Everyone is talking about brand content… but what is it, exactly? And how can you make the most of it as part of your communication strategy?
Content marketing is a huge opportunity for brands. Just see for yourself:
- A study by the World Media Group has identified ‘brand engagement’ as the key strength of a content-driven campaign at 34%.
- 28% of consumers have clicked on native content in the past six months (Nudge).
- Consumers are 25% more likely to look at a native ad than they are a banner ad, and even look at them 53% more frequently (What's New in Publishing).
Branded content is a great opportunity to increase brand awareness while simultaneously building a strong brand perception.
In this comprehensive guide to brand content, you’ll learn how to build a solid strategy that will engage your audience and increase brand recognition.
Read on to find out more 👇
What is brand content? 🤔
Before even thinking of creating a strategy, make sure you have a deep understanding of what brand content actually is.
In a nutshell, brand content is content that is created by a brand and that aims to improve its image, generate engagement among its target audience and increase brand awareness.
Did you know that French tire manufacturer Michelin is considered to be the inventor of brand content? In 1900, the company decided to launch its famous Michelin Guide as a way to encourage people to discover the joy of travelling by car. This ended up generating vehicle sales and, by extension, demand for tires as well. Pretty clever if you ask us, especially considering that this guide still exists today 😉
Aside from being a way to generate sales, brand content offers many advantages in terms of marketing a company and its products, such as:
- Shaping a company’s brand image and brand voice, both digitally and offline.
- Generating customer engagement: A 2018 study by Sprout has revealed that 66% of consumers say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.
- Helping consumers relate to the brand by showcasing its core values and the issues it cares about.
- Fostering customer loyalty and turning clients into brand ambassadors—this is a key argument as social media users have been gaining power over brands.
All in all, a successful brand content strategy must aim to build a strong brand image through quality content and powerful messaging.
The difference between brand content and content marketing ⚖️
As a marketer, you probably keep hearing about brand content, content marketing, inbound marketing, SEO content… And you might be getting confused. But don’t worry, we can’t blame you–after all, all these concepts revolving around content do overlap in some ways.
However, understanding the difference between brand content and content marketing, is essential if you are planning on developing brand content. Thankfully, the difference is pretty easy to understand:
- The main focus of brand content is developing a company’s image. Its messaging focuses on the brand itself and this includes its values, the way it takes a stance on social and political issues and its commitment towards its audience.
- A content marketing strategy, on the other hand, focuses on generating conversions. It emphasizes a brand’s expertise and the quality of its products or services—the end goal being convincing its target audience to make a purchase.
An easy way to understand this distinction is remembering that brand content is brand-centric while content marketing is customer-centric.
This also means you don’t necessarily need to choose between both marketing techniques as they aim to achieve different things. In fact, an ideal online communication strategy should make the most of these two ways to promote your brand.
But what about advertising?
Marketing and communication professionals often wonder whether traditional advertising is part of brand content. Here, the answer isn’t as straightforward.
Some video ads might seem related to brand content because their messaging focuses on a brand’s values or its commitment to a specific issue.
A good example here would be Uber and its very brand-content oriented communication campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The brand released static ads in video placements with provocative messages such as "This video isn't moving. Neither should you." This was a way to display Uber’s responsibility and commitment to society in times of crisis, its service being only present in the background.
The most successful types of brand content 🖥
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what brand content actually is and what sets it apart from other marketing techniques, you might be wondering what kind of content your editorial strategy should include.
The good news is that brand content is an incredibly diverse marketing field. Everything goes, as long as it helps you promote your brand and what it stands for.
Note that editorial content is absolutely relevant and could be the perfect addition to your strategy.
Here are some examples:
- Blog articles—whether they are hosted on your own website or other digital media platforms—could help you spread information on some of the recent steps your brand has taken, such as a donation to a non-profit or a new position on a social issue.
- White papers or e-books are usually connected to your own industry and its latest developments. Their main benefit is to demonstrate your expertise in a more subtle way.
- Infographics are a very popular format that let you share key data or trends related to your sector in a visual way—without directly promoting your own product or service.
- Podcasts are one of the hottest trends in terms of brand content. They are ideal to become an influencer within your field and to reach your target audience more easily.
You could also choose to involve your target audience more directly with efficient and interactive brand content formats:
- IRL gatherings like conferences or TEDx events, or virtual events (webinars, online conferences…) will let you spread a specific message in a memorable way.
- Giveaways (which can be hosted on social media) could also be a relevant brand content action—as long as they don’t directly involve your own offers or products.
To us however, the key brand content format has to be video! Because it makes storytelling easy, is memorable by nature and can easily be shared on social media and other platforms, we think every ambitious brand content strategy should include—or even rely on—video content.
It has been shown that individuals retain 95% of a message when they watch it on video, compared to just 10% when reading it in a text. After all, brand content is all about making your brand more memorable, right?
A lot of options are available when it comes to video brand content. Here are some examples:
- Short films are a way to introduce your key values and the social issues your brand stands for. Remember Hair Love, Dove’s Oscar-nominated animated short film? Talk about memorable!
- Videos featuring (and addressing) your target audience, such as Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, do a great job when it comes to sharing a message in an authentic and impactful way.
- Social media ads are short and eye-catching, which is great to spread a message linked to your own brand within just a few seconds.
- Videos geared towards social media, such as the ones made by trailblazing French company Brut. —which entered the US market in early 2020— are an effective option to deliver strong ideas without focusing on your product or service while doing so.
Now that your mind is racing with ideas, it’s time to create your content!
6 ways to create engaging brand content 🏅
While creating brand content is easy, following the right codes is trickier! You’re in luck though, as we’ve compiled a list of 6 best practices to follow.
These will help you make sure your audience really remembers your brand after being exposed to its brand content.
Focus on your brand—not on your product
This might seem like commonsense, but some marketers or comms professionals often find it hard to dissociate their brand from the product or service it offers.
The key to efficient brand content is to not mention any product or service. Need inspiration for all the other topics you can cover?
You could focus on…
Your company’s values. If your company is actively involved in specific social issues such as gender equality or the fight against climate change, you could reaffirm your position by producing content that communicates your stance or tries to rally people around this issue. Brand activism is a hot topic after all.
Your company’s history. The way your brand was created or its expansion could absolutely be a relevant storyline. Just make sure to be as impactful and engaging as possible when telling your own story.
Your company culture. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how much customers care about the way companies treat their employees: a study by Morning Consult has shown that a whopping 49% of consumers consider whether or not companies take care of their employees as one of their top 5 purchasing considerations. Your brand content could highlight how your company keeps its employees happy and showcase actions you’ve taken towards a better work-life balance or mental health at work.
Your brand’s mission statement. Etsy aims to "keep commerce human", Nike wants "to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world" and TED "spreads ideas." Why not dedicate your brand content to the ways your company wants to change or shape the world?
Not focusing on what your company sells might seem awkward at first , but a couple of brainstorming sessions will surely reveal the story your brand should tell.
Speaking of stories...
Storytelling is your friend!
If storytelling isn’t part of your communication strategy yet… it’s about time to get on board! Actually, storytelling is one of the most essential tools when it comes to crafting successful brand content.
Remember that your target audiences will be (re)discovering your brand through the stories you tell them.
Optimize the quality of your storytelling by:
Personifying your brand through characters that your audience can relate to. This requires a deep understanding of your target audience and being able to represent them with characters that won’t seem too cliché.
Triggering emotional responses. Whether it’s joy, melancholy or serenity, you should aim straight for the heart when addressing your audience as this will make your content much more memorable. Some experts actually think that “emotional branding” is the future, so keep that in mind.
Keeping your content entertaining. Whether you’re producing a short article that details your latest CSR initiative or making a corporate video, remember your content should never bore your audience. Tell your story in an exciting but structured way—include plot twists or a surprising ending.
Speaking the same language as your target audience. Your brand’s tone of voice is an essential aspect when it comes to creating powerful brand content. Avoid technical terms and always use short and direct sentences.
Developing strong storytelling skills takes time, but it is the key to turning your content into… a story!
With brand content, always think long-term
Crafting and releasing brand content should never be a one-off exercise and your strategy should take this into account. Always stay on your audience’s mind and remember building your brand’s image is a process.
We recommend working on an editorial calendar for your brand content, mixing evergreen content with more seasonal topics throughout the year—all while making sure the themes you address are relevant to the story you want to tell.
If you’re looking for an example of powerful seasonal brand content, just take a look at German supermarket corporation Edeka’s Christmas campaign from a few years ago. We’re not crying, you’re crying!
Take inspiration from the world of classic advertising and structure your content in terms of campaigns.
Why, you ask? Well, here are some of the benefits this method offers:
- Campaigns allow for 360 degree communication. The impact of your brand content will be stronger if it is supported by a social media hashtag, related branding for print content, a dedicated landing page on your website etc.
- Campaigns make it easier to evaluate the performance of your brand content. Allocating a specific timeframe to each campaign will allow you to track its results in a more precise way.
The power of multichannel content distribution
For brand content to be efficient, it needs to be distributed on the platforms where your target audience is present. However, nowadays, internet users tend to hop between platforms when consuming content. This means you need to share content in multiple places.
Keep that in mind when creating your content—the places where it will be posted dictate the way it should look and what type of content it will be. As you probably know, each social network has got its own requirements in terms of specs and sizes.
You will make your life much easier by having multichannel distribution in mind from the very beginning of your creation process. From your youtube channel to your social platforms, make sure your audiences don’t miss out.
Follow a modular content strategy
Ever heard of modular content? This method is an efficient way of generating many pieces of content at once, which can be tailored for individual use cases, audiences, and channels.
Need an example? Let’s say you’ve written a great blog post about 5 measures your company is taking to improve its sustainability. Following the modular content method means you will immediately be able to turn this article into a striking infographic and a ‘snackable’ top 5 video.
Modular content creation should be on your mind as soon as you start working on an editorial calendar as this will help you spread your key messages simultaneously on every platform and without overspending on content creation.
By the way, did you know that video creation platform PlayPlay lets you turn your brand content video into square, horizontal and vertical files with just one click? Start your free trial now to see how!
Evaluating the performance of brand content 📊
As you know by now, brand content has a direct influence on your brand image. This means measuring its impact can be trickier than with content marketing, as the latter aims to convert rather than entertain.
But of course, there are ways to estimate the ROI of brand content: just focus on KPIs that measure engagement and brand affinity.
Here are some metrics you should be looking at:
- Purchase intention among members of your target audience that have been exposed to your campaign. You could measure that by running a simple survey among your current prospects and customers. Just ask them whether they’ve seen your content and whether they are considering a purchase in the near future.
- Brand preference—here too, a survey would be the way to go to gather data.
- Social media engagement—just check how well social media posts featuring brand content have been performing in terms of likes, comments or shares.
- Backlinks—a successful brand content campaign should make people talk about it online, which is also beneficial for your SEO.
Keeping an eye on the numbers will help you identify your own best practices. After all, a successful brand content strategy implies constant improvements to find ways to increase your audience’s engagement and loyalty.
And to create content efficiently and manage your brand content strategy, why not start an internal content factory?