Branded Content: The Game-Changing Strategy in 21st Century Marketing

Branded content continues to mystify and intrigue both brands and marketers as they struggle to articulate its essence, primarily due to the constant evolution of the industry. In its simplest form, branded content can be defined as any media publication where a brand has had some form of creative involvement. This covers content explicitly curated for publication in collaboration with premium publishers like CNN, The New York Times, or Buzzfeed. Brands capitalize on the trust, proficiency, and extensive reach of these premium publishers, thus effectively reaching highly targeted audiences.

Evolving with an ever-changing industry Branded content has moved beyond being just another industry jargon. This advertising approach has experienced significant transformation since the initial days of advertorials, with an increased investment by both publishers and advertisers.

Be it a start-up set to revolutionize an industry or a Fortune 500 corporation such as Apple or Goldman Sachs striving to connect with younger generations, businesses of all sizes are exploring innovative engagement strategies with their audiences – the most effective being storytelling, not advertisements.

Not only is branded content a tool for relationship-building, but it has also emerged as a viable solution to long-term sustainability concerns by becoming a significant revenue stream for most publishers. Industry heavyweights have restructured their teams to make branded content a fundamental part of their digital advertising income.

Ditching the conventional banner ad Irrespective of the content you produce, it must aim to offer more than traditional advertising. The reason is simple: consumers have grown weary of banner ads (and might have never been truly interested).

Recent data indicates that about 27% of internet users employ ad-blockers. Between 2018 and 2023, ad-free streaming services such as Netflix have seen significant growth, from 139 million to over 200 million subscribers worldwide. It’s clear that people dislike ads, and they are willing to pay to avoid them, both online and during their favorite shows. Marketers, therefore, need to offer something that aligns with their brand values and resonates deeply with their audiences.

Consumers have shown preference for branded content as it prioritizes providing value over selling products. A 2023 survey by Content Marketing Institute revealed that 77% of consumers preferred learning about products through content, and responded favorably to brands offering insightful subject matter expertise.

Branded content is the contemporary way to build relationships. It consciously serves the reader without causing any interruptions. It seeks to convey the brand’s values, its narrative preferences, and the ideas it chooses to endorse. In essence, it is 21st-century marketing.

Why the growing affinity for branded content? Why the surge in branded content investment? It’s not merely about prestige, though seeing your byline in Forbes or The Wall Street Journal is indeed exhilarating. Branded content has proven to be the most effective way to capture the attention of and build trust with new audiences. And, as every marketer understands, time (or attention) equals money.

Branded content often commands a premium, with prices ranging from $1,500 to upwards of $70,000 depending on your partners and the campaign’s magnitude. Consequently, more teams have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate the effectiveness of branded content. The great news is that, besides being a powerful awareness tool, content can directly translate into increased visibility for your brand’s website and more revenue for your business.


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