Branded Content vs Developing Content for Brands - What's the Difference?

With consumers becoming much more perceptive what can really win their favour is the thing to be seen in the coming future

learn more about Darshan Bhatt

By Darshan Bhatt


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In 2010, Modern Family's episode "Game Changer' featured a product as the focal point of the story. The product in question was the Apple iPad, and the Dunphy family wanted to buy their dad an iPad for his birthday. Interestingly, the birthday coincided with the device's launch day, and the family members obviously didn't pre-order it, thus making for a compelling episode!

Recently, the world of content-oriented retail is witnessing a new fight, between branded content vs developing content for brands. What is the difference anyway? Apparently, there is. Developing content for brands, the conventional way of advertising deals with a brand's intention to achieve a particular purpose, such as creating awareness, announcing new features, services, offers, discounts etc. It lacks any sort of independent personality of its own or a separate connection with the audience apart from the one the brand intended. Most advertisements fall under this segment.

Brand Name in Todays Market

Branded content, on the other hand, is an independently existing content that brings relevant value to the consumer at its own, with brand positioning subtly integrated into it. The key is to be where the consumers are, i.e. watching quality content, and to achieve a stronger engagement by virtue of being part of the good content.

For instance, the movie Top Gun had a huge impact on its generation of moviegoers. The hero of the movie, played by Tom Cruise, defeated enemies in the air, wore jeans and a leather jacket, wooed a beautiful woman, most of the time wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses. For a generation of Top-Gun worshippers, Ray-Ban aviators became synonymous with everything Top-Gun-esque!

By investing in branded content development, marketers today are hoping to connect with users through real engagement. Fans of content connect with the episodes, the characters and even the surrounding at a power level, and any brand that resonates such association is accepted fast. Branded content, being a source of entertainment first, has a devoted set of the audience already. Thus the brand is guaranteed of at least a finite audience base, which is not the case when content is developed for brands specifically.

Decision Making When It Comes to a Brand and Independent Content

In case of branded content, brands that are willing to associate with a particular content are willing to adapt the essence and values of the content, as they know that their appeal with the audience is way more than what the brand could achieve alone. It would be very difficult to find a cutting-edge technological brand willing to associate with shows such as Netflix which deal with humanity's growing struggle with technology.

Marketers should choose these different modes of advertising by efficiently judging their requirements. For instance, earlier, product placements constituted a significant portion of the branded content strategy. However, with consumers becoming much more perceptive and wary of brands being forced down their throats, either subtly or brazenly, marketers are opting for other ways that see them more involved with a particular content at a creation and thematic level than just a superficial mention during a breakfast scene. On the other hand, developing content for brands works best when there is a particular information to be conveyed, rather than working on developing a brand-image.

At the end of the day, independent content is developed and distributed to satiate the need to tell a story to an audience or express a particular idea in the best possible way. Brands are increasingly looking to become a part of this journey as independently, their product-based content was never going to be as popular or get as many no. of viewers as independent, but the brand-featuring content does. Thus, branded content looks to emerge as the most preferred way for advertisers and marketers to continue laying their brands on, in the hope that a consumer, travelling along the journey of his/her favourite content and character, will also pick up the brands lying in the path.

Darshan Bhatt

Director, GoQuest Digital Studios

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