What is Branded Content?

What is Branded Content?

Every day we’re inundated with articles, posts, emails, etc, and as a brand, it can be tricky to know what was carefully put together as part of an ad strategy and what wasn’t. Not to mention, most brands are always looking for new ways to cut through the noise and ensure that their voice is heard amongst the crowd of digital content.

Branded content has become an attractive route for businesses to explore. Not only does branded content see companies team up with creators and influencers to expand their reach, but it also has a 59% higher brand recall than other digital ads.

Below, we take a plunge into the branded content pool to see if it could elevate your brand.

What Exactly Is Branded Content?

All of your content is a representation of your brand, however, branded content refers specifically to using creators and influencers to promote your brand and products/services in advertisements. These partnerships involve using an “ad tag” on the platform where the content is being displayed. 

Companies gravitate toward branded content because they can leverage the influencers’ following and trust that people already have established with the creators, thus connecting those sentiments to their own brand. Think of it like this: traditional ads are a stranger coming up to you at a party and trying to sell something. Branded content, meanwhile, is a friend at the party saying to you “have you met so-and-so? They have a really cool story to tell you.”

It’s important to note that while you can share branded content organically, it will only reach a small subset of the influencer’s following due to ever-changing algorithms. Paid ads will receive more visibility and are therefore a smarter ROI move (especially when creator fees can be high).

What Branded Content is Not?

So, we’ve said what branded content is, but how about what it’s not? There are some big differences between branded content and conventional marketing and product placement, and highlighting those contrasts is helpful to build a more successful brand strategy.

Conventional Marketing 

Conventional marketing comes directly from the brand and carries the brand’s voice. Generally speaking, customers know that conventional ads are the brand trying to convince them to make a purchase (or take some type of action). On the other hand, branded content comes from influencers or other sources on behalf of the brand – they serve as an ambassador and trusted source, rather than a brand pushing its own products.

Does that make branded content a form of product placement then? No. Product placement merely features a brand within the content (like when you see a particular red and white soda can in a movie scene). Branded content makes the business or product the main focus of the ad – the influencer intentionally showcases the brand, discussing how their experience with it has been positive and why followers should try it too.

That’s not to say that branded content is one long infomercial. The idea is more that creators and influencers break the fourth wall and guide their followers through genuine stories about the brand’s value. The content is accessible and relatable, often speaking to users’ emotions and daily needs, not simply yelling hyperboles about the brand to their audiences.

Content Marketing is Not Branded Content

“But what about content marketing?” we hear you ask. The main difference here is that content marketing consists of distributing content made by the brand on the brand’s platforms (its website domain, social media, emails). Alternatively, branded content is made with creators and influencers to share on their own platforms.

Put simply, you can think of content marketing as a brand’s efforts to promote its services and products with people who have already interacted their brand (or who are likely to touch their brand), while branded content is to reach people who are outside of those circles – and the influencer is the magnet drawing people into the space.

Branded Content Best Practices

What is branded content? infographic
What is branded content at a glance

There’s an art to branded content, and our experts have a rich palette of colors to help you finesse your masterpiece.

Speak to Your Audience

For starters, don’t be afraid to ask creators to speak directly to your audiences. People respond well when someone speaks to them as they would in any social interaction – making eye contact, using second-person pronouns, and casual vocabulary.

Use Branded Videos

When possible, use video. Audiences also like to see who is chatting to them, what they’re doing, and be able to read their body language. Your messaging will be more strongly communicated via video than a text-only post from an influencer; plus, some social media platforms’ algorithms favor video over other ad types for branded content.

Curate Content

Take care to curate your content with a user-generated look and feel. You don’t want audiences thinking that you’ve handed influencers a script and they’re reeling off lines without conviction. Ask influencers to incorporate their own real product testimonial, giving clear examples and providing details about their experience with your brand. From their story, write compelling ad copy that highlights the emotive language they use.

Format Based on Platform

Keep size in mind when you’re recording too. The content should be properly zoomed out across assets and available in full-screen sizes for optimal viewing in both people’s feeds and stories. Ideally, assets should be sized 1080×1080 for feeds, and 1080×1920 for stories. The perspective should also offer a realistic portrayal of any products – their size, how they work, and their effects. 

Remember that creative features are your friend in branded content – stickers, countdowns, locations, and hashtags can all enhance your ad, so long as they’re used at the right time, and in the right context.

Some Branded Content Examples We Love 

Athleta and Coco Cuenco

For a little branded content inspiration, check out this ad from yoga clothing brand Athleta with influencer Coco Cuenco. The 15-second video features Coco waking up and laying out a workout outfit that also doubles as a day outfit. The ad then shows Coco going about her activities, working, and buying groceries. It’s powerful because of its simplicity – people share Coco’s routine, want to have a healthy lifestyle, and want to look good while doing so. By tapping into the mentality of Coco’s followers, Athleta makes its clothes a seamless fit (literally) in their day-to-day lives.

Aerie and Karen Chen

Another gem comes from clothing retailer Aerie, who partnered up with Karen Chen for this branded content. In the post, Karen shares a fun photo of her mid-cartwheel, wearing a pair of Aerie leggings. Karen shares that she’ll be “living in these” during her “busy semester,” speaking to students who have packed schedules but still want to be comfortable and active. She ends the post by asking “What’s your go-to athleisure outfit for the fall?” prompting audiences to interact with the content. Clever, huh?

It’s official then – branded content makes sense. In a world where influencers are the bridge between brands and buying customers, companies need to give branded content the same level of attention as other forms of marketing. Just make sure that the people you bring on board are an extension of your brand and values, and that their support for your brand is honest.

Now, go forth, and leave your mark on the world—or let the influencers do it for you.

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