branded content marketing

The Best Branded Content Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Brand Image

Branded content marketing plays a critical role in helping you build and grow your brand. Here are the best strategies you can leverage for it.

Branded content marketing is integral to every successful inbound marketing campaign. It helps you build a strong relationship with your target audience and convert them into loyal customers. Additionally, it delivers long-term results and offers a high return on investment (ROI).

Content marketing isn’t just about publishing a few blog posts to attract website visitors. If you want to cut through today’s competitive and saturated marketing landscape, you must build and grow your brand.

In other words, you need a rock-solid branded content marketing strategy to amplify brand awareness and authority. This is particularly crucial considering that 70% of businesses are actively investing in content marketing. The only way to cut through this clutter and grab eyeballs is to judiciously utilize branded content marketing.

However, branded content isn’t just about sponsoring a TV commercial or radio ad and adding your logo to it. Nor is it enough to publish a sponsored news article or blog post that tries to explicitly promote your product or service. Successful branded content marketing requires a strategic approach to harness your audience’s emotions.

In this blog, we delve deeper into the world of branding and content marketing to identify the best, branded content marketing strategies.

What is Branded Content Marketing?

Let’s first understand what branded content marketing is all about.

Branded content marketing is simply the practice of creating entertaining, educational, or informative content that’s sponsored by a specific brand. However, unlike traditional advertising, it doesn’t use the content to promote the brand’s products or services.

Instead, the objective of branded content marketing is to emotionally connect with target consumers by highlighting a brand’s core values.

Your brand and your products and services are only mentioned on the periphery of branded content. It uses the power of storytelling to engage your audience and organically showcases the intangible aspects of your brand.

These include:

  • Brand mission, values, and standards
  • Social causes that matter most to your brand

This is in contrast to regular product placement, which simply plugs your brand into a piece of sponsored content. Instead, branded content spins the narrative around the values and causes you’d like to showcase. Your brand never screams for the audience’s attention or throws a product or service in their face.

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It’s also worth mentioning here that branded content marketing focuses on providing value to the audience. This is achieved by creating content that’s entertaining and engaging. When implemented correctly, branded content shouldn’t be far from the content produced by studios and production houses with the sole aim of entertainment.

It’s essential to note here that branded content marketing takes the idea of digital advertising for a spin. This is because most of your potential customers will ignore conventional ads on social media platforms and search engines. On the other hand, they’ll likely look forward to consuming more branded content, as long as it’s intriguing and entertaining. This effect is achieved by tugging at their heartstrings and emotionally investing them in the content.

From web series and podcasts to talk shows and articles—you can create branded content in various formats. The important thing is to prioritize the aspect of entertainment and emotional appeal. Also, branded content is typically developed and launched in collaboration with established content creators, including:

  • Filmmakers and video producers
  • YouTubers
  • Podcasters
  • Authors and bloggers
  • Sports personalities

Branded Content Marketing vs. Content Marketing

If you’re new to the world of branded content, it’s easy to dismiss it as another aspect of content marketing. However, the reality is far from it. Creating branded content requires an entirely different approach than that of creating content for marketing.

Branded content will always be part of your overarching content marketing strategy. However, traditional content marketing focuses on the use of high-quality content to boost website traffic, leads, and ultimately—sales.

Branded content is created to boost brand awareness, authority, and affinity. Here’s a handy comparison guide to help you understand the difference between brand content and content marketing:

branded content and branded content marketing

It is, however, worth noting that both branded content and regular content can be distributed using the same channels. Successful brands utilize both branded content and content marketing in conjunction to establish industry authority and reinforce customer trust.

The Furrow Magazine by John Deere

One of the oldest and most popular examples of content marketing is The Furrow, a magazine publication distributed by John Deere. For years, many people never knew the magazine was created by the John Deere company because there was rarely any specific mention of the company or its products.

john deere branded content marketing
Photographer: Robert Laursoo | Source: Unsplash

By now, you must be eager to start building a branded content marketing strategy for your business. But let’s first take a look at a few examples of successful branded content marketing.

Branded Content Marketing: Success Stories

When it comes to creating and promoting branded content, it’s difficult to outline a universal formula for success. Instead, the best approach is to learn from top-performing strategies used by established brands.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss two such examples of effective branded content marketing.

The Lego Movie Franchise

LEGO Movie banner
Image Source: Warner Bros.

You know a brand has struck gold when its branded content doesn’t feel like advertising at all. This is precisely what The Lego Movie franchise has helped Lego, the Danish toy brand achieve. When you think of successful branded content marketing strategies, this is likely one of the first examples that’ll come to your mind.

The strategy is fairly simple. Warner Bros. obtained the license from Lego System A/S to create an animated film franchise based on their products. It caught the attention of children, who, in turn, coaxed their parents to take them to watch the movies. This helped expose the Lego brand to an entirely new generation of potential customers.

The outcome was a roaring success in the form of a movie franchise spanning multiple blockbusters across the years. It skyrocketed the brand’s visibility and reputation, attracting thousands of new customers. The result was a whopping 25% increase in Lego’s sales just after the release of the first film.

What’s worth noting is that this marketing strategy defies all the norms of a conventional ad campaign. Busy parents browsing the internet in their free time won’t bat an eyelid before skipping any promotional ads about Legos. But the same parents would happily spend their hard-earned money to take their eager kids to watch The Lego Movie.

Netflix and Orange Is the New Black

Netflix used branded content marketing to promote the launch of the second season of its hit show, Orange Is the New Black. Instead of urging viewers to watch the show, the streaming giant published a well-researched and thought-provoking sponsored post in The New York Times: Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work.

Orange is the new black paid post on NY Times
Image Source: The New York Times

Except for the paid post label, the article looked just like any other newsworthy article you’d expect in The New Your Times. Written by Melanie Diezel, it’s a thoughtful account of the problems that female inmates experience in correctional facilities. It emphasizes the need for female-centric prison policies. Neither Netflix nor the show is explicitly mentioned in the content.

Instead, it echoes the values and beliefs that the makers of Orange Is the New Black explored in the show. The result sparked audience interest in the topic of female inmates and helped the show garner traction.

Other noteworthy examples of branded content:

Examples of branded content marketing
Dove ad on YouTube
Image Source: YouTube

It’s worth mentioning here that producing branded content requires a higher budget than implementing a regular content marketing strategy. If you’re building a new brand, it’s only natural to wonder whether branded content marketing is worth taking the plunge. Let’s explore its benefits to help you make an informed decision.

Should You Use Branded Content Marketing?

Creating and promoting branded content requires a huge investment in terms of time, effort, and resources. That’s why you should carefully analyze the advantages of branded content marketing and weigh them against the cost. It’ll help you determine whether it’s the right move for your brand.

Branded content marketing lets you build a strong emotional connection with your potential customers. Moreover, it’s often more engaging and intriguing than regular marketing-related content and promotional ads. It becomes so ingrained in your audience’s mind that they start associating your brand with a specific type of content.

It also positions your brand as one that focuses on providing value to consumers. This, in turn, helps you:

  • Improve brand affinity
  • Increase brand recall and recognition
  • Amplify awareness and reach
  • Establish thought leadership
  • Earn customer trust and loyalty

When your content resonates with the audience, chances are they’ll also share it with their friends and family on their social media profiles. Or they might recommend it in their networks. Your content will then reach a wider audience and potentially go viral.

The benefits of branded content marketing aren’t restricted to brand-building. You can also use it to increase organic website traffic. When correctly executed, it also boosts lead generation and sales.

As mentioned earlier, the example of The Lego Movie is a testament to this. This isn’t surprising, considering 42% of consumers harbor a positive outlook for brands that provide them with free and valuable content.

The best part, however, is that branded content lets you bypass the drawbacks of digital advertising. This is because it doesn’t feel like advertising at all. Therefore, its chances of being viewed by your target audience are higher than that of typical ads which is a much more effective strategy for reaching your potential customers, especially considering the prevalence of ad blockers.

Therefore, the debate shouldn’t be about whether you should leverage branded content. Instead, you have to brainstorm the right ways to produce branded content with the resources and budget at your disposal.

How to Develop a Branded Content Marketing Strategy?

Follow these eight steps to successfully create and promote a branded content strategy:

1. Create Your Brand Personality

This step involves identifying your brand’s core values and vision. Think of how your brand would behave if it were a living, breathing person. Select the tone, voice, and language your brand is going to use while communicating with the audience.

Do you want to establish your brand as an authority figure or a friend? What are the traits and values you’d like to showcase in your content? Are there any topics your brand won’t address? Your answers to these questions will determine the brand’s unique personality.

This is also a good time to decide whether your brand is going to be vocal about social causes and politics. Additionally, define visual elements, such as color palette, and typography, etc. that you’ll use. It’s a good idea to create official brand guidelines to share with your team members. It’ll ensure all your branded content and marketing assets align with the brand image you’ve decided on.

2. Understand Your Audience

Knowing your target audience is the backbone of your branded content marketing strategy. From social media analytics and polls to market research and surveys—you can use various ways to better understand your potential customers. However, don’t limit your research to demographics and pain points only.

Dig deeper and find out the various emotions your audience is likely to feel. Identify the social issues that matter to them, and monitor their online behavior to find their preferred content formats and communication channels.

3. Set Your Budget

You can’t create branded content without a dedicated budget. Whether you’re producing the content in-house or outsourcing it to a third party, you’ll have to spend money. You’ll also need room in your budget to promote the branded content on different platforms.

4. Identify a Traction-Worthy Topic

The success of your branded content campaign depends on the topic you choose. Select a topic or theme that resonates with your audience. Don’t just focus on their struggles and problems. Instead, try to find the issues and causes they’re passionate about.

Powerful, branded content addresses social causes too, such as:

  • Gender stereotypes
  • Racial discrimination
  • Women empowerment
  • Climate change
  • Child safety

It’s crucial to ensure the theme aligns with your brand image. Don’t try to forcefully exploit a cause just because it’s trending.

For instance, Red Bull, the popular energy drink brand, has successfully crafted the persona of a dynamic and youthful brand. RedBull’s YouTube channel perfectly echoes this sentiment in the form of videos of athletes, sports stars, and influencers engaging in various adventures. Every video echoes the brand’s core values of its focus on people, ideas, and culture.

Red Bull YouTube channel
Image Source: YouTube

5. Select the Right Content Format

When it comes to branded content, you can choose from a wide array of formats, such as:

branded content marketing formats

Don’t hesitate to experiment with other formats, including events or webinars as well. For instance, Volvo India hosted a night walk in Mumbai to raise awareness about the issue of women’s safety. The campaign, titled Make Your City Safe, featured a branded Youtube video that has garnered more than 3.4 million views on YouTube.

Volvo India make your city safe
Image Source: YouTube

6. Choose Your Distribution Channels

Creating shareable content isn’t enough. If you want your content to go viral, make sure you distribute and promote it across multiple platforms. You can select different distribution channels, such as:

  • Social media platforms
  • Television
  • Radio
  • OTT platforms
  • News publications/sites

Depending on your marketing budget, you can also use other channels, including movie theaters or Hulu. The key is to ensure that your content is present on channels that your audience frequently uses.

7. Collaborate with Influencers

Most examples of effective, branded content marketing involve creative partnerships between a brand and popular influencers, content creators, and film personalities. Don’t limit your search to influencers and authority figures in your industry. Instead, identify content creators, directors, film stars, etc. whom your audience already follows.

8. Don’t Ignore Storytelling

Ultimately, the objective of your branded content marketing campaign should be to use the power of human stories. Harness the power of storytelling to stir compelling emotions of:

  • Happiness
  • Grief
  • Fear
  • Shock
  • Disgust
  • Anger

From Volvo’s night walk in Mumbai to Dove’s Real Beauty campaign—every piece of successful branded content uses storytelling to highlight brand values and qualities.

Final Thoughts

Creating relevant and insightful content to increase website traffic isn’t enough. If you want your business to rise above its competitors, you must leverage branded content marketing. From web series and podcasts to sponsored articles and feature films — there are various ways to create branded content.

However, make sure you choose a topic that’ll immediately grab eyeballs and generate an emotional response in your audience.

Ready to get started building your content marketing strategy from the ground level? Take a look at what we do at WRITE FOR ME and get in touch to partner with us to get started today.

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Andy Steuer

Andy Steuer

Andy Steuer is the Chief Marketing Officer at WriteForMe. Andy has been CEO, CMO, VP of Product for 8 fast-growing companies in his career. 3 of those companies became Top 10 Internet companies. Content Marketing has always been at the core to differentiate these companies from their competition. You can always schedule a 1 on 1 meeting with Andy by grabbing some time on his calendar here. List articles below that have Andy on the byline on the rest of the page. Here’s my calendar link: » More blog posts by Andy Steuer

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