You’ve probably heard and read a lot about branded content marketing, but you might not clearly understand what it is. You’re not alone; these concepts can be a little confusing sometimes, even for seasoned content marketers. But understanding the difference and creating your own branded content marketing can help you and your brand establish a stronger connection with your customers.
Branded content marketing is different from other forms of content marketing and is sometimes called brand storytelling. That’s because the focus is on narratives and people, rather than on a company’s services and products. Branded content marketing can take the form of videos, podcasts, and blogs and appear through other storytelling channels as well.
Branded Content Marketing Vs. Content Marketing
In general, content marketing is content that companies know their customers will be interested in, like when an outdoor gear company posts an article on its blog about the best places to go skiing. When a company creates content that has a connection to the brand but also has lots of value for consumers, that’s content marketing.
On the other hand, branded content marketing uses storytelling to create an emotional response within consumers about an aspect of the brand, like its employees, charitable efforts, values or its customers themselves. Who is using branded content marketing? Companies of all sizes use branded content marketing to stand apart from the competition and build stronger relationships with customers.
Benefits of Branded Content Marketing
Branded content marketing at its best creates an emotional connection that helps to build trust with the consumer. For example, when a company tells the stories of people it has helped, then consumers tend to connect with and respond to the values and experiences the content spotlights. Consumers typically remember branded content more than more traditional types of advertising because of the emotional connection it creates with them.
Some of the top branded content marketing examples comes from a variety of industries and institutions, ranging from Dove to Starbucks. Here are five excellent examples of branded content marketing:
Samsung and Vimeo
Samsung and Vimeo’s Connected Series isn’t about either of the two brands, but instead sparks conversation about people’s relationship to technology. Working with 11 Vimeo filmmakers, the project produced 10 video stories that explored that topic. The films use ideas rather than products to immerse viewers in different takes on the human connection to technology. One of the films, “Hearing Colors” focuses on the story of Neil Harbisson, a man who was born completely colorblind but can now actually hear colors through a high-tech device implanted into him.
Coffee giant Starbucks created a branded video about its Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), which provides eligible baristas with free college tuition to help them work towards a degree through Arizona State University’s online program. The video showcased Starbucks’ values, creating an emotional response in viewers who could empathize with the high costs of college tuition and student loan debt.
Starbucks also uses branded content marketing with the To Be Human stories created for the Starbucks blog. The stories take readers up close and personal into the lives, challenges, interests and dreams of different Starbucks employees. As the blog explains, the goal of the stories is to inspire the human spirit, and Starbucks believes in having a positive social impact on the areas it serves.
The eyewear company Warby Parker’s blog features lifestyle content that reflects its values, including branded content about some of the initiatives the company supports, like the Pupils Project. The Pupils Project helps impoverished children get free eye exams and prescription eyeglasses that they get to select themselves. It also snags consumer attention through its collaboration with celebrities like Chloe Sevigny and Lena Dunham.
The Warby Parker blog also features book reviews — content marketing that has an association with eyewear but isn’t that overt. Likewise, the blog’s To Meet section has profiles of popular writers, artists and celebrities who are of interest to their customers.
Airbnb’s values include the concept of travel as a way of expanding connections between different people and cultures. The company’s Airbnb Magazine explores destinations, people and cultures around the world with compelling storytelling, design and photography that give readers a more personal, authentic local view than other travel magazines might. But it also includes content marketing that is not branded, about topics besides travel that interest its customers, like filmmaking, language, and interior design.
Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches on YouTube quickly went viral when they debuted a few years ago with the goal of boosting self-esteem among women and girls. The sketches encourage women and girls to feel good about themselves and their bodies, regardless of how they look, and to think of beauty as a state of mind. The sketches echo Dove’s values of always using real people of different sizes, ages and ethnicities in their ads without digitally altering how they look.
People and Stories, Not Products and Services
The important thing to remember when creating branded content marketing is the human connection. The emphasis should be on stories that resonate with customers, not on products and services. The goal is to prompt a positive emotional response that helps engender trust in the company and brand.