Brand content vs. Branded Content: a confusion is often made between these two types of content marketing. They both serve a purpose and have their own benefits for your overall marketing strategy, but how do they differ? Which one to use in your content marketing campaigns?

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Capturing audience attention is the juggernaut for brands today. In an increasingly noisy digital landscape, it is difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Successful brands know that audience engagement comes by telling stories and connecting with customers through their values and purpose.

Over the years, marketers have learned that today’s customers expect brands to fit within their own personal aspirations, dreams, and purpose.

This paradigm shift has given rise to marketing centered on storytelling so as to connect and reach broader audiences. A key part of this marketing shift is the heightened importance of finding the right balance between branded and brand content campaigns.

 

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Brand Content vs. Branded Content

 

While branded and brand content serve specific purposes, both are instrumental to your overall marketing strategy.  That said, their differences can greatly impact your campaign’s effectiveness in reaching and engaging audiences.

So, what are the differences between the two approaches?

Brand content, in a nutshell, is content that is created and distributed by the brand. 

On the other hand, branded content is created by a third party, such as a publisher or another brand, and exclusively distributed on their channels. 

While both can be centered on telling the brand story and values, their audience reach is often vastly different.

Whereas brand content is distributed through the company's website, YouTube channel, and socials, branded content relies entirely on a third party. 

An example of this difference is the branded content campaign Netflix ran to promote its hit series “Orange Is the New Black.” For the campaign, the streaming powerhouse worked with The New York Times’ Brand Studio to create an editorial section under the title “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn't Work.”

Netflix-branded-content

Netflix branded content campaign "Women Inmates" (source: The New York Times).

 

The primary reference to Netflix and the series is their logo on the periphery of the page. The media house created the editorial content, and the distribution is solely on its digital platform. This provides Netflix with both credibility and a broader audience reach.

Whereas a brand content campaign creates audience engagement by channeling the brand’s values through storytelling directly on its owned channels. 

Perhaps the most skillful brand is Nike and its legendary tagline “Just do it.” To mark the sportswear giant’s 50th anniversary, the company enlisted Spike Lee to direct and star in the brand campaign “Seen It All”  as a homage to its story. The brand content campaign is promoted on the company’s website, socials, and YouTube channel.

Nike-Seen-It-All-Film

Nike 50th Anniversary brand content campaign "Seen It All" (source: Nike).

 

The imagery and style of the Seen It All campaign immediately identify it to the Nike brand, values, and story while entertaining the audience. 

Balancing brand content vs. branded content

While brand content and branded content play an integral role in your overall marketing mix, finding the right balance is paramount. The starting point is understanding your campaign's objectives and the audiences you want to reach.

As mentioned, branded content campaigns provide a more effective and subtle way to tell the brand's story and values to a broader audience. This approach opens the door to leveraging the third party's reputation to build your brand's authority and awareness. This is especially true for brands wanting to build authority in a new market segment. 

Marketers can leverage their brand content to create innovative branded content campaigns. An example is the Johnson & Johnson ‘Care With Pride' brand campaign to support the LGBTQIA+ community by creating Neutrogena and Listerine limited-edition pride-themed products.  

Johnson&Johnson-brand-content

Johnson & Johnson #CareWithPride brand campaign (source: Imagency).

 

To amplify the campaign’s awareness and sales, J&J worked with 42 influencers. By selecting the influencers, J&J not only built credibility and awareness but was able to reach a larger audience while monitoring brand integrity. This innovative approach meant that the company’s brand content could be easily leveraged in a well-thought-out and effective branded content campaign

Ensure branded content integrity

The greatest challenge of incorporating a third-party branded content campaign into your overall marketing strategy is ensuring your brand and its values are clearly communicated and respected.

Visual content produced by a third-party isn’t always of high quality. They may not follow your brand’s graphic charter or use it correctly. Logos and images added in their communications can sometimes be obsolete. All of this may negatively impact your brand image.

Remember, digital assets are integral to your brand's image and reflect its values and story. 

Therefore, it’s vital to communicate to the third party the expectations of how the brand content—images and video—are to be used and specific quality requirements. 

The easiest way to ensure the quality of images and videos used in branded content campaigns is to set up press rooms or newsrooms dedicated to media and third-party publishers. They allow you to provide all the information and brand content visuals needed by journalists. You can choose to give free access or require authentication to access your press room.

By facilitating access to your brand content, you will encourage the media and influencers to talk about your brand, but you also remain in control of the quality of the visual content they use. 

Safeguarding your brand image

As with all marketing campaigns—whether brand or branded—it is vital to monitor and track your brand's digital presence continually. The seemingly fast proliferation of digital sharing of your brand’s content on social media means that marketers must be vigilant about how their images and videos are used online

Knowing how and where brand content is communicated across digital channels ensures that the brand image and reputation are safeguarded and avoid brand degradation. 

A straightforward approach to protecting your brand is to provide easy access to digital assets on your website, for example, via a dedicated newsroom or an open-access digital asset management system. This ensures that influencers and media use only the images and videos provided by the brand and allows for better monitoring of usage. 

Today, protecting your brand's valuable digital assets from misuse is a growing requirement. 

This is why progressive brands leverage invisible watermarking solutions such as IMATAG Monitor to understand how and where digital assets (videos and images) appear online. 

Fully automated, IMATAG Monitor clients receive notifications when digital content is detected on websites and social media channels. 

Marketing professionals can easily measure and monitor the reach of their campaigns by knowing where digital assets appear. Plus, gain valuable insights into digital asset preferences and usage patterns. 

Your guide

Ready to see how IMATAG solutions can work for your brand?

Download our ebook, Your Guide to Monitoring Brand Content Using Invisible Watermarking.

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Christine Deschaseaux

Christine Deschaseaux

Expert in digital strategies and innovation and CMO at Imatag. Christine’s 20+ year career is guided by her taste for technologic innovation and her customer-oriented mindset. Her skills mix engineering, digital economy and marketing of innovation.

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