Content Marketing

What is Branded Content? Definition, Advantages and Examples

By Laia Cardona, on 13 July 2020

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, impact them in creative ways, 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 of branded content.

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what is branded content?

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 the connection with the brand.

To take a closer look at this definition, we will further define the main characteristics of branded content:

  • It is focused on the values of the brand, not on its products or its services. Although branded content 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, these contents try 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 really want to consume. Generally, this added value comes in the form of entertainment.
  • Appeals to emotions. Using emotions for persuasion goes back to the times of Aristotle, and today it's still an effective technique. Branded content does not seek to use rational arguments about why a brand is better than the competition, but instead seeks to connect with the audience on a more intimate level.
  • It uses storytelling. In essence, this type of content seeks to tell a representative story of the brand to the viewer, with protagonists, as well as a beginning, middle, and end.
  • It can be presented through multiple formats and diffusion channels. Branded content is a very flexible concept, so it can be adapted for many different formats: video content, podcasts, interactive formats, video games, events ... or even combine several of them to tell the history of the brand. Similarly, there are also many different ways to spread the content, from apps to social networks through 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 collaboration doesn't end there: user-generated content is also a popular resource, allowing the users themselves to tell their stories about the brand and thus get involved with brand engagement while providing content.

What is not branded content?

The term "branded content" is relatively new, so there is still some confusion around the term and sometimes it gets confused with other related techniques. Let's look at the differences between branded content and conventional advertising, content marketing, and product placement.

Branded Content vs Conventional Advertising

  • Branded content does not focus on products and services. Although brand products can appear in the branded content, they are not the main focus nor are they directly talked about. Instead, the content is focused on the 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 "plundering" the user so that they can steal their time and attention. On the other hand, branded content seeks for the user to consume it 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 of the details about what goes on around the product placement, i.e. the context of the placement is mostly controlled by the creators of the main content (for example, a movie or series) and not on 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 closer to our brand.
  • Generates an emotional connection with the brand. The best branded contents are capable of telling stories that excite the audience. This emotion will be associated with our 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 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.
  • 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. In this way, the positive associations and the characteristics associated with our brand are registered in the minds of the audience.
  • Generates engagement and loyalty. Branded content not only seeks to be consumed passively, as in the case of traditional ads, but wants to provoke responses in users. Thus, 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 branding metrics, a good branded content campaign can also serve to bring a large amount of traffic to our website and start introducing users to the conversion funnel.

Examples of Branded Content

These three examples of branded content are some of our very favorites. They show that branded content can take totally different forms and tactics. For even more examples of branded content, read our latest article.

1) The Morning Show

Apple is already well regarded as 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 those programs, The Morning Show, is a perfect example of branded content gone right.  

Not only does the show feature A-list acting talent, a relevant, timely, and engaging premise, and a few Emmy awards to boot, it also heavily features the wide range of Apple products throughout the series. While The Morning Show can be argued as an excellent example of product placement, I ultimately believe this is just rockstar-level branded content. This was show created by Apple for Apple, featuring their products in a way that they highlights their diversity and integration into everyday life.


2) Red Bull

This brand of energy drinks is surely the most successful example of today's branded content. Today, most of their marketing is focused on creating stories that promote brand values, such as sports and love for risk.

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 all the technical means to carry out the feat, which was a world record and managed to have half a planet pending for days.

According to some estimates, the returns from the dive-related advertising tripled the investment, regardless of the positive long-term impact on the brand. We cannot forget that the stunt had a high risk factor that something would go wrong during the jump, which is why some brands refused to participate.

3) Coca Cola

The most famous brand in the world no longer needs to communicate the fact that they manufacture refreshments. 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 has 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.

4) 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 Angels parade generates widespread anticipation. It has become a phenomenon of popular culture in the United States, and it’s in the medias for months who will be the chosen models, who is going to perform in the gala and the details of the garments. Thanks to their branding, they have achieved a great brand notoriety and become unmistakable.

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Laia Cardona

Responsable de la estrategia de inbound marketing en Cyberclick. Gestión del CRM con Hubspot, de la base de datos y creación de la estrategia global de contenidos, workflows y lead nurturing. Experiencia en marketing digital, comunicación digital y periodismo en medios de comunicación. ______________________________________________________________________ Responsible for the inbound marketing strategy at Cyberclick. Experience in digital marketing, digital communication, media journalism, CRM management with Hubspot, creation of global content strategy, workflows and lead nurturing.