Vivek Asrani is working as a Senior Content Specialist at Acquire. He has been providing high quality content to clients over a period of 7 years. Many of his articles have been published in magazines and blogs. His expertise revolves around blogging, website content writing, press releases, infographics, eBooks, etc. He loves reading and writing.
Nowadays, branded content is in enormous demand, and why not, as it brings several benefits to your Inbound Marketing Strategy? Do you want to know what makes branded content? What are the different tips for creating branded content? If yes, I have written this blog, especially for you.
Marketing and branding gurus are always on the lookout for different ways to attract the attention of their target audience.
However, with time the audience has become smarter.
With so much television content and display ads available, people have become unexcited and unresponsive to it because of excessive promotion.
You might have heard this a thousand times: Instead of rehashing the same old tactics, today, marketers need to give their target audience something fresh and valuable.
This is where branded content comes in handy.
But, more on that later; now, let's divert our attention to the different elements that make for branded content.
Characteristics of Branded Content
Branded content is a marketing technique that involves creating content that is directly connected to your brand. In short, it enables your customers to connect with your brand.
Let me segregate the definition of branded content and further define the main characteristics of which it is made up of.
Its entire focus is on the brand's values, not its products or services.
Even though branded content can adopt a classic video spot format, it is typically based on the brand’s intangible qualities instead of its specific products.
It sparks conversation around the brand.
Rather than direct sales or conversion, these content types try to impact the audience by sparking a conversation around the brand. Therefore, the key metrics to gauge branded content's success lie in how it becomes famous and the number of mentions.
Provide value that users would want to consume
Typically when we speak about advertising, it is perceived to be the price one pays to consume the content that interests us. On the contrary, branded content executes this idea by creating content users wish to consume. Generally, you get this added value in the form of entertainment.
Connect with the audience on a more intimate/emotional level
Even during the times of Aristotle, people used to take advantage of emotions for persuasion. This is effective even today. Branded content does not employ rational arguments about why a brand is better than its competition; instead, it seeks to connect with the audience on a more intimate/emotional level.
Focuses on storytelling
This content inspires content writers to tell a representative brand story to the viewer, with protagonists, beginning, middle, and end.
It can be presented in various ways using different mediums.
Branded content is a very flexible concept. Hence, you can adapt it for other formats like video content, interactive formats, video games, podcasts, events, etc. You may even combine several of them to tell your brand's history through content validity. In the same way, you can even spread the content in different ways, from apps and social networks to the brand's website.
You may co-create the content.
You might have seen many brands collaborating with film directors or professionals to create an outstanding piece of content through content validity. However, the collaboration does not end there. User-generated content is a top-rated resource. For example, YouTube videos enable users to tell their stories about a brand and engage with brand engagement while providing the content.
Now that we are familiar with the term 'branded content and its characteristics, in the next section, as promised, we'll look at a few examples of branded content.
5 Best Practical Examples of Branded Content
Here's a look at some of the best practical examples of branded content that every marketer should see.
- Newspaper article: Netflix
With the gradual reduction in the number of people willing to pay for newspapers and magazines, old media needs to find new revenue sources – online and print. One way to counter this situation and boost revenue is by running sponsored articles. However, matching the right marketing message with engaging and enlightening content can be tricky.
This New York Times article, Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn't Work, hits the right note. Sponsored by Netflix's hit prison sitcom Orange Is the New Black, this long-form read is fascinating, riveting, and elegantly presented. The unison of interactive images, a captivating video, and solid journalistic content make this article tick all the boxes for both the brands and the readers.
- Music Video: Honda
If you are not aware, OK Go is an Alternative Rock band that comes from Chicago. The group is well-known for its funny and creative music videos. Its video for 2014's I Won't Let You Down, which debuted on NBC's Today Show, put an entirely new dimension on product placement.
In the video, you can see the band members cavorting on Honda's UNI-CUB balancing unicycles. It was a massive PR coup for the company. However, there's hardly any mention of Honda (the video has crossed 38 million views and counting so far).
The video was linked to an interactive website (which has gone offline now). The website showcased behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and information about the Honda UNI-CUB.
- Print magazine: Net-a-Porter
When traditional publishers became reluctant to launch new magazines, companies started to fill in the vacuum. Fashion retailer Net-A-Porter's magazine, Porter, is one of the most popular and commercially successful to date.
With the lethal combo of the website's audience data with global magazine market intelligence, the company has been able to target the magazine's content with laser accuracy. It has achieved a circulation of approximately 180,000 outselling several traditional magazines, and has reached a frightening distance from Vogue.
- Viral Video: Dove
Dove generated a lot of traction through its Real Beauty Campaign stemming from research that suggests only four percent of women would describe themselves as beautiful. This short YouTube video is a testimony of the gap between perception and reality in brilliant fashion.
Herein it showcases a sketch artist who draws two series of women. One is based on his description of how she might look, and the other is on a stranger's description. The discrepancy between the two highlights how inaccurate women's own views are about their beauty.
The YouTube video has crossed more than 114 million views in a month. This ad has also become one of the most viral video ads of all time. While the ad does not showcase anything about the product's qualities, the campaign got the world speaking about it.
And the best part is that Dove has been part of the conversation, which has led to a significant boost in its sales in the process.
- Feature film: Lego
You know the extent of branded content success when people are so focused on having fun that they hardly ever notice that they're being marketed. The hilarious and surprisingly witty Lego movie was a significant blockbuster that earned more than $469 million Worldwide. All this was achieved while promoting Lego to a new global generation of kids.
Here you have it, the five best practice examples of branded content. In the final section of this write-up, we'll look at the tips for creating branded content.
7 Effective Tips for Creating a Branded Content
With the help of well-drafted articles, social media posts, podcasts, and videos from a reputed content marketing agency, you can win the hearts of your target audience. It also helps build trust and get your customers emotionally attached to your brand.
Here are seven tips to help you craft engaging branded content from scratch.
1. Focus on the values that you wish to promote
You should always keep one thing in mind: Branded content is not about promoting your products and services. Instead, it's about discussing values that matter to your customers and relating them to your brand.
The ultimate purpose of branded content is to raise awareness, build loyalty, and not make sales fast. A prime example of that is the YouTube video that I highlighted in the earlier section.
Dove created a campaign to test the gap between the perception and reality of women in brilliant fashion. Look at the practical example I mentioned above to understand what I am referring to.
So, if you wish to create a share-worthy piece of branded content, my piece of advice is to get a team of talented content writers on board from a reputed content marketing agency.
Then think about the values and issues your target audience and company deal with. It can be anything from the climate change movement to gender inequalities. Focus on these values and find a way to craft a solution based on these issues. This will be the first step to writing compelling branded content.
2. Get in-depth information about your target audience
To create branded content that appeals to your target audience, you must clearly understand who they are. In simple words, it means researching not only their demographics but also the psychographics of your target audience.
There are certain digital tools available online that can aid you in researching your target audience. The simplest and quickest way to recommend you guys is to check their social media accounts. Yes, their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can tell you almost everything about a particular person.
Closely scrutinize their social media accounts and try to get answers to these questions:
- What lifestyles do your customers live?
- Which social activities do they support?
- Which social issues do they discuss amongst their social circle?
- Do they love to travel? If yes, how do they choose the destinations?
- Which accounts/brands/influencers do they follow?
By being aware of the topics that resonate with your customers, you can create winning content that can make you go viral in no time.
3. Adopt storytelling
Practice writing a good story if you wish to get your branded content noticed. The reason is, that people love stories. If you can ask your content writers to write an excellent narrative, it will help you create good chemistry between your target audience and your brand. It will help you connect with your target audience on a deeper emotional level.
Now you might ask, "Vivek, who will be the main hero of my story?" My answer would be, that it can be anyone who resonates with your brand. It can be your employee, customer, business partner, or even you. Another question that you might have: "What sort of story should you ask your content writers to tell? Here, the answer would depend on the brand message you wish to deliver.
It can be an inspirational story, a pleasurable story, or a gloomy story. Give your content writers the liberty (they can even use an AI writer to help them) to draft any story that you believe might appeal to your target audience the most. Your story doesn't need to be too long.
It can be in the form of a short text, a video, or even an infographic or other visual content. On top of that, if you wish, you can combine a few short stories and present them into a big one. A prime example of that is this YouTube video of Nike.
Here, Nike presented the stories of six girls in a single video to inspire women who are dedicated to their goals and do not pay heed to discouraging comments.
4. Create an emotional appeal in your target audience
The ultimate objective of brand content is to evoke one of the following emotions:
A certain section of marketers does not like the idea of creating branded content that evokes negative feelings. The reason is that they feel the audience will form a negative association with their brand. But, that is not necessarily true. In some instances, if you have well-written content that evokes anger and anxiety amongst your target audience, it can work better than "happy" content.
Non-profit organizations like The World Wild Fund for Nature create videos that lead to nervousness and hatred.
A prime example of that is a campaign that is created on the living planet report’s findings. They shockingly presented the facts with the use of dramatic and unpleasant visuals. Even though the content was sad, it performed pretty well. It garnered more likes and shares than alternative "happy" content would have.
Here's the YouTube video:
It's hardly a surprise to know that people love drama, so why not cover a serious topic wherein you discuss global issues by tapping into negative emotions to convey your message?
5. Maintain consistency in your brand voice
You can always go ahead and experiment with different types of content and discuss various topics. However, the one thing that you should not forget is to keep your brand's tone of voice consistent.
Irrespective of whether your writers are crafting an Instagram post, an article, a YouTube video, or an email sent via an autoresponder, your target audience should immediately know that this piece of content belongs to your brand.
So, if you have not defined your brand voice yet, it's the right time to do so. First, determine what tone of voice matches your brand the best: helpful, informative, friendly, sassy, funny, etc.
Second, decide the language you will stick to while crafting the branded content. It can be formal or informal, sophisticated or simple, technical or jargon-free.
You can create more compelling branded content by maintaining voice consistency and giving wings to your marketing efforts. If you have hired a reputed content marketing agency to do the job, ensure that all content writers in their team employ the same tone.
6. Concentrate on creating shareable content
Every marketer would love to see their article/video go viral online. To achieve this endeavor, your content should make the readers think, "Oh God! This is a super-valuable article/video. I can resonate with it on a deeper level. I must share it with my friends, family, and professional network right now!"
For this, you need to ask these questions before crafting a new piece of content:
- Which type of content is my target audience more likely to share (videos, infographics, blog posts, etc.)?
- What issues/topics/memories resonate with my audience the most?
- What content is trending in my niche?
Once you get the difference between "good" and "share-worthy" content, you'll be able to create more quality content.
7. Be your authentic self
If you want people to love your brand, it's imperative to make it authentic and one-of-its-kind. Never copy branded content created by big brands like Red Bull, Nike, and Dove by thinking it will help you achieve great success.
Instead, think out of the box and come up with your very own unique ideas. So, put your thinking cap on and let your imagination take you to a new dimension.
Don't be afraid to write down even the craziest of ideas on a piece of paper. You never know which one might change the prospects of your brand. Create something your audience has never seen before and let the buzz spread online!
It requires lots of dedication and hard work to create branded content. However, if you stick with the tips that we have mentioned above and try them out, it will pay rich dividends in the end.
Always keep this in mind: Well-designed branded content empowers a brand. If you use it properly, it can help take your company to the next level of success.
If you are ready to build more effective branded content, check out the practical examples I mentioned in this write-up to inspire and create something unique and original.
It can be anything from blog posts, infographics, YouTube videos, films, and podcasts.
Once you do it, I can bet nothing can stop you from going viral online!
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