Branded Content is Not, I Repeat, Not Content Marketing!

On 06/04/2018 by Araceli Almada

Content marketing and branded content - two big buzzwords that you see every day in articles, blog posts, and social media, but what do they mean exactly? These two marketing jargons seem related, yet in reality, are distinguished from one another. And while native advertising is a form of advertising, it is also related to content marketing. Content marketing is a strategy to attract an audience to an experience, and branded content… well, is content. Perhaps this explanation does not suffice in clearing your doubts, so let’s dive a little deeper into it!  

Branded Content

As it is not easy to give a comprehensive definition of branded content, let’s first clarify one important point - contrary to general opinion, branded content is NOT native advertising. Branded content is content produced by an advertiser with the objective to connect with its audience - to consume and enjoy it. Native advertising, is a way to distribute that content, adding depth and visibility. For this reason, branded content and content marketing differ in both form and function.

Whereas traditional advertising attempts to connect with its audience by conveying the benefits and unique selling points of their brand, branded content is different in that it doesn’t focus on product features nor brand benefits. Avi Savar, Manager Partner and Board Director of the venture capital firm Dreamit, defines branded content marketing as “people stories.” Branded content indeed starts with people - their stories, their lives, and their problems. However, the greatest benefit of branded content compared to traditional advertising is that it establishes a link between people and the brand. Branded content is content commissioned by a brand for the purpose of reaching a specific audience, driven by storytelling and creativity. The ideal branded content is based on one issue people are facing, which is the use of creativity to connect brand values. Branded content, therefore, is much more engaging than traditional advertising as it is less of a sales pitch.

Let’s take a look at one of our examples. Lancôme, one of the world’s largest luxury brands that produces skincare, makeup and perfume, came to Ligatus for a solution to drive high-quality traffic to their website at a cost-effective price. High-quality users were identified as having viewed at least two pages per visit, demonstrated low bounce rate and good dwell time. Our solution was to boost Lancôme's visibility by distributing their content and reaching new audiences through Ligatus’ network of premium publishers. We strengthened Lancôme’s branded content that was shown on and We increased awareness by using Ligatus technology of semantic targeting, and optimized conversion and retargeting by reaching sought-after audiences at the exact point when they expressed their interest, and therefore, driving qualified traffic to their site. 

Now that we understand the form and function that embodies branded content, let’s take a look at what defines content marketing.  

Content Marketing

Content marketing, as we said, is a strategy - a strategy that aims to develop and nourish the relationship between brands and their customers. The first part of this strategy is to create branded content - now that we know what it is. It includes selecting what information to communicate and what type of format. Up to this point, it is pretty much like branded content; however, the second part of a content marketing strategy is what makes all the difference: content distribution. 

Evidently, content is worthless if it is not seen. Thus, the distribution of that content is perhaps even more important than the content itself. This is the implicit rule of 20/80: Use 20% of your resources on content creation and the 80% remaining on distribution. The most important part of the strategy: shift to lean content! This practice consists of repurposing the content you created and renovating it in another form. For example, recycle the content from a blog article into an infographic, or recycle visual or statistical content from a webinar. Every content has a privileged channel, so try to use them all. The founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, explains content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” 

Above all, in content distribution, respect one principle: the user experience! Your users must be able to choose whether or not they want to view your content. Pop-ups, pre-roll videos, banners - they are increasingly disliked by users because of its intrusiveness. Instead, use non-disruptive distribution channels like native advertising. Engaging content that is respectful of the user experience creates engaged customers and an improved relationship with them as a long-term strategy. Indeed, building an effective distribution plan requires experience and know-how, but we’ve provided some tips here to help you get started. 

Remember, the difference between these two buzzwords is significant. Branded content is content that must nurture the relationship with customers, and content marketing is the strategy that defines content creation and distribution. The old adage that ‘content is king’ may have been relevant a decade ago; however, with the amount of information being pushed out online today, it is now the strategy behind it that has your message be seen and heard. Native advertising provides an effective distribution channel to amplify the reach of your branded content with the means to inform, entertain, and engage your audience. 

Take your content marketing strategy to the next level through native-channel placements, contact us today!