Marketing has evolved because of how the preferences of today’s generation have changed so much. Traditional ways are no longer working as the millennials do not like intrusive selling techniques. They’re more inclined towards having good experiences with brands and establishing a rapport with them. It’s more about meaningful connections rather than just buying a product or service and forgetting about them.
Branded content helps brands do just that. At a time when the audience is rejecting ads using ad blockers and other technologies, branded content has stepped in to make an impact on people that they cannot ignore. So, let’s explore this area in detail and find out the difference between native advertising and branded content.
What is branded content?
We’ve come across the phrase “content is king” so many times. But times have changed and all types of content is not “king” anymore. Research suggests that 61% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that creates custom content. This is where the concept of branded content steps in.
‘Branded content’ is a relatively new term in marketing circles and is often confused with ‘native advertising’. However, we’ll first explore more about branded content and how companies are tapping into its power.
Branded content is far far away from traditional advertising and is the apt response to a saturated market. A branded content can consist of anything from an article, a video, podcast, graphics, or anything that adds value to the customer’s experience and helps establish a connection with the brand.
Branded content often evokes the audience’s emotion attracting them towards the brand instead of the brand going to them to make a sales pitch. In fact, branded content is packaged in such a way that it does not even talk about “making a sale” in any way. Usually, branded content aims to educate or entertain or engage with the customer on a completely different level.
Here are a few qualities of branded content that distinguishes it from other advertising techniques.
It aims at generating conversation around the brand – One of the key drivers of creating branded content is its ability to create a buzz around the brand rather than making a sale. The number of mentions, views, shares are some of the key metrics that measure the success of such a campaign.
The focus is on value, not on the product – The audience finds some kind of value in the content in the form of entertainment or information. This is the kind of content that the audience is catapulted towards and genuinely wants to consume.
It taps the audience emotions – Instead of giving rational arguments about why you should be signing up for the brand, branded content captivates the audience by tapping into their emotions.
Integrates storytelling – Often tells a story that revolves around the brand in a subtle way.
It’s data-driven – Companies no longer just rely on guesswork to come up with a campaign. Data helps them to not just come up with a story that will strike a chord, but also measure the response they get from their branded content campaign.
Involves collaborations and sponsorships – Brands often collaborate with other brands or influencers to increase their reach.
How branded content has evolved?
Though it looks like a fresh, new concept the roots of branded content go way back. CEO of Copyblogger, Brian Clark, said that branded content is similar to some of the content that was created in 1940’s or earlier. Shows that time used to have sponsors and brands often conceptualized content of their own. Going forward on the timeline to the 1970s, FMCG company Procter and Gamble created soap operas and even produced shows of its own.
Fast forward to today, branded content has evolved especially with the advent of the internet, smartphones and video content. Be it videos, web series, articles, infographics, it benefits both the marketer and publisher if done right.
Let’s understand this better with an example. When we talk about successful branded content campaigns, beauty brand Dove comes into the picture. After discovering that only 4% women surveyed described themselves as “beautiful”, the brand decided to do something about it. They came up with the campaign “beauty is for everyone” and got their message across with a video.
The video featured an artist who drew the women’s portraits on the basis of the description given by the women themselves. Next, they did the same thing but on the basis of a stranger’s description. The difference between the two was stark.
This branded video content was so successful that it garnered 50 million views within the first 12 days of release. It became the most watched branded content in that year and the third most shared video. Take note of how the campaign talked nothing about the brand directly but tapped the emotional chords of women around the world.
Why is branded content so effective?
One reason is that traditional methods of pushing a product to the consumer are becoming obsolete. Newer ways of pushing content have come up as you’ll see sponsored posts on your social media feed, marketing emails in your mailbox, billboards, display ads and so much more. But you won’t go looking for them proactively.
But you’ll probably be intrigued by Dove’s Real Beauty campaign and go searching for it on YouTube. That’s the power of branded content. Brand recall for branded content has been observed to be 59% higher than that of display ads. Campaigns get recognition from the audience and help brands to establish a long-term, trustworthy relationship with their customers.
When branded content tells a story, it compels you to come back to it for more. As far as making a sale is concerned, there’s 9% higher chance of a purchase decision than display ads. Since the content does not revolve around the product, the audience is more likely to trust the brand.
Branded content is not just about acquiring new customers, it’s also about strengthening the existing relationships with your audience.
When a brand shows that it cares, it sends across a meaningful message. This is true in the case of Dove, as instead of showcasing why women should use their product, the brand capitalized on building their self-confidence.
How is branded content different from native advertising?
The two terms often get interchanged. But it’s important for marketers to understand the difference to get the message of the brand across in the right way at the right place. Native advertising stepped in when marketers realized that the audience has evolved and can sense an ad from miles away!
Native advertising are forms of paid media that blend into the look, feel and format of the platform on which the ad runs. Native ads don’t look like ads. They are subtly slipped into the user experience camouflaging the website’s content. The crux here is to be non-disruptive. The advertising content does not hurt.
Native ads are taking up the digital space fast. They take up two-thirds of the total digital display ad spend. Here is an example of in-feed native advertising where you come across sponsored posts while scrolling through your social media news feed or a publisher’s website.
Notice how it’s mentioned with the post that it is ‘Promoted’. It’s a paid placement that merges with the rest of the posts on your feed as you go through them.
At a time when the younger generation loathes direct advertisements from companies, native ads are driving 20% to 60% higher interaction from traditional banner ads. Yet the ultimate aim of native ads is lead generation and driving sales. It takes the help of different platforms other than the brand’s for a paid placement while branded content, on the other hand, is published on the brand’s properties itself.
Here’s the core difference between the two. While native advertising often comes across as “salesy”, branded content is focussed on storytelling. It arms the customer with a potential insight regarding the industry, or aims to entertain or touch upon their emotions. The ultimate aim is to build the brand’s credibility in the eyes of the consumers.
Another point to note is that branded content has a much higher probability of going viral compared to native ads, as they share unique ideas and relevant information that the audience is genuinely interested in.
If you’re wondering which one is better, then there’s no right answer. The key is to understand both so that marketers can effectively sift through the mountain of digital content to become visible in their audience’s eyes. The important thing to understand is what is your ultimate goal and how much can you spend on your campaign. Creative storytelling, banking on audience insights and using the right distribution media are the deciding factors for you in future.
Niharika Datta is a Content Writer at Vidooly. She started her career as a Human Resource professional but is now pursuing her love for writing. Though she writes about a myriad of ideas, her personal favourite is writing about the latest trends in the content and digital marketing world. An ambivert by nature, she likes to grab a snack with a warm cup of coffee in the company of a good book or a close friend.