Branded Content

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When you hear the phrase “branded content,” you may think of cheesy jingles or sponsorship billboards at your nearby little league field. But the twenty-first century world of branded content is a world apart, ripe with opportunities to create branded content in digital and physical spaces and across multiple platforms.


Branded content exists in a space that’s one part artistic endeavor, one part marketing. Natasha D. Smith at Digital Marketing News includes this thoughtful definition of the term in her piece on the difference between native advertising and branded content: “Branded content is the practicing of investing in compelling content, whether to inform or entertain, that as a result is able to create an immersive experience for the consumer.” Creating an immersive experience. That’s a tall order, but the investment is worthy. Strong and compelling branded content increases your ROI, improves brand recognition, and shapes consumers’ long-term perspective on your brand. So, what’s the secret formula?


Relevance and Creativity: A Path to Effective Branded Content


The best branded content meets these two markers: relevance and creativity. Relevance is a measure of how pertinent your content is going to be to your audience–is it timely? Is it interesting? Most of all, does it matter? For a helpful perspective on making your content more relevant, let’s turn to Angie Schottmuller’s “Triangle of Relevance” over at Convince and Convert:



  • Business Interest: Above all else, you should consider whether the branded content you’re considering producing is in line with “the products, services, company mission, goals, or people” at your organization. If it isn’t, keep brainstorming.

  • User Interest: Does it address your target audience’s interests? Is it also sensitive to contemporary values and beliefs?

  • Time Significance: Schottmuller lists plenty of ways to consider how timely your branded content is. Consider “seasons, weather, holidays, life events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), major sporting events, current events, trending news and more.”

And the Elusive Second Part, Creativity


And creativity… oh, creativity. Such an elusive quality. We love it. We want it. But how to pin it down? Well, someone has. That someone is Cinzia Morelli-Verhoog, who was at the helm when Heineken was awarded the 2015 Creative Marketer of the Year. She gives us the creativity ladder as a way to evaluate of the potential creative impact of our ideas:



This Fast Company profile of Morelli-Verhoog delves into the way Heineken benefitted from the use of the creativity ladder. In Morelli-Verhoog’s own words, “If you want great creativity you need to be able to talk about it and to give it a language, because more often than not, creativity is very subjective, it has a lot to do with gut feelings, and the experience and legacy of the different individuals. By introducing the creative ladder we created a language within Heineken. For example, ‘cliché creativity’ is level number four of our ladder, so anything that is ‘cliché’ is a creativity of a kind that we don’t consider makes any impact.” How  might this ladder help you gauge your ideas for branded content? First of all, I’d suggest convening regular meetings with a group of three or more to examine ideas and scale them along this ladder.


Stellar Branded Content: Some Examples


In conclusion, I’ve compiled some resources which represent excellence in branded content. Note that the examples are all both relevant and creative–you can use this as inspiration for high-quality branded content.


  • Creative Bloq compiled examples that move seamlessly across platforms and in both digital and physical spaces.

  • Our Social Times offers three exemplary and engaging video projects.

  • The Content Strategist provides a broad overview of effective branded content in various industries, from online dating to public transportation!

  • Advertising Age showcases some stellar branded content partnerships from 2016.

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