What role can branded content play in your content strategy?
In digital marketing it’s common to see people getting mixed up. SEO and SEM, CTRs and CPCs, making progress and staring blankly at Google Analytics – these things are all very easy to confuse.
One particular area of bewilderment we’ve encountered recently is branded content. For many, this term is interchangeable with content marketing – however, they aren’t one and the same.
In this article, I’ll explore what branded content is, how it differs from content marketing, where you can use it and how it can add to your digital marketing efforts.
What is branded content?
Branded content is a digital marketing tactic whereby a business creates content that’s recognisably linked to its brand message and values, with the aim of engaging a target audience and building a connection with them.
This type of content has several core features:
- It’s not product focussed – Unlike traditional advertising, branded content focuses on the business behind the offerings. In other words, you’re trying to sell a narrative, not a product – storytelling is at the heart of branded content.
- It’s emotive – Properly done, branded content should be entertaining and make those who interact with it feel something. Instead of shouting about how you beat your competition on price or quality, you win at branded content if you form a connection with the audience.
- It generates awareness – According to Invesp, 59 per cent of customers prefer to buy products from familiar brands, so businesses turn to branded content to elevate their profile.
- It can be presented on different channels – As we’ll see later, branded content can appear across different media.
- It’s often co-created – To produce something that truly entertains, companies often collaborate with professionals (for example, film directors) on their branded content.
A quick example
Remember when Red Bull organised and promoted Felix Baumgartner’s death defying jump to Earth from the edge of the stratosphere? That’s branded content … on steroids.
This type of content is perfectly aligned with Red Bull’s high-octane, thrill seeking, boundary pushing image.
And, given that over 8 million people watched his jump live on YouTube (BBC), it was a pretty handy awareness boosting exercise for the energy drink floggers.
Over 8 million people live streamed Felix Baumgartner’s stratospheric leap, a real marketing win for Red Bull.
In fact, Red Bull is a leader in the branded content game. Starting with its famous tagline ‘Red Bull gives you wings’, the company now owns a multimedia entertainment platform, Red Bull Media House, focussing on sports, lifestyle and culture.
So, how’s it different from content marketing?
Branded content is simply a branch of content marketing, one tactic among many that you can adopt in your never ending search for leads and conversions.
- Quick definition: Content marketing is the practice of producing and promoting value-heavy, relevant content to draw in and engage a predefined target audience, with the ultimate goal of encouraging desirable customer actions.
Successfully nurturing a lead through the content marketing sales funnel requires all types of different content, from broader thought leadership blogs through to video tutorials and product FAQ.
Some of this content may be branded, some may not.
Branded content falls under the umbrella of content marketing, but performs a specific role in engaging prospects.
A lot of top-funnel content is aimed at thought leadership. This is the idea of providing your target audience with insights derived from your industry expertise.
- For example: Someone designing knitwear for pet fish might produce a 10,000 word e-book on which wool blends are best for certain fish. This has the dual benefits of giving interested readers valuable information, but also gets the company’s name out there as a trustworthy authority.
Branded content fulfills a similar role in promoting your brand in a non-in-your-face manner, but using that more emotive, story-telling tactic that we’ve talked about.
How can branded content help you?
- Growing brand awareness – With 25 per cent of Austrlians using ad blockers (IAB Australia), businesses need to find new ways to get their message out. Branded content helps you do this in a more subtle way than traditional advertising allows.
- Staying authentic – Importantly, branded content doesn’t boost awareness simply by shouting your name. It’s genuine, and speaks to a particular type of person (your target audience). This is significant – a survey by Stackla found that 86 per cent of consumers say authenticity is important in deciding which brands to support.
- Breeding loyalty – According to Capgemini, 86 per cent of customers who are highly emotionally engaged by a brand think of that company when they want to purchase something. Given that the cost of customer acquisition has risen by 50 per cent in the last five years (ProfitWell), ensuring that previous conversions come back for more is vital to your long term success.
- It’s shareable – Let your audience do some of the legwork! High quality content is extremely shareable on social, spreading the word about your brand without you having to lift a finger. This type of content can also be a great one for collaboration projects with influencers, which will hopefully result in their followers sharing away.
Where can you use branded content?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to go all Red Bull and create your own multimedia platforms in order to get your branded content out to the world. Here are some more universally applicable options:
- Social media – Our Felix Baumgartner example proved how effective social media can be as a place to promote your branded content. On Facebook, businesses certified with the sought-after ‘little blue tick’ can create designated branded content by clicking the handshake icon when they go to post.
- Your website – Creating a gallery of branded content projects as part of your website isn’t only a handy one-stop-shop for your fans to browse from, it’s also good for SEO! (I promise I’ll shut up about them after this, but Red Bull do just this – check it out for some inspiration).
- On external platforms – Luxury car brand Acura first chose to use Sony’s Crackle platform, and latterly Netflix, for their sole sponsorship of the Jerry Seinfield series ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’. The show’s bold convention-busting approach to entertainment is the perfect fit for Acura’s own values and approach to their business.
- Podcasts – In Real Life (IRL) is a branded content podcast from Mozilla (as in Firefox). On their airwaves they cover everything from free speech to internet trolls, important issues tackled through the company’s non-profit foundation. You can see how these topics would be well suited for tapping into customer emotions.
- Events – Not everything that exists exists on line. Take the collab between MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and Vox Creative. Together, they created a high tech lobby display with which visitors can interact through computer technology, animations and video.