By Laia Cardona, on 29 April 2021
Branded content is an effective response to an increasingly saturated market. Today, users are constantly overwhelmed with ads and information to the point that many of them resort to solutions such as ad blockers or develop ad blindness.
To combat the disdain for traditional advertising, brands need to look for new ways to connect with their audience, find creative ways to get the public's attention, and convey the values they represent. Branded content is a great solution to all these needs.
Therefore, in this guide we'll take a look at what exactly branded content is, what advantages it has for brands, and some of the best examples.
What Is Branded Content?
Branded content is a marketing technique that involves creating content that is directly linked to a brand, allowing consumers to make a connection with it.
To further define branded content, let's take a look at some of its main characteristics.
- It is focused on the values of the brand, not on its products or its services. Although it can adopt the format of a classic video spot, it is based more on the intangible qualities of the brand than on the specific products it offers.
- It seeks to generate conversation and notoriety around the brand. More than looking for a direct sale or conversion, this type of content tries to impact the audience and spark conversation around the brand. Therefore, the key metrics to measure the success of branded content tend to focus on the notoriety and the number of mentions.
- Generates added value for the user. Normally we think of advertising as a price to pay to consume the content that really interests us, but branded content seeks to turn this idea around and create content that users actually want to consume. Generally, this added value comes in the form of entertainment.
- Appeals to emotions. Using emotions for the purpose of persuasion goes back to the times of Aristotle but it's still an effective technique today. Branded content does not seek to use rational arguments about why a brand is better than the competition, but instead to connect with the audience on a more intimate level.
- It uses storytelling. In essence, this type of content seeks to tell a story about the brand to the viewer, with protagonists, as well as a beginning, middle, and end.
- It can be presented through multiple formats and channels. Branded content is a very flexible concept, so it can be adapted for many different formats like video, podcasts, interactive formats, video games, events, or even combine several of them to tell the history of the brand. Similarly, there are many different ways to spread this content, from apps to social networks to the brand's website.
- The content may be co-created. It is very common for brands to collaborate with film directors or other renowned professionals to create their most outstanding content. But the collaborations don't end there. User-generated content is also a popular resource, allowing users themselves to tell their stories about the brand and thus get involved while providing content.
What Is Not Branded Content?
The term "branded content" is relatively new, so there is still some confusion around it and sometimes it gets mistaken for other related techniques. Let's look at the differences between branded content, conventional advertising, content marketing, and product placement.
Branded Content vs Conventional Advertising
- Branded content does not focus on products and services. Although products can appear in the content, they are not the main focus nor are they directly talked about. Instead, there is greater focus on more abstract values and brand story.
- Branded content is not invasive. TV spots, or digital formats such as banners and pop-ups are based on grabbing the user's time and attention. On the other hand, the user consumes branded content voluntarily.
Branded Content vs Content Marketing
Content marketing is a broader concept. Content marketing is the strategy that encompasses all types of content created by the brand, while branded content would be a specific type of content within the overall strategy.
Within a content marketing strategy there is room for many types of content that are not branded, for example, informative guides, video tutorials, or testimonials.
Branded Content vs Product Placement
- Product placement is explicit. In product placement, the product always appears very clearly, while in branded content this is not an essential requirement.
- Product placement is passive. While the brand has the confirmation that their product will be present, the control over what goes on around the product placement, i.e. the context of the placement is mostly decided by the creators of the main content (for example, a movie or series) and not by the brand itself.
- Product placement does not use storytelling. In product placement, the main story is not related to the product or the brand, while branded content on the other hand is always related to the brands corporate values.
Advantages of Branded Content
- It is not invasive. Conventional digital advertising, with methods such as banners that hinder navigation, increasingly generate more rejection among users. Instead, branded content seeks to attract them naturally and make them want to get involved.
- It generates an emotional connection. The best branded content is capable of telling stories that excite the audience. This emotion gets associated with the brand, making users remember it for a long time.
- It has the potential to go viral. Branded content is presented in sharable formats that are very attractive for the audience and this often leads to the content being shared through social networks. It can quickly generate a "snowball" effect that can go a long way.
- It improves the positioning of the brand. Instead of just repeating a slogan, this type of content tells a story that represents the values we want to associate with the brand. The positive associations and the characteristics associated with a brand register in the minds of the audience.
- It generates engagement and loyalty. Branded content seeks to provoke a responses from users. This way, the audience engages with the brand at a much deeper level and eventually integrates it as part of their customer identity.
- It can help to promote traffic and leads. Although it is associated more with notoriety and metrics, a good branded content campaign can also serve to bring a large amount of traffic to your website and start introducing users into the conversion funnel.
Examples of Branded Content
These five examples of branded content are some of our favorites. They show that branded content can take totally different forms and tactics.
1. The Morning Show
Apple is already well regarded as a branding and marketing expert but in 2019, they took up an extra notch when they launched original programming on their new Apple TV+ service. One of the programs, The Morning Show, is a perfect example of branded content done right.
Not only does the show feature A-list acting talent, a relevant, timely, and engaging premise, it also heavily features the wide range of Apple products throughout the series. While The Morning Show can be argued to be an excellent example of product placement, ultimately we believe this is just rockstar-level branded content. This show was created by Apple for Apple and features their products in a way that highlights their diversity and integration into everyday life.
GQ partnered with Goldman Sachs to create a series on their YouTube channel called My First Million. In the videos, young athletes talk about how they spent their first big paycheck. They not only discuss things like luxury cars or fashion but also important financial decision they have made.
This series is one of the most watched on GQ's channel because it combines entertaining content from top athletes with financial literacy. Several talk about investing in property, paying off debts, and helping their families financially.
3. Red Bull
This brand of energy drinks is one of the most successful examples of branded content. Today, most of their marketing is focused on creating stories that promote brand values, such as athleticism and love for risk taking.
No doubt, the most famous example of Red Bull's branded content is the jump of Felix Baumgartner from the stratosphere, at 38,969 meters high. The brand put together technical means to carry out the feat, which was a world record, and managed to have half a planet paying attention to them for days.
According to some estimates, the returns from the related advertising tripled the investments. The event was also very memorable and had a positive long-term impact on the brand. However, the stunt involved the risk that something could go wrong during the jump, which is why some brands refused to participate.
4. Coca Cola
The most famous brand in the world no longer needs to communicate the fact that they manufacture soda. Instead, they have chosen to focus on communicating a universally popular value: happiness.
Within the Coca-Cola universe There are many examples of branded content:
- The cans with names, a strategy that summons the collector spirit of consumers and achieved millions of mentions in social networks and news media.
- The magazine on trends Journey, which turns its website into a sampler of the brand's values.
- The announcement about families, in which children from unconventional families raise questions to their parents in order to end up concluding that they are happy with them.
5. Victoria Secret
This American lingerie brand is a great example of how to use events to generate branded content.
Every year, Victoria Secret's famous fashion show generates widespread anticipation. It has become a phenomenon of popular culture in the United States, and it’s in the media for months with people speculating who will be the chosen models, who is going to perform at the show, and how the garments will look. Thanks to this, they have achieved great brand notoriety and become unmistakable.