Branded Content: A Definitive Guide (With Benefits and Tips)

Updated 24 October 2022

Branded content is a fresh way to highlight your brand in a market saturated with advertising. Consumers typically encounter adverts wherever they go, from social media to physical flyers or billboards and adverts throughout their entertainment to the point they may develop advert blindness. If you work in advertising or marketing, understanding how brand-led content works may allow you to use it to capture your audience's attention and build a connection with them. In this article, we explore what brand-focused content is, list some of the typical characteristics, discover its advantages and share tips for creating it.

Related: What Is Digital Marketing? (FAQ Plus Types of Strategies)

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What is branded content?

Branded content is a way of sharing your brand values in a way that shows what the organisation stands for while provoking an emotional response and building a connection with your audience. Brand-focused content is typically free from any direct product advertising and aims to build trust between the company and consumers. This type of content aims to achieve three key goals:

  • Improve brand reputation

  • Create strong emotional connections with audiences

  • Resonate with the audience to increase the position a brand holds in the industry

Related: How to Design a Brand Identity (With Elements and Steps)

Characteristics of branded content

Brand-led content fits different criteria to regular advertising copy. Some characteristics specific to brand-led content include:

Focuses on brand values

Brand-led content marketing concerns brand values and vision, while typical advertising tends to focus on products and services. While the adverts may fit the same format as traditional advertising, the content focuses on the qualities of the brand. For example, brand posts may focus on their stance on social or political issues, commitment to their audience or the defining origins of the brand.

Related: Choosing Your Company Values: Why They're Important

Generates conversation

Brand-focused content aims to generate conversation and notoriety around the brand. It seeks to connect with the audience and make it more the brand more relatable. Measuring the success of brand content campaigns typically involves measuring the number of mentions rather than conversions.

Provides value for the user

Brand-related content intends to provide content that enriches the audience's life by inspiring them, teaching them something new, moving them emotionally or entertaining them. For this reason, tailoring brand-related content to fit the target market is a useful strategy, as it reflects the ideology and voice of the organisation. For example, a brand that produces teenage skin care products creates content that looks, feels and sounds different to a company that caters for mothers with young children.

Adapts to platforms and formats

Branded subject matter is adaptable to different formats and platforms, such as videos, podcasts, events, images or written posts. Aiming for formats that are easily shareable across multiple platforms gives the audience the ability to distribute the posts if they find value in the content. Made possible through flexible formats, this type of sharing can introduce the brand to a new audience and expand its reach.

Related: 14 Types of Social Media to Grow a Brand (With Examples)

Allows for collaboration in content creation

Brands can collaborate with professionals such as film directors to produce high-quality content that has broad appeal. Collaborations with public figures such as singers, musicians or actors can be highly effective, particularly if they're champions of the causes the brand stands for. Co-creation also includes user-generated content that enables users to tell their stories of the brand, which increases user engagement and provides valuable content.

Advantages of branded content

Using brand-related content as part of a marketing strategy offers advantages to an organisation that typical advertising may not achieve. Some of these benefits may include:

Offers an alternative to invasive techniques

Conventional digital advertising may hinder a user's navigation and can generate negative feelings. These include banners, pop-ups or landing pages that require action before allowing a user to reach what they're seeking. Brand-led content draws users naturally by offering content that attracts their interest and adds value to their lives.

Creates a powerful emotional connection

Brand-led content appeals to a user's emotions through the art of storytelling that may intrigue, excite or move them. The emotions they feel become associated with the brand, creating a long-lasting bond. Connecting a visual aspect to emotions creates an experience for the user that often remains with them and can develop into brand loyalty.

Related: How to Become a Content Creator: Your Complete Guide

Positions content to go viral

Viral posts achieve high engagement on social media, including likes, comments, views and shares, which can help a post achieve extensive reach. Creating content focused on the brand allows for posts that a user finds valuable enough to share. With each share, the reach of the post can multiply exponentially. A viral post can reduce the cost of content distribution, increase the reach of a brand's influence and increase positive engagement. Viral posts can take many forms, for example:

  • Riddles and puzzles

  • Infographics

  • Motivational content

  • Personality quizzes

  • Lists

  • Case studies

  • How-to guides

  • Top posts

  • Long-form content

  • Humanised stories

Improves positioning of the brand

Brand positioning is how customers perceive the brand in their minds, compared to competing brands. It includes considering which product category to associate the brand with, who the target market is, what benefits the brand delivers and what to offer as reasons for the customer to believe in the organisation. Presenting stories that capture the brand's values and resonate with the audience helps create positive associations which can elevate the positioning of the brand.

Related: What Is Positioning in Marketing? (Benefits and Strategies)

Generates engagement and loyalty

Content that touches people emotionally, entertains them or speaks about an issue they care deeply about can prompt them to engage with the post by sharing or commenting. Building an emotional connection in this way can earn a customer's loyalty. Brand-focused content does this by:

  • Making the customer feel valued

  • Communicating the benefits of the company

  • Presenting authentic, valuable communication

Helps promote traffic and leads

Although brand-focused content concentrates on engagement more than sales and conversions, a successful campaign can increase website traffic and introduce users into the conversion funnel. Interest in a brand can lead to an investigation of a brand's products and services. Quality content attracts and persuades an audience organically and can support other marketing strategies.

Related: What Is Content Marketing? (Definition and How to Do It)

Tips on how to create branded content

Creating content led by branding and not products involves strategies, such as:

Support your claims

Telling your audience what the brand stands for is a good starting point for creating this type of content. Backing up your claims with actual evidence they can see is a powerful way of demonstrating brand values. For example, if your brand is eco-friendly, you can show the audience how you go about making this a real priority in how the company runs. This may involve a video tour through a factory that highlights all the sustainable measures put in place.

Related: What Does a Communication Designer Do? (With Skills)

Use emotional appeals

Aim to appeal to the audience's emotions with the branded stories you create. You can achieve this by identifying what you want your audience to feel after engaging with your content, such as happiness or inspiration. The message woven through the content can catch the audience's interest and motivate them to take an action. This may be to get involved with a cause, change their perspective or begin doing business with your organisation.

Introduce brand characters

Brand characters are people who embody your brand's core values and are highly relatable to a company's target market. People connect with brands when they see individuals in stories they find relatable. Someone who connects with your brand is likely to become a customer. To create authentic brand stories, aim to find real people with genuine stories that help your audience see themselves. The key to an effective brand character is authenticity. An audience connects best with a genuine person.

Related: What Is Brand Personality? (Definition, Types and Tips)

Focus stories on benefits

A marketer focuses on showing potential customers the benefits that a brand can offer. While brand content doesn't focus strongly on products, it has the potential to show the audience the business in a new way to gain their interest. Effective stories display a certain lifestyle that appeals to the audience or a difference that the brand and its products and services can make.

Pick platforms strategically

Social media platforms target different demographics. Researching the ideal social media channels to reach your target audience for each campaign can help your posts get noticed. Creating each campaign with a clear understanding of who your target market is can help you choose your platform strategically for the most response to your posts.

Choose your style, tone and voice

The tone of the message you convey through brand-focused content is effective when it accurately represents your brand. This can cover how you communicate information, the style of your copy, the images you choose and the colour palette and fonts you use. Creating a cohesive representation of the brand can ensure your audience experiences a seamless connection that communicates the same message across all platforms.

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