By Mario Casas
“Branded content is a marketing strategy that involves creating content directly linked to a brand, which allows consumers to make a connection with it.” Why is branded content valuable to businesses? When content is on “brand”, it provides value to the customer by reinforcing an emotional linkage with them, rather than selling something. It allows for audiences to have their attention pulled to the distinct values of the company and develop an attraction between the audience and those messages. Branded content vs. content marketing On another note, content marketing is a term typically confused with branded content. However, the difference between the two, is that, while both can include various content from videos to podcasts, branded content is more focused towards the customer. What is meant by this is that, in most general advertising, the promotion of the product is the main focus. This is not the same with branded content, as what is primarily being sold is not the product itself, but the messages surrounding it that audiences can take out from viewing that content in relation to a theme the company is trying to promote. With this method, viewers can take something more long-lasting and impactful from the content rather than simply a new, featured product. Branded content vs. native advertising Native advertising is another term that has been used alongside branded content. While they both pursue to develop an experience that immerses consumers, the key difference that sets it apart from branded content is in their construction. On one hand, native advertising was made to “blend in” with society, while branded content adopts the unique needs of an audience, always putting customers first. Universal design elements to keep in mind for branded content:
“A logo is a brand’s whole personality boiled down into an easy-to-recognize image.” Logos are practically the face of every brand and is typically the first thing every user sees in your product and remembers about your brand, making it the most crucial. Logos can be seen on nearly every offered asset of your brand from your website to your merchandise. Thus, your logo should be something that showcases to people and captures the essence of your brand’s identity. 2. Color Palette
The colors of your brand are also a major key to its identity, as certain patterns of colors will often pinpoint to your brand’s identity. Some of these signature brand colors may even be trademarked by companies and prohibited from copyright. The accomplishment of colors is that, essentially, with distinct color arrangements, your brand can be expressed along with distinguishing its look from others. This is because particular colors emit certain emotions and themes, such as the color green, which is used by a plethora of environmental companies (i.e., Greenleaf) to display an ecologically-friendly but also a hospitable and humanitarian message, while also having this particular color choice make their identity set apart. 3. Shape
Another aspect of branding strategy are the shapes shown in your logo or layout design in web backgrounds, packaging, and other assets of your company. Depending on the type of shapes used, your brand conveys different values and traits of what your brand is. However, logos are not always limited to precise shapes like polygons, but also specific symbols that convey varying messages. This can be conveyed with the example of symbols used in protests. While a peace ring symbol can implicate a more pacifist approach to a protest, a fist may communicate a harsher, more aggressive tone. As a result, shapes are a major factor in properly expressing your brand’s identity and its interests.
Company slogans or catch phrases are important in emphasizing your brand messaging and differentiating these messages from other brands. However, while a message with simplicity can be powerful for some brands (i.e., Subway’s “Eat Fresh”) an abstract one may be just as effective (i.e., Nike’s “Just Do It.”) Down to its core, taglines are the supplementary information and context that you want to provide to people about your brand in terms of not only its specialties but also what they can anticipate from it.
5. Tone of voice + vocabulary
Naming conventions in branding is greatly valuable to brand as well, as it can make your brand’s offerings in products unique compared to others. Nevertheless, this unusual word choice used in companies may also be tied to the brand’s tone of voice. Tone of voice is one of the most effective communicators in developing how the world perceives your brand, carving a unique persona and face that your brand takes on in the eyes of its broader audience. ● Real-life example = Wendy’s (while being a fast food restaurant they also developed a reputation of a snarky, savage persona on social media with Twitter).
Moreover, font styles used in text for branding, such as on a logo or website, is also an influential component in expressing your brand’s values and personalities. A great deal of companies deliberately choose their fonts to convey these ideas of their brand. Fonts, like shapes, work together to convey the emotional values and focus behind your brand, helping it build character. 7. Imagery
This element involves all the illustrations and pictures you will paint in the reader’s mind in any form of branding, marketing or advertising you perform to accentuate your brand’s identity - the visuals of your brand. This involves the backgrounds you use in your images, style of graphics on the brand website, and a multitude of other aspects. Color and shape work together with imagery in many ways, and is also not just restricted to illustrations themselves - it can also be used in photographs to express particular themes of who you are brand-wise. 8. Positioning
Positioning is another vital component to how your brand expresses its beliefs and concepts around its identity, such as how it blends in with other brands in its circle and its offerings to buyers - an example of this is the pricings that you offer, and why these lower/higher offers may be more compelling than other competing offers. This element, however, can also involve interaction with other brands from within the same industrial space or even separate industries - the brands you collaborate and establish partnerships with impacts how you are perceived around the world. Components that help create the best branded content for customers:
Demonstrate your story
Telling viewers your story is not strong enough to compete with the many contesting businesses out there in today’s society. Instead, you must illustrate a piece that will catch the eyes of your target audience. Make your content not just a story, but a grand picture that is so powerful and distinct that it will be sure to move your viewers emotionally. However, while your products may not be the primary focus in branded content marketing strategies, it is still vital to communicate to people the brand that you are showcasing.
For instance, the company Airbnb highlights this feature well in its Youtube videos discussing the stories of people’s lives and how they came around to their brand. The story of JoJo, one of the last few clog makers in the UK, narrates in an emotional manner her past experiences going into her career along with her passion in woodworking. Following this, she begins to mention how Airbnb allowed her to keep showing these crafts and maintaining these rare skills from going extinct in society, which allows the audience to focus on Airbnb’s image of hospitality toward its contributors rather than simply being a tech company. 2. Get sentimental
In order to connect with your audience to a deeper degree, you must develop something that will touch their emotional sides and lead them to feel a greater personal connection to the brand, as these connections will typically be the most powerful and consistent in keeping that relationship. This includes utilizing people that your audiences can resonate with and sympathize. By incorporating personalities in your pieces, you allow your viewers to feel a greater emotional attachment to these characters, and ensure that your brand maintains those human qualities that appeal to the audience. A great piece of branded content that appeals to this notion is Gatorade’s animated short film on Usain Bolt called “The Boy Who Learned to Fly”. By bringing viewers back to this marathon runner’s childhood and how he grew to become one of the fastest Olympic athletes of modern-day, such as showcasing his emotional connection with his mother, the audience’s feelings are appealed more to the brand displaying the impact of this story due to its resonating impact on certain audiences. These audiences may include fellow athletes and also the broad audiences with emotional relations to their mothers.
3. Be reliable and sincere
Another crucial characteristic that you must implement into your branded content strategy is to design something that feels believable. Due to the vastness of companies out in the open pursuing attention from consumers, it is that much more important to create something that wouldn’t be considered “fake”, but real and committed to your brand’s personal message. This allows your brand to appear more human and less ambiguous. Nonetheless, there are a variety of ways to implement this authenticity.
Examples of this would include Gatorade’s “win from within” campaign, which, rather than simply using a celebrity athlete to win their audience’s attention, interviewed hardworking, but less famous athletes retouching on their experiences in sports.
4. Be seamless
With present day society statistically watching more branded content on mobile devices rather than on television, it is truly a big deal to develop a type of content that feels natural for these people. Especially those who may tend to avoid ads and are not actively spending money on such products. A great way of doing this can be by assessing whether your piece of advertising, such as a video, appears as well in quality over multiple platforms (from phone to desktop).
A company that was able to perform this includes the Mercedes-Benz brand, which was responsible for a campaign on their CLA model.
Their tactics included a televised commercial on the Super Bowl with famous celebrities (Kate Upton and Usher). Additionally, they also developed microsites for their model to heighten awareness across social media with the #clatakethewheel campaign that targeted audiences from early 20s to late 40s. Moreover, they used paid Facebook ads and appealed to millennials through their partnership with Casey Neistat. By having their brand so easily accessible across multiple platforms and channels, the Mercedes-Benz company was able to successfully launch their product and generate a great appeal in a more diverse selection of audiences, which allowed them to grow. Examples of Branded Content incorporating these elements:
This campaign, while simply promoting a product of soap, focused on a greater, more emotional message dealing with self-esteem and self-image. The advertisements discussed personal topics that may have moved audiences like mental struggles in accepting one’s own beauty. While this product may not directly make you feel beautiful, its success was based on their revolving around an issue that can be related to their products, as they are for feminine hygiene.
Another great example of branded content that can connect customers with a brand is the Coca-Cola company’s Share A Coke campaign.
The company printed some of the most common names in the world on Coke bottles (Aaron, Zach, Jack, John, etc.) This allows for most of the company’s audiences to feel a greater personal relationship with the brand by buying these bottles to find their names on them, or of people they know personally.
Thus, with this success in getting their viewers to feel such an emotional relation with their product, it became shareable.
In this musical production (I Won’t Let You Down) by alternative rock band OK GO in 2014, they implemented an innovative way of incorporating a sponsored product into the video.
Despite there being no direct mention of Honda’s brand, in the video, it was indirectly portrayed to the audience as the band members danced around on Honda’s UNI-CUB self-balancing unicycles. Similarly, the video also linked to an interactive website that allowed people to see the behind-the-scenes footage, and additional information about the brand itself, allowing for viewers to connect more with the brand, especially those who are fans of the rock band.
Overall, branded content marketing strategy is a key to unlocking a new level of loyalty with your customers and deepening the identity and message behind your brand. It is truly a cornerstone of brand development and building your pathway to success in the marketing industry.