, Bailey’s liquor often gives high-gloss printed recipe books out for free during the holiday season.

Branded Fashion Events

While their last event was in 2019, the Victoria’s Secret Angels Runway Event was so popular that it became a televised event featuring celebrities and chart-topping musicians. Yes, the models all wore Victoria’s Secret, but it was an event—not just a fashion show.

It featured retail, limited-edition, and designs made specifically for the event. Everyone waited to see what each year’s angel wings would look like. Another example of a branded fashion event is the Savage X Fenty Show that you can watch on Amazon.

Interest Driven Branded Content Story

It began as “The Guinness Book of World Records” and is known today as the “Guinness World Records”. We’re all familiar with this global guide, but what you may not know is that it was invented by Guinness Brewery in 1955. Another example of interest-driven branded content might be a wellness brand hosting a free or paid wellness event. The event could include wellness speakers, classes, and aligned but non-competitive wellness brands.

Looking For Branded Content Of Your Own?

To optimize your outcomes, don’t do it alone. Even if you have a vision, working with a creative marketing agency will elevate innovation and ensure there is a measurable strategy in place. Reach out to the team at Queenstown Media today to discuss custom-tailored branded content.

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