Branded content. Everyone seems to be talking about it these days. What is branded content, exactly? How does it differ from branding or traditional advertising? Is it right for your business?
Branded content is a form of marketing that involves sharing content, like articles, infographics, videos, social media posts and more, that tells a story about your brand. Unlike other forms of marketing or advertising, branded content does not directly promote your products or services. Instead, it creates connections with your audience by sharing what’s at the heart of your business.
The key to branded content is expertly crafted storytelling that shines a light on who you are and what you stand for, communicating your brand in ways that will connect deeply with your audience.
Branded content is designed to:
- Connect, engage and align with your audience
- Communicate who you are
- Promote your values, mission and purpose
- Collaborate with others
- Generate true value for consumers … and for you
Branded content is not sales-y or pushy. It’s not product- or service-focused, though it can and often does include those elements. There are no clickable banners or pop-up ads. It’s a story, told by and about you.
At Brandpoint (see the connection?) we’re the experts in branded content. It’s what we do, every day, for clients nationwide. Here’s a deep dive into branded content, why it’s so powerful, and how it can work for you.
What types of branded content are there? Why should I use it?
Branded content includes articles, infographics, videos, case studies and other types of content. Topics include industry insights, trends, informative how-to articles, brand storytelling and much more.
Companies from small start-ups to the largest corporations on the planet use branded content. That’s because stories resonate with consumers.
Types of branded content
- Articles: These typically run in premium publications and online. They are informative, fun, educational or a mix of all three, and are written specifically to connect you and your audience over a topic of interest. The Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2024. Ways to Turn Your Bathroom into a Spa. Tips for Getting Your Teenager to Talk at Dinner. Or anything that revolves around your business.
- Native ads: Native ads are paid advertising that matches the look and feel of the publication or media format in which they appear, in places like blogs, mobile apps, online video sites, social media and traditional publishing platforms like websites for major newspapers.
- Infographics: Infographics use imagery and words to tell a story in a visual way. These can be fun, informative, how-tos, step-by-step guides or other types of content. Long on graphics and short on words, infographics can tell a story in a powerful way.
- Videos: Video is an increasingly popular way to get your message across. Videos should be short, punchy and to the point, and can include live action, animation or a combination of both.
- Case studies: A case study tells the story of one of your company’s successes. A format of describing a challenge, how your company solved it, and the outcome or results is an ideal way to get the message across. It’s a way to allow potential clients with similar challenges to see how you can tackle their issues.
- eBooks: eBooks are typically longer-form content that include call-outs, interesting graphics, boxes and other visual elements that help tell a story.
Why should I use branded content?
Branded content isn’t just advertising. It’s not catchy slogans with a fun image. It’s a targeted way to connect with consumers, aligning your brand with their values. Why should you use it?
Increases brand awareness. Quick, who do you think is the typical Subaru driver? An outdoorsy, athletic dog lover who cares about the environment? That’s the power of branded content at work. It cements a brand into the awareness of the buying public. We all know Subaru’s brand now, whether we’ve ever purchased one of their vehicles or not.
Improves brand perception. Branded content can improve the public’s perception of your brand, building trust and enhancing credibility. This can be extremely helpful to brands that have had a stumble. It creates a positive brand image over time, solidifying that image to create deep brand equity.
Increases audience engagement. Storytelling engages people in ways that advertising simply can’t. It can create deep connections and increase loyalty.
Creates authority. If you publish a series of insightful, thought-leadership articles, over time you will be viewed as a thought leader within your industry and with the buying public. It creates a sense of gravitas and knowledge, positioning you as a source that can be trusted.
Supports multi-channel marketing efforts. Branded content can integrate with your other marketing and advertising efforts on various channels like social media to email to your website. It’s part of creating a consistent message.
Increases leads and sales. Everyone wants to increase leads, sales, engaged customers, the whole nine yards. Ultimately, branded content makes your company more successful.
Branded content effectiveness
Branded content is known to cut through the sales clutter and connect with audiences. Those warm-and-fuzzies are all well and good, but how effective is it? How does it compare to traditional marketing and advertising? Some recent stats shed some light on that.
According to the International Journal of Advertising, branded content is 22 times more effective than traditional advertising, resulting in consumers being 59% more likely to remember a brand after interacting with its branded content vs. traditional ads.
A Nielsen report found branded content produced 86% brand recall.
How do you know a branded content campaign has been effective? Some time-honored metrics include:
- Unique users
- Other metrics unique to your goals
Branded content tips and tricks
Sound good? How do you start? Here are some touchpoints, tips and tricks we’ve learned in our quarter century of producing effective branded content for clients.
Know your brand. What does your company stand for? What sets you apart? What are your values? Most companies have a mission statement — what’s yours? If you don’t have a clear handle on this, it’s the first thing you need to nail down before you proceed with any branded content.
Know your audience, both current and future. Many, if not most, companies have done extensive audience or consumer analysis to determine who is buying their goods or services. Start there as the foundation, but think broader, too. Who do you want to reach that you may not be reaching now? Do you want to reconnect with customers who may have fallen away?
Know what you want to say… What is the number one thing you want consumers to know about your company? Subaru = environmentally-conscious, outdoorsy dog people. Dove = body positivity. What do you want people to think of when they hear your company name? What do you want to inspire people to do?
…and how you want to say it. What’s your company’s voice and tone? Friendly? Casual? Formal and informative? Helpful? If your company were to describe itself, how would it sound? How do you want people to feel after reading or hearing your message?
Create content that speaks to your audience. The number one tactic for doing this: storytelling. A story teaches, inspires, enlightens, entertains, engages. The most effective branded content uses the art of storytelling to get its message across.
Do not be overly sales-y. It’s a big turn-off for consumers.
Use professional writers. Professional writers, who do this every day for a living, are experts in storytelling, capturing brand voice and tone, and writing compelling content that will engage, delight and inform your audience. It’s an art form that requires years to perfect.
Distribution matters. Where will this content appear? Sure, your company has a website. But this is not a case of “if you build it, they will come.” You need to get it out there. Studies have shown that branded content appearing in a trusted, third-party source, like a newspaper or online news site, performs 50% better than content published on a company’s own website alone. At Brandpoint, we have the largest distribution network in the country.
Examples of branded content
What does branded content look like in the real world? We’ve already mentioned Subaru. Here are a few other examples of stellar branded content.
Zelle’s “The Science Behind Scams”
Zelle partnered with Vox Media to create a series of articles, videos and quizzes called “The Science Behind Scams.” Its aim was to educate the audience about common tactics scammers use, reasons why they are effective and ways to avoid them. The campaign was so effective because it links Zelle, a money transfer app, to fraud protection — a huge issue for users of money transfer apps. It made users feel more secure that Zelle had their backs when it comes to fraud. This campaign won the 2022 Best B2B Branded Content Campaign from the Content Marketing Awards.
ATB Financial’s “Money Minded”
This is a series of educational articles and quizzes that highlight how people can take control of their finances, grow their financial knowledge and get a better handle on all things financial. Alberta’s largest financial institution, ATB’s core value is to strive to better serve Albertans, “from providing expert advice and supporting entrepreneurs to helping Albertans buy a home and grow their wealth.” The campaign was squarely on point with the company’s values, positioning them as the expert in personal finances.
Fortune Brand Studio and Salesforce’s “The Ecopreneurs”
Winner of the 2023 Content Marketing Award for Branded Content, “The Ecopreneurs” is a video series highlighting people and companies working to solve climate change in new, inspiring and innovative ways. One of Salesforce’s core values is sustainability, with the company making the promise to “bring the full power of Salesforce to accelerate the world’s journey to net zero.” By partnering with the professional journalists at Fortune, Salesforce was able to bring this core message to life in a way that resonated with its audience.
At Brandpoint, we’re the experts in creating impactful, effective branded content for our clients. Our team of professional journalists and designers listens to your brand voice, leans into our quarter century of experience and leverages the largest and most prestigious distribution network on the planet to get your expertly crafted message in front of millions of people. Get in touch with us today to start this journey, together.