Branded content

Branding has always been about creating differentiating factors that makes one generic product stand out from another. Giving consumers a reason to choose one brand of toothpaste, or washing powder over another. Countless hours are spent as marketing professionals toil to try to craft a brand image and its associations. Brand makeup is the resulting brew that is applied to everything related to their brand and more. Yet when the moment of truth arrives, how much of this brand imagery is relevant to the end consumer? This question grows even more pertinent as many brands spend considerable efforts in creating ‘non-branded’ content online.

The brand manager tries to ensure that some of the brand values are imbibed in whatever content is created, even if it is for brand agnostic websites. While crafting such content the brand manager tries to ensure that there are parallels drawn to the messaging that is going out in the traditional media. So if it is an advisory article on detergents for a detergent brand and that detergent is always portrayed to be kid friendly, the manager might believe that the article as well should have pictures of kids. Even if the article isn’t explicitly talking about anything related to kids or mentions the brand explicitly. Will then the reader make the association between article, kids and therefore the brand and product when they read  the article, and remember the same when they go to the supermarket? What do you think? I think it is as far fetched as the previous sentence is long!

The issue in point is akin to subliminal advertising and whether that works. As a person who creates and consumes content, the hope that such articles translates into sales directly seems a little far-fetched. But not impossible. Let’s not forget that when content is explicitly branded or endorsed, a brand can reap many rewards. Online content that is informative, useful and engaging will always have takers. Long tail dynamics of the internet ensure that there is always looking for the kind of content you are creating. It helps position the brand as engaging, an expert in its field and open to the needs of its consumers. In case of non-branded content that tries to build associations with a brand – there is no winning formula out there and it continues to be a balancing act. What does work is having brand related ads around content, ensuring the content  credibility is not compromised as brand spiel and your brand has visibility.