If you want things to get interesting, shout the words branded content marketing in a room of content marketers. Then see what happens.

It might be an understatement to say that branded content marketing is controversial. Back in 2015, Content Marketing Institute said branded content marketing gives content marketing a bad name. In 2014, Contagious called branded content marketing complicated. Then there’s the “Copyranter” over on Digiday. They just seem completely annoyed and confused by the term.

What Is Branded Content Marketing?

So, what exactly is branded content marketing? Some would call it, simply, the practice of producing native advertisements. Think of those pieces of sponsored content you often come across on websites. Those are some examples of branded content.

Unlike your typical advertisement, though, branded content typically has some additional goals. It’s not just pushing a product on you; it’s also hoping to educate or entertain you in some way. Usually, the intended audience for branded content is at a different stage of the buyer’s journey. The audience is very different from the audience for traditional content marketing.

Think of it this way: An audience that might come across a piece of branded content, such as a sponsored article on a newspaper’s website. That audience might be looking for help with a problem. But they might not know that the brand in question is the one that will solve their problems just yet.

Meanwhile, an audience that is going to go right to a brand’s website or blog for a solution, or an audience that is going to check out a brand’s social media profile for help, is more likely to be further along in their journey. They are already aware of the brand, for example, and have an inkling that it might be able to help them out.

Should Your Brand Use Branded Content Marketing?

Some treat branded content marketing with such distaste that you might question whether it’s actually a good idea for your own brand. Should you try to add paid media, such as sponsored blog posts or articles, to your content marketing strategy?

The truth is, having a branded content marketing strategy or a native advertising strategy as part of your overall content marketing strategy can help. For one thing, using branded content can help you connect with customers or an audience at an earlier stage in the buyer’s journey or funnel.

Those buyers might not be quite ready to commit to your brand. But, they’ll likely remember you and come back to check you out as they move further down the funnel.

There’s another reason to consider branded content marketing as part of your overall content marketing strategy. It helps you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. When you incorporate sponsored posts or content into your strategy, you’re opening up another distribution stream and promotion stream. Instead of relying on traffic to your website or social media profiles, you can take advantage of the traffic enjoyed by the sponsored publication.

Interactive Content Marketing Examples

Five Steps to Branded Content Marketing Success

1.) Choose the location wisely.

Where you publish branded content is almost as important as the type of content you create. One big mistake marketers often make is thinking that they can publish branded content anywhere. Remember that this is a type of advertising. You want to choose a location where your target audience is likely to find your content and engage with it.

2.) Have an audience in mind.

As with any other type of content marketing, it’s important to have an audience in mind when planning branded content marketing. You can create buyer personas for your audience, answering the questions – who are you trying to reach, what does that person want, what does that person need, what is that person into?

3.) Have a goal for the content.

Your branded content should have a goal. Are you trying to entertain people? Are you hoping to solve a problem or provide a solution? Do you want people to visit your website and sign up for your newsletter? Know what you want from your content.

4.) Create the content.

Once you have a publication place, an audience in mind, and a goal, you can create the content. Whether you make an article, interactive content, or a video depends on location and audience. Since branded content often tries to be more entertaining than typical ads, it might be worthwhile to make a video or interactive content. One example of interactive branded content is the Women Inmates feature in the “NY Times,” by Orange Is the New Black. Another example is the Boy Who Learned to Fly. The animated video by Gatorade is about the runner Usain Bolt.

5.) Measure the results.

How is your branded content marketing strategy working out for you? The last step is to measure the results. You can do that by tracking views, or by tracking traffic to your website from the branded content. If you don’t see much in the way of results, you can consider changing partnerships or content type, or adjusting your buyer/audience personas for the next time.

Branded content marketing might have a bad name in some content marketing circles. But, with the right planning, it can be a worthwhile part of any content marketing strategy.

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