Whenever branded content comes up, the first example that comes to mind is usually Red Bulletin, the magazine that energy drink company Red Bull created to help market its drink. Creating the magazine helped change Red Bull’s business model from a drink company that happened to publish a magazine into a full-blown media company that happens to sell beverages.

It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates why branded content is so important for companies; it engages your audience, helps you build a community around your brand, and in some cases, it can even be a source of revenue. 

Branded content is taking off. According to a USC Annenberg survey, 74.5 percent of communications professionals rely on branded content for their campaigns, and 67 percent projected that spending for branded content will increase in the next 12 months. Branded content is critical for campaigns, but without a branded content strategy, you’re just publishing content and slapping a logo on it.

Why Branded Content Strategy Matters

People look for content to either solve a problem or be entertained. For a lot of customers, especially B2B customers, the content that they find can either propel them to buy from you – or damage your credibility. If you’re not keeping your content centered around your audience’s needs, then you’re missing opportunities to connect and engage with them in a meaningful way. Content isn’t always just about getting people to your website – it’s about finding ways to provide value and keep them there.

American Express OPEN Forum is one of the best examples of branded content that speaks directly to small business customers and their needs. The company created an entire website dedicated to educating small business owners on topics like planning for business growth, managing money, and getting customers. 

They also created a forum to help their small business customers connect with peers, allowing business owners to share insights and information. As their audience expressed interest in learning more about social media, American Express OPEN created content around that topic. They developed a customer-centric branded content strategy and were willing to refine it as needed.

Aside from knowing your audience and speaking to them, a branded content strategy also takes into consideration the different types of content being created and how the messaging comes across in the content. Different types of media work for different goals and audiences; for example, a consumer-focused brand may want to leverage video as part of its branded content strategy and create videos that aim to get an emotional reaction for its audience. Conversely, a business-focused brand could create an online publication that offers tips and insights into industry trends. 

When you set a strategy for content, you’re able to strengthen your brand narrative and image more than if you just start pumping out content. These days, customers want to know more about you as a brand, especially with all the information that’s available. They want to know they’re doing business with a brand that aligns with their values and aspirations, and your branded content can go a long way to reassuring them that you are that brand.

This content, when done properly, builds your authority on a subject, entertains your audience, and increases your credibility. It raises brand awareness and puts you in front of your target audience in a way that advertising can’t, and it gives your audience something to share on their social media channels.

The best branded content strategies include a way to build connections with the community, like American Express OPEN Forum. The experience is entertaining and valuable, like the Always #LikeAGirl video. And the content leverages every spoke of the marketing flywheel to keep it propelled with happy customer momentum. It provides a way to market to the customer, offer service and support, and sell to them, without being overly sales-y.

But without a strategy, brands can be harmed more than helped. Consider the case of The Atlantic, which sold a sponsored content slot to the Church of Scientology. Selling sponsored content isn’t anything new; The Atlantic sells spots to different organizations. However, when the content appears to be, as one news outlet put it, “blatant propaganda,” it can hit the company’s reputation hard. The Atlantic was mercilessly mocked for selling that particular spot, undoing years of hard-hitting journalism for the price of the space online.

Ultimately, having a branded content strategy will ensure that your content is seen by the right people and improve the perception of your brand. You’ll reach new people and provide value to prospective and existing customers.

If you’re wondering how to create a strategy for your branded content, we can help. Contact us today to get started.

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