Branded content has the power to drive great returns in a world of content saturation. It’s not an ad—it’s your story. It can connect you with your audience in a way that makes them want to join your community of customers.
However, it’s not easy to pull off. Lots of billion-dollar brands fail here—most of the time because the content lacks authenticity or comes off as too self-promotional. To do it well, you need a strong content strategy, creativity, and a compelling message. So, let’s find out how to nail branded content.
What Is Branded Content?
Branded content describes a marketing initiative involving content creation directly linked to a brand. Brands often create it for entertainment or infotainment purposes for their target audience.
The attributes of branded content include:
- It’s value-focused: It showcases a brand’s values, those intangibles of what a company stands for.
- It’s a conversation starter: Branded content can be provocative and impactful. The goal is for attention and discourse. Its measurement of success would be content analytics around mentions, reach, or virality.
- The consumer gets a takeaway: It’s the opposite of an ad, which is all about the brand. Instead, the audience walks away with new information or a realization.
- It appeals to emotions with storytelling: Brand storytelling is all about being authentic, and that’s what gets emotions running. It’s not a logical or fact-based piece of content. It comes from the heart, not the head.
- You’ll be able to use it in various formats and channels: It could be a video, podcast, interactive elements, events, or some mix of all.
- It’s ideal for collaborations: Brands may work with well-known directors, influencers, or designers to create something.
What Are the Advantages of Investing in Branded Content?
Branded content likely won’t directly contribute to lead generation or sales. That’s not its role; that’s the job of content marketing. However, it can still drive considerable benefits around the sentiment for your brand and likability, which can translate to dollars.
- It’s not invasive. Most digital marketing tactics are disruptive and cause frustration. Branded content attracts viewers naturally, offering them a chance to experience a narrative.
- There’s an emotional connection. Those are hard to develop, but audiences are drawn in and feel something if executed well, which translates to their perspective of your brand.
- It could go viral for all the right reasons. It’s shareable and fun, so it can reach far beyond your traditional channels.
- People may see your brand in a new light. You aren’t repeating a slogan or talking about how great you are. Rather, you’re creating an experience, so those that ignored you or had negative impressions may soon change their minds.
- It engages. This type of content is all about engagement. It’s not trying to get you to buy something. It’s working at a much deeper level, which is what makes it so consumable.
- Traffic will come. Although it’s not intended to be a lead gen mechanism, it can still drive traffic to your website for all who want to learn more about who you are and what you do.
Examples of Branded Content: They Absolutely Nailed It!
Apple Creates an Award-Winning Show That Uses Its Products
We can all agree that Apple knows a thing or two about marketing, but they took it to a new level when Apple TV debuted. One of the first original series was The Morning Show, featuring A-list talent, compelling storylines, and so much drama.
What you may not have noticed is that the show includes lots of Apple products. There’s no outright product placement because it’s only natural that the characters would use this technology. The show’s use of Apple tech is seamless and demonstrates its importance in anyone’s daily life.
Wistia Goes All in with Brand Affinity with Documentary
Wistia, a video software company, has been growing for years and uses all types of content marketing. They have publicly noted that they made mistakes with ad campaigns in the past, and have since shifted to brand affinity marketing, which they defined as “the collected emotional byproduct of thousands of interactions with a company’s brand, marketing, and products.”
They launched their own video studio and shot a documentary called, One, Ten, One-Hundred. They challenged a video production studio to create three ads with different budgets, which looked at the relationship between money and creativity.
There are multiple episodes about the process, and they also show the three different projects completed at a budget of $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000. It actually won a Webby Award!
GE Launches Science-Fiction Podcast to Appeal to Its Audience
GE is a huge company. They do lots of things and have lots of different buyers. They also have great insights into what interests the people who need their solutions, and one of those things is the science-fiction genre.
So, they created a podcast, The Message. The concept is that an alien transmission from years ago suddenly becomes a puzzle that the characters must solve. GE peppers in its own technology to decode the message. It was a unique way to bring more awareness to their portfolio.
The podcast performed well, receiving over 1.2 million downloads. That’s the smart way to go viral and tell a great story.
Facebook Brings Education to Ingenue Marketers
Facebook depends on advertising dollars to fill its revenue coffers. They also understand that marketing can be complex for those small businesses it needs to buy ads. So, they created quick, online courses. It’s called Facebook Blueprint. You can take classes and earn certifications.
The courses offer overviews and tips on leveraging all their tools without trying to sell you on using them. Instead, it delivers value for their audience, and they have a clear takeaway, which is more knowledge.
Where Will You Take Branded Content?
These examples should inspire some ideas for branded content. While some of these represent companies with large budgets, you don’t need one to excel in this area. Focus on your brand values, what your audience wants, emotional connections, and authentic stories.
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