Branded content is a form of marketing that attempts to build a bond with the target audience in a rather subtle way. As the name suggests, content plays a major role in branded content. For example, a company could upload a film or video to the Internet as branded content, which is primarily about entertaining or informative content – but in which the brand also appears again and again. This ensures that the target group associates the company’s brand or product with positive experiences, which in turn leads to greater brand trust and stronger user loyalty.
When it comes to marketing, branded content is a tried-and-true option that has been used successfully for many decades – even though the name “branded content” came later. As early as the 1930s, companies used the radio to promote brands and products in specially produced broadcasts. However, the brands and products were not advertised directly, but embedded in informative or entertaining content and mentioned again and again. In this way, at least some of the viewers or listeners come to associate the brand or product with something useful or pleasant.
A very early example of branded content is the “Camel News Caravan,” a news program broadcast by the U.S. television station NBC beginning in 1949. With the support of the cigarette manufacturer Camel, NBC relied on specially produced film and news reports instead of using content from the “newsreels” (the U.S. newsreels), as was still customary at the time. The program therefore had a very modern design for its time, which impressed many viewers, and was firmly linked to the Reynolds cigarette manufacturer’s brand through its name.
Nowadays, branded content is used a lot in online advertising, especially on social media platforms like Facebook. It is important to distinguish branded content from native advertising and content marketing. While the three forms of marketing are similar in many ways, there are some differences. For example, although branded content and native advertising work according to the same principles, native advertising is broader in scope and could also be used, for example, for an online forum in which content plays only a subordinate role. In content marketing, companies also have more options for communicating with their target audience. For example, a high-quality video tutorial on how to install parquet flooring, but without mentioning any specific brands or products, would be a classic example of content marketing. However, due to the lack of reference to the brand, the film would not be counted as branded content.
Another characteristic of branded content is that it is usually only very subtly advertised – so when the user looks at a blog post, a film or a video, he is not usually prompted to buy a specific product. Instead, the high-quality content should inform or entertain them so that they associate something positive with the brand that is part of the content. This in turn increases brand loyalty and, ideally, creates a long-term bond between the user and the brand or company.
The effectiveness of branded content
So far, we’ve only talked about how branded content works – but for marketing and business strategists, the most interesting question is of course whether this form of advertising actually works better than other advertising. The short and simple answer to this question is: Yes, it does. This can be guessed from the fact that branded content has been around for decades – after all, what marketing or business manager would rely on advertising that hasn’t proven itself?
In addition to this – albeit convincing – insight, there are also studies that prove the effectiveness of branded content. A study from 2003, for example, showed that a good third of potential customers do not consider companies that rely on classic advertising to be very trustworthy. By contrast, in the case of companies that use branded content, only about ten percent of people are skeptical about the company or brand. In addition, the study concluded that sites on the Internet with branded content are more successful 95% of the time than sites without it, and that the sites with branded content are more likely to persuade potential customers to make a purchase.
While there is criticism of the exact figures in this study, as it was commissioned by a branded content association, the generally positive effect of this content is beyond question.
Branded content on Facebook & Co.
Social media channels such as Facebook are of particular interest for branded content, because here the users themselves spread the content and can thus ensure a considerable reach. The prerequisite for this is, of course, that the content is of high quality, otherwise it will not be shared by users. The form of advertising, on the other hand, is very free and should always be aligned with the objective of the advertising measure and the image of the brand or company. For example, it would hardly be advisable for a manufacturer of luxury watches to draw attention to itself with a funny little video. Likewise, a twenty-minute film about the importance of high-quality tools would be out of place on the Facebook page of a “low-cost” manufacturer.
When it comes to branded content, however, the key advantage with Facebook and other social media sites is that most users don’t question the origin of content. As long as the video or post is exciting, entertaining or funny, the content is readily consumed and shared. The fact that a film is intended to promote a company is of secondary importance.
Facebook and the like can also be used to support special events that are organized as part of branded content. For example, if a company is organizing a music festival that will be shown live on the Internet, appropriately prepared content on Facebook can generate “hype” and thus attract additional viewers.
In addition, branded content can be used very effectively on blogs – even if these are not actually among the classic social media platforms. On a company blog, the content can be better embedded in an overall concept, and the company also has full control over the content on its blog – and if it’s good, the jump from the blog to Facebook is also successful, which significantly increases the reach.
What does successful branded content look like?
There are many examples of the worthwhile use of branded content, but the company Red Bull should be presented here as an example. The beverage manufacturer has established itself as a sponsor of trendy and extreme sports and organizes various events in this area, such as the “Red Bull Air Races”. These events regularly attract numerous spectators, who usually not only get to see an impressive show, but also the company’s brand name everywhere. In addition, Red Bull often publishes clips of these events on the Internet, which then attract further viewers.
In this way, Red Bull is able to build up an image among its target group – young people who are active in sports – and bind viewers to its own brand.
Branded content can be used very successfully as part of a content marketing strategy to strengthen the image of the brand or company and improve customer loyalty. However, this of course requires that high-quality content is produced that is tailored to the desired target group – but this is basically the case with any form of content marketing.
The special thing about branded content is that it is usually not geared towards short-term sales success, but rather towards long-term and lasting customer loyalty.
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