What’s the Difference Between Branded Content and Original Content?

If you’re new to the world of content production, you might not realize that there’s a big difference between branded and original forms of content. The question is, what is the difference, and why should you care when it comes to producing content for your company?

Let’s look at how branded and non-branded content is used. We’ll talk about the benefits of both, as well as which tends to lead to more conversions and improved SEO. Hang tight and buckle your seat belts because we’ve got a lot to cover when it comes to content.

What Is Original (Natural/Non-Branded) Content? 

When you produce original, non-branded content, you’re connecting your brand with customers through storytelling. You’re taking a narrative that relates to your business and handing it to your audience. This gives them the flexibility to approach your brand and associate with it on a personal level.

In other words, original content is meant to support your reputation as a brand, not what the brand promotes/sells.

For a prime example of original, non-branded content that hit the nail right on the head, check out this article sponsored by Netflix on The New York Times. Titled “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work,” the article takes a deep dive into the lives of women as inmates and why their policies need to change.

the new york times article
Image Source: The New York Times

As you can probably tell from the design and topic of this Netflix-sponsored article, it draws attention to their hit show Orange Is the New Black, which tells the story of women in jail. It’s not an overt advertisement, but rather an informative piece of engaging content that sparks people’s interest in the show’s story.

What Is Branded (Advertising) Content? 

Branded content is less about telling a story and more about using the advertiser’s name blatantly and powerfully. You want to positively engage with your audience about your products/services in a public way.

Think of a promotion that is less editorial and original, but more fast-hitting. The quality can sometimes be lower than that of natural (original) content, but it can certainly serve a purpose in the right circumstances.

Keep in mind that branded content is not traditional advertising. Nix any concept of banner ads or commercials – this is something much more nuanced.

With the right strategies, branded content can help achieve prominent search rankings, boost brand queries, and become an integral part of your marketing campaigns.

You might laugh at the example we’re using for branded content, but think about The Lego Movie. It’s very clearly a huge promotion for the Lego toys and brand, and yet it also provides a great form of fan engagement and entertainment.

Every part of this trailer is branded – Lego is openly mentioned and used. However, it’s not necessarily viewed as an overt advertisement for the brand because there are other purposes.

Statistics on Original and Branded Content

Regardless of which kind of content you’re planning to use, native advertising is an essential part of the modern-day content strategy. Both B2C and B2B companies need to learn to advertise naturally and in an engaging format if they want to survive.

To help you understand just how important original and branded content strategies are, consider the following content statistics from Inc.

  • People who click on native ads have a higher purchase intent (52 percent) than people who click on banner ads (34 percent).
  • 41 percent of all brands are currently using native advertising, and 20 percent plan to use native ads within the next year.
  • People who click on native ads have higher brand favorability (32 percent) than those who click on banner ads (23 percent).

Instead of just looking at how many clicks an ad has or how many views a commercial receives, brands are now measuring things like story impressions, read counts, and time spent on webpages.

Modern marketing and content tactics are all about engagement, and if you want to focus on native advertising, you’ll need to adopt original and branded content strategies.

Benefits of Original and Branded Content

The Benefits of Original Content 

When a brand produces original content for their audience, they’re focusing less on marketing their own products and more on giving the audience what it needs. Whether you’re answering important questions or creating a helpful guide, your original content will entertain and inform your audience in a general manner – without coming across as pushy.

By providing valuable information or stories to the audience, original content can help you achieve business goals. It’s great at helping you build relationships with readers, and although natural content requires time and patience, it fulfills the readers’ needs in a way branded content typically cannot.

Instead of pressuring readers to like a product or buy something new, original content works to engage them and pique their interest.

For instance, look at the brand Intuit. It sponsors a series of articles on Refinery 29’s website about women’s personal finance.

Sponsored Ads on Refinery29
Image Source: Refinery 29

Although the brand is mentioned and clearly a sponsor, the top goal of the native advertising is to provide customers with valuable information.

The Benefits of Branded Content 

Branded content is excellent for advertising a product or service. You can find an entertaining, catchy way to indirectly advertise your products while still building your relationship with an audience through interesting content.

Think of it this way: branded content is about giving more exposure to your brand name specifically.

In the right context, this can be extremely effective, but it can also be less subtle and informative than original content. Generally speaking, many customers can be less receptive to content that pumps a sales agenda, as opposed to providing unbiased value.

You want your customers to buy or at least recognize a product or service. Branded content can help you do that in a big way. The key is to find a happy medium between adding genuine value and inserting brand elements.

For a great example of strong branded content, look at this advertisement from Dove.

They could easily have just created another commercial for their soap or deodorant. Instead, they worked to forge a relationship with their audience through engaging content focused on common female issues with body image – in a way that was still somewhat promotional.

Importance of Original Content for Sales and Conversions

After reading the benefits of both types of content, you’re probably wondering, which one really offers more value to a business? Does original content or branded content lead to more sales and conversions?

In general, it seems that producing original content is extremely influential when it comes to generating revenue. Roughly 91 percent of B2B marketers now use content marketing, and 86 percent of B2C marketers think content marketing is a key strategy. 

Detailed, original content tends to get linked to by site editors and important resources. It gets shared on social media, posted by followers, and generally receives more natural attention.

Although branded content can be shared across the web as well, it usually benefits the most from paid media sources. You need to guarantee its “right-place right-time” positioning in front of visitors, which costs money and generally decreases the chances of organic conversions.

The Types of Original Content – Which One Is Used the Most for SEO? 

This brings us to talking about SEO. Original content can be shared far and wide. This increase in social sharing and linking can increase your company’s search engine ranking, as well as it’s organic traffic.

Ask yourself, “What can I create that people will want to share because it is useful, relevant, and informative?”

According to Search Engine Journal, the types of content with the highest ROI include:

  • Authoritative blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Standout opinion pieces
  • How-to content
  • Original research pieces
  • Videos

All of these types of content can be considered “original” or “non-branded,” and they all focus predominantly on what the user can benefit from the most. The more informative and useful a piece of content is to the audience, the more likely it will be shared far and wide, boosting the brand’s SEO value.

Factors to Be Considered When Choosing Between Branded or Original Content 

Keep in mind that there’s no single “rightkind of content to use. It truly depends on your goals how your brand could benefit the most

  • Are you trying to aggressively expose the brand to a certain audience?
  • Do you want to generate familiarity with your business?
  • Is there an emotionally charged story you can tell to connect your customers with the brand?

Perhaps the biggest factors when choosing between branded and original content are the keywords and user intent.

Original content typically targets wider audiences, which in turn, works to rank for more general keywords.

For example, if you are a web design agency and are targeting businesses across the board, producing thought leadership-type original content might be more ideal to promote your expertise around more informational keywords.

Keyword examples:

  • Web design tips
  • Tips for website content
  • Effective website design
  • Web design tips for small business

On the other hand, if you are specifically targeting law firms who need conversion funnels on their website, producing branded content with your business name engrained with more navigational/transactional keywords in it might be more ideal for your goals.

Branded content and original content have their places in the marketing mix. You need to think critically about the most effective approach at this specific point in time.

In Conclusion

Learning to navigate the waters of original content versus branded content can be tricky. Things are constantly changing, and with so much content being produced 24/7, it can be difficult to compete.

At the end of the day, both types of content funnel into brand awareness, and ultimately, the bottom line. However, branded content is more or less obvious about it, whereas original content is subtle.

Both branded content and original content have their benefits, and both should likely have a role in your content strategy. Hopefully, the information listed above will help you decide which content stream you should tackle first.

Content marketing means something different to each and every brand. At E2M, finding the most ideal approach for a content strategy has been our bread and butter since day one!

If you need original content, branded content, or a combination of the two, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team!

  • Arvind Patil is a Digital Marketer at E2M Solutions Inc, a digital agency. He loves to create a content strategy that connects brands with their target audience. When he is not busy analyzing digital market trends, he is traveling. You can reach him on Linkedin.
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