There’s no denying a traditionally executed content marketing plan can help you get the word out about your business and attract new customers.
But branded content marketing can give your digital marketing strategy the extra boost you’re looking for and deliver a higher return on your investment.
However, knowing you’re ready to learn how branded content can help your company get ahead is one thing.
You also need a thorough understanding of branded content marketing, why it’s so effective, and what sets an effective branded marketing campaign apart from the rest of the pack.
Here’s a working overview of what you need to know to get started.
What is Branded Content Marketing?
Despite how it might sound, branded marketing isn’t about selling a potential customer on the brand itself.
Today’s consumers are looking for more than just terrific products and services that deliver on their promises.
They want (and expect) to make a personal connection with the brands they buy from.
Branded marketing focuses on helping people do that.
Of course, it isn’t to be confused with traditional content marketing.
Content marketing as a concept covers a lot more ground and encompasses every type of content a specific brand might create.
The term “branded content” refers to a particular type of content within the context of the larger strategy.
Why is Branded Content Marketing Important?
Yes, it’s trendy for modern brands to court potential customers by driving personal connection and getting people talking about what they’re putting out there.
But it’s important to remember that trends aren’t born in a vacuum. Instead, they’re reflective of what’s currently capturing people’s attention and driving their purchasing decisions.
That said, branded content marketing is important because it’s effective.
Today’s consumer doesn’t like to feel like they’re being advertised to. They want to feel like they’re making their own independent decisions about what they buy.
Branded content supports this by:
- Making powerful social statements.
- Triggering emotional responses in a target audience.
- Creating compelling, exciting stories around brands.
- Building trust with existing and potential customers.
- Making effective use of a variety of proven marketing methods.
- Shining a spotlight on a brand’s deeper value and role in the customer’s life.
How Does Branded Content Marketing Compare to Traditional Marketing?
Although traditional content marketing and branded marketing have many things in common, they differ regarding both immediate purpose and ultimate goal.
Traditional content marketing seeks to solve a customer’s problems and meet their needs in very direct ways.
It builds trust and converts traffic into leads by teaching people the facts about what a business does and how its products resolve challenges or address common pain points.
On the other hand, branded content builds brand awareness by associating that brand with specific values, experiences, and feelings that are near and dear to today’s consumers.
Anything about that content that does directly push the brand is exceptionally subtle.
It’s more about entertaining those on the receiving end of it and driving a sense of connection via powerful emotional responses.
In other words, content marketing and its branded counterpart are two sides of the very same coin.
Here’s a closer look at some more of the critical factors that differentiate branded and traditional content.
Storytelling is a crucial part of branded content
Stories are potent components of any effective marketing effort.
They activate a potential customer’s imagination and help them picture what their life could be like if they bought a specific product or subscribed to a service.
But storytelling is a much more significant part of the equation with branded content.
Successful branded content does more than just tell a story with the brand or its products at the center.
Instead, it treats people to a truly immersive experience that transports them to another world.
It entertains them, teaches them something, or otherwise offers them value, making it easy to overlook the promotional component.
Problem-solving is at the heart of content marketing
In contrast to branded content marketing, traditional content marketing has specific goals — gathering leads, driving sales, and converting curious information seekers into paying customers.
Keep in mind that this is not the same thing as direct advertising.
Instead, a successful piece of marketing content addresses the concern that drove the viewer to check it out in the first place.
It also successfully weaves the brand or its products into the narrative by tastefully serving them up as part of the solution.
To hit the mark, marketing content must:
- Be helpful to the viewer and deliver value, even if they don’t wind up buying from your brand.
- Gently suggest that the targeted product, service, or brand will make it much easier for the viewer to solve their problem or achieve their goal.
- Tastefully encourage the viewer to learn more about the targeted brand, as opposed to blatantly selling it to them.
Branded content yields speedier results
Although both traditional content and branded alternatives ultimately seek to drive purchasing decisions, they have different immediate goals.
To recap, standard content is about lead generation and convincing curious consumers to whip out their wallets and become paying customers.
Branded content, on the other hand, is all about engagement and connection.
Engagement and connection are easier to cultivate, so you tend to achieve your objectives more quickly with branded content.
A consumer’s response to a well-executed piece of branded content is visceral and immediate, so the content itself tends to make the rounds quickly.
It also drives ongoing conversation about the content, as well as the brand behind it.
Traditional content marketing, contrastingly, is all about playing the long game. It’s about showing up, again and again, to answer questions, solve problems, and interact with your audience.
It’s also about ongoing SEO efforts and diligent authority building.
Branded content is distributed differently
Traditional marketing content isn’t as versatile when it comes to how and where you can distribute it and expect to get the results you’re after.
It’s perfect for beefing up a blog, distributing as guest content, or sharing across all your favorite social media channels.
But ultimately, each piece of traditional marketing content is aimed at a specific niche with the end goal of bringing the viewer back to the company itself to make a purchase.
Since branded content is all about building brand awareness and sparking conversation, you have more distribution wiggle room to work with.
For instance, branded content is appropriate for distribution across major outlets (like big-name publications or popular streaming services) on a level traditional content is not.
Branded Content Marketing in Action: Iconic Success Stories to Be Aware of
Remember, branded marketing content isn’t just about getting a company or product in front of new eyes.
It’s primarily about sparking an emotional response through storytelling and powerful imagery instead of data and facts.
It’s also valuable to the viewer in and of itself. The brand is merely mentioned or spotlighted in a manner adjacent to the piece itself.
Here are some impressive examples of brands that positively nailed the concept of branded content to the tune of incredible results.
Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign sought to answer longstanding questions about concepts like self-esteem, self-image, and beauty.
It did this by hiring a professional FBI sketch artist to draw dual portrait sets of various individuals.
In each instance, the first portrait was based on the person’s own self-description, and the second was based on a stranger’s.
The verdict was that most people don’t actually see the depth of their own beauty.
Naturally, choosing Dove over another brand may or may not boost a person’s self-esteem, but the association proved very successful for the brand.
In fact, Real Beauty Sketches was one of the most viewed, most talked about branded content pieces of 2013.
Red Bull is such an iconic producer of great branded content that it’s often one of the first to come to mind when you picture marketing’s greatest success stories.
Its Skydiving from Space campaign is positively legendary, as is its Last Call for Mr. Paul YouTube video featuring runner Jason Paul showcasing some serious moves in an effort to catch his flight in time.
Again, drinking Red Bull isn’t going to transform someone into Jason Paul or make it possible to nail his jaw-dropping moves.
But Red Bull’s content nevertheless speaks directly to its target audience — go-getters, risk-takers, and active individuals from all walks of life — by reminding them of the values behind their product.
When you think of Coca-Cola, what fundamental values come to mind?
Time-honored examples like integrity, diversity, connection, and passion are at the heart of everything this iconic brand puts out there, and its Share-a-Coke campaign was no exception.
To refresh your memory, that was the campaign that found Coke printing a wide variety of familiar names on Coke bottles distributed around the world.
Everyone remembers what it was like to find a piece of merchandise with their name on it at a souvenir shop when they were a kid.
You felt special… included — like you were part of something big.
People around the world felt the same way when they found their names emblazoned across a Coke bottle, and there are millions of selfies out there to prove it.
The LEGO Movie
If you or your children saw and fell madly in love with The LEGO Movie, you’re not alone.
This colorful, brilliantly made film was a genuinely watchable experience that families could enjoy together.
That’s because it didn’t just cater to younger audiences but also older viewers by making them feel just like kids all over again.
It was also a cleverly orchestrated piece of branded content.
Because the film was so worthwhile in its own right, it boosted trust through the roof and revitalized interest in the LEGO brand. It also drove a fortune in new sales of LEGO’s many products.
Even if you’re not much of a beer drinker, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Guinness Book of World Records.
It’s been around since the 1950s and is wildly popular for the way it’s turned every aspect of life on planet earth into one big, wonderful, fun-filled competition.
In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records has become such a phenomenon of its own, many people have forgotten it originally started as a branded content campaign to drive the sale of Guinness.
This campaign is especially noteworthy for turning Guinness into a household name. Even many decades later, the Guinness brand is recognized by people worldwide, including those who aren’t necessarily beer drinkers.
It also cemented people’s tendency to associate Guinness with concepts like fun, togetherness, and excellence in all aspects of life.
Of course, these are far from the only branded content success stories out there, but they are some of the most famous for a reason.
All of the above examples succeeded wildly in all the primary objectives of a branded content marketing campaign.
They got people talking about these brands, as well as happily spreading the word among their peers.
They also sparked powerful emotions in those who saw them, which in turn drove sales and reinforced consumer trust in those brands.
Wrap Up: Are You Ready to Take Your Brand to the Next Level?
At the end of the day, branded content marketing isn’t just a good idea. It’s an essential part of any well-rounded marketing campaign.
It brings your brand to life for the people who buy from you and elevates it to a level that goes well beyond simply selling products or providing services.
For that reason, it’s the key to turning curious onlookers into devoted customers who not only buy from you but positively swear by your brand.
Now that you know what branded content is all about, it’s time to take the next step for your larger brand-building campaign.
Our brand guidelines bundle is a comprehensive kit that contains everything you need to start crafting a cohesive brand identity that delivers results. Check it out today!