Content Marketing

What Is Branded Content? Definition, Advantages & Examples

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By Laia Cardona, on 20 March 2023

Branded content is a marketing technique that involves creating content that is directly linked to a brand and to its values, allowing consumers to make a connection with it in order to increase brand awareness. It is meant to promote the company while also being of value and interest to the user.

It is a great way to help your brand stand out in an overly saturated market, where people are overwhelmed with ads to the point where many resort to ad blockers and develop ad blindness. To combat this, brands need to look for new methods of advertising to their audience and find creative ways to capture attention, such as Branded Content.

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Main Characteristics of Branded Content

To further define branded content, let's take a look at some of its main characteristics:

  • Focus on the values of the brand, not on products or services.

    Although it can adopt the format of a classic video spot, this content is based more on the intangible qualities of the brand than on the specific products it offers.
  • 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 things like shares, likes, and the number of mentions.
  • It generates 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 or useful information.
  • It appeals to emotions.

    Using emotion for the purpose of persuasion goes back to the times of Aristotle but it's still an effective technique today. Branded content does not necessarily seek to use rational arguments about why a brand is better than the competition, but instead connects 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 these 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?

Since the term is relatively new, there is still some confusion around it. 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 a greater focus on more abstract values and the 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 attention. On the other hand, the user consumes branded content voluntarily.

Branded Content vs. Content Marketing

  • Content marketing is a broader strategy: it encompasses all types of content created by a brand, while branded content would be a specific type of content within the overall strategy.
  • Content marketing can also include unbranded content: within a content marketing strategy, there is room for content that isn't branded, for example, informative guides, video tutorials, and 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 is always related to the brand's corporate values.

Advantages of Branded Content

  • It is not invasive.

    Conventional digital advertising including banners that hinder navigation, and generates more disapproval among users. However, branded content seeks to attract people 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 often generate a "snowball" effect that can go a long way. If the content is compelling, people will naturally share it with their networks giving the brand a boost or even making it go viral.
  • It improves the positioning of the brand.

    Instead of just repeating a slogan, this type of content tells a story that represents the values the brand wants people to associate it with. The positive associations and the characteristics of a brand register in the minds of the audience.
  • It generates engagement and loyalty.

    Branded content seeks to provoke a response from people. 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 brand awareness and metrics, a good branded content campaign can also bring a large amount of traffic to a website and start introducing users into the conversion funnel.

Branded Content on Instagram

Branded content on Instagram is content made by a creator who has been paid or has been given something of value (like a product) by the brand they have partnered with. When a brand partners with a creator or an influencer, the creator has to tag the business in the post. There are several ways that this is done:

  • Some use the "Partnership Ads" option (previously known as "Branded Content") in which th post is marked as a "paid partnership".
  • Others prefer to be more subtle, and include a reference in the copy that the post is an *Ad.
  • There is also the option to collaborate via a "Joint Post", in which the post is shown as having two publishers (example shown below)


6 Examples of Branded Content

Here are six of our favorite examples of branded content. They show that branded content can take totally different forms and tactics.

1. The Morning Show

One of the best examples of branded content done right is Apple TV+'s The Morning Show.

Not only does the show feature A-list acting talent and a relevant, engaging premise, but it also features a wide range of Apple products throughout the episodes. This show was created by Apple for Apple and features their products in a way that highlights their diversity and integration into everyday life.

the morning show

2. GQ

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 and fashion but also important financial decisions they have made.

This series is one of the most-watched on GQ's channel because it combines entertaining content with financial literacy. Athletes talk about investing in property, paying off debts, and helping their families financially.

3. Red Bull

Red Bull is one of the most successful examples of branded content. Most of its marketing is focused on creating stories that promote its brand values, such as athleticism and taking risks.

The most famous example of Red Bull's branded content is Felix Baumgartner's jump from the stratosphere, at 38,969 meters. The brand put together the technical means to carry out this feat and managed to have half the planet talking about it for days.

The returns from the advertising were three times the investments. The event was also very memorable and had a positive long-term impact on the brand.

4. Coca-Cola

As one of the most famous brands in the world, Coca-Cola no longer needs to communicate the fact that they manufacture soda. Instead, they now focus on communicating a universally popular value: happiness. Their content focuses on people having fun and spending time with those they are close to.

One of the best examples of how Coca-Cola uses branded content is the ability to customize Coke cans with names.


5. Victoria's Secret

This American lingerie brand is a great example of how to use events to generate branded content.

Every year, thousands of people anticipate watching the Victoria's Secret fashion show. It has become a phenomenon of pop culture in the United States and it garners an immense about of media attention as people talk about who the models will be and what the garments will look like. Because of this, the brand has achieved great notoriety.

victoria secret

6. GE

GE (General Electric) is an American energy company that also produces many different kinds of technical equipment and even financial services. A few years ago, GE decided to get into podcasting and made a science fiction podcast called “The Message.” This sci-fi podcast marries storytelling with technology and even mentions some GE products. The narrative was creative and interesting and millions of people listened in. The podcast even won an award at the Cannes festival.

GE branded content

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Laia Cardona