5 Ways to Use Branded Content to Boost Your Brand

Branded Content Boosts Your BrandIf there’s one buzzword (or I should say “buzz phrase”) that’s getting attention in marketing circles these days, it’s “branded content.”

Initially, what started as product placements in your favorite movies and TV shows — with characters conspicuously guzzling a particular brand of soda — has grown up into something much more sophisticated.

What is branded content?

Branded content is sometimes known as content marketing or sponsored content (or you may have heard it referred to as native advertising). Basically, all of these terms refer to marketing through the creation and distribution of unique, entertaining, or useful content.

Every blog post you write for your business, every Facebook update, every tweet is branded content. You are using the content you produce (the blog post, video, social media update, etc.) to market your business.

But the best branded content doesn’t feel like it’s selling you anything.

In fact, content marketing is all about increasing TOMA — top-of-mind awareness for your brand.

What does branded content look like?

The highest level of branded content is content that is so new, so useful, so revolutionary that it enhances the reputation of the brand producing it. Think Tim Ferris (4 Hour Workweek) or Seth Godin (Purple Cow).

It’s a bit like lightning in a bottle; it’s impossible to manufacture artificially.

Most branded content, then, is primarily aimed at entertainment, and most of the major brand communication you see online falls into this category (videos, contests, hashtags on Twitter, etc.).

The tricky part for brands is creating content that doesn’t look or feel like advertising. Effective branded content must be, first and foremost, entertaining for the audience; the fact that it helps market a business comes a distant second.

It’s an almost ineffable quality: when a brand is trying “too hard,” you know it. But when the brand focuses on creating content that is appealing to its customers/readers/followers, the cream automatically rises to the top.

A good example of this is the video (below) where Ron Burgundy interviews Peyton Manning on ESPN. (If you don’t know, Ron Burgundy is Will Ferrell’s character from the movie Anchorman and its upcoming sequel.)

The interview was funny and entertaining, but also a de facto advertisement for both Anchorman 2 and ESPN (and maybe even the Broncos).

And, people loved it. Here in Colorado, it made the local news sports segments—the kind of PR that most brands would kill for.

How can branded content work for your business?

The takeaway for small businesses that don’t have multi-million dollar budgets to spend on hiring Ron Burgundy to advertise their product is this: Keep thinking outside the box.

While the Custom Content Council estimates that nearly $44 billion will be spent on branded content this year there are many ways for small businesses to play in the branded content sandbox without breaking the bank. In fact, many of the most effective examples of branded content are done on a shoestring; they’re just unique enough to stand out.

Here are 5 suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Most simply, create a blog that is incredibly valuable. This can be one of the most effective ways to employ content marketing—either because of the outstanding quality of information you provide or because your content is entertaining.

2. Make a video “trailer” for your books or other products and put them online, like this trailer for Julie Klam’s You Had Me at Woof.

3. Create and give away something unusual that showcases your company’s talents. Stock-photo company Veer puts out an activity book (he image posted at the top of this blog) every year with games, puzzles, word-finds, etc. It’s super fun, but also covert marketing for their images, fonts, etc. A great model for creative companies.

4. Solicit and rebroadcast stories from your audience. A company that makes photo albums, for example, might ask people to share and tag photos. Or, a diaper company might ask you to share your most touching childhood memory about your mother. Simply by broadcasting those stories to your audience, your brand builds TOMA.

5. Produce a free checklist, workbook, or hand-out. This is a much better calling card than a pen or a keychain. Pens are out; content is in. Coach Megan Flatt, who helps moms achieve balance, made simple to-do list post-it note pads (with her URL on them, of course) that match her coaching style. This was a genius and creative giveaway for her audience.

What ideas have you used to support your brand? Please share them or brainstorm new ones below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks! And here’s to your sweet success.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. I’ve used all these suggestions. Number two was fun before and during my book launch. I created two video trailers. The first video trailer was to build anticipation for the book and the other I used when the book actually launched. I’ve taken number 5 to a different level by offering a free video list building course. It’s a great way for people to get to know me and my teaching style.
    Toni Nelson recently posted…3 Steps To Completing Your ProjectMy Profile

    • Since video is one of your strengths, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve used it to build your brand Toni. And, you do an awesome job of it as well. It is a wonderful way to build the KLT Factor (i.e. know, like & trust).
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. What a great post and I really didn’t know that type of content was called branded content. So you have given me extra value in an incredible valuable post.

    I had an email the other day from a marketer who has been to a marketing conference and he mentioned another effective type of ads that are very effective: Native Ads.

    “I’m talking about sponsored facebook posts that appear in the newsfeed, promoted tweets on twitter, youtube video ads… all of those ads blend in seamlessly with the primary content of those websites, and are
    CRAZY effective.”

    I suppose a small business will have really to prioritize due to lack of funds or lack of time. Really marketing is paid be $ or paid by time.

    Thanks again
    Liliana Marsden recently posted…Send Press Releases to Bloggers in your Field.My Profile

  3. These suggestions are fantastic! I need to make note!

  4. I really need to figure out what I’m marketing. My blog isn’t for profit of any kind, and yet I want my content to be retweeted, shared, reposted, etc. just as much as those who are making a living from their content.

    I think that for those of us who are blogging before we have a “product” or “brand” to sell, this is tough. However, that could just be me making excuses.
    Carrie Ann Tripp ( recently posted…Stop Looking Up Their Robes!My Profile

    • Carrie, sounds like you got online and started blogging for personal reasons, not business. And, that’s fine. However, if you’re consider blogging now as a marketing tool, best to decide a few things first such as 1) who is your market, 2) what is your product/service/program and 3) what’s your message. Once you spend some time on that, then you can look at strategy and how best to move forward.
      Please let me know if you need assistance along those lines. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  5. Thank you so much for the complement Debra! Using video enables you to “virtually” meet people and as you say get the KLT factor:)
    Toni Nelson recently posted…Are QR Codes dead?My Profile

  6. Very nicely done post certainly full of very good ideas and advice. What comes to mind for me are the Clydesdale Horses and Budweiser Beer. Whenever you see these horses, I think of Budweiser Beer and I am not a beer drinker.
    Their commercials were very tastefully done and again, they won the prize for the Super Bowl Commercials. Branded – I would think so.
    I am working on a heading for my blog that might be more branding than the pictures I now us. Your post gives us some points to ascertain. Thanks again for a very educational post.
    John Logan recently posted…Profile Of A True WinnerMy Profile

    • John, my favorite commercial of this year’s Super Bowl was the Budweiser one with the Clydesdale horses and the golden retriever puppy. I owned the best golden retriever on the planet, Ike. He passed on in April 2012. That commercial brought tears to my eyes. I’ve written about the use of pets in marketing as well. You’ll find Ike’s photo there too – https://www.writedirection.com/pet-marketing
      Happy to provide with new points to consider!

  7. Debra, this article makes me feel better about what I’ve been doing. Jab, Jab, Jab, Punch or some thing like that comes to mind 🙂

    I’ve never looked at branding from this point of view so thanks. Oh… great tips too!
    Brian McDaniel recently posted…Using Facebook For MLM Prospecting: A Mistake to AvoidMy Profile

    • Thanks Brian. I’m glad you feel better about your efforts.
      I believe Gary V’s book is entitled “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to tell your story in a noisy, social world.” You were close!

  8. Awesome stuff, Debra. Actionable…and appeals to our best instincts. I see too many on line entities feeding to the lowest common denominator. Funny thing is I know many of these people are bright, and it probably kills them to put out branding that converts but doesn’t add value. This is great. Thanks!
    Larry Hochman recently posted…Remembering Ralph KinerMy Profile

  9. Hi Debra! You have given me some food for thought here. I am in the process this year of moving forward in a much larger way with my work. I can see me utilizing the video idea, especially for my books. I would love to hear your thoughts on this! <3
    Belinda Rose recently posted…The Divine PromiseMy Profile

    • Belinda, you do a beautiful job expressing yourself on your blog. Utilizing video is another great tool to put your message out there (especially since YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine). Go for it!

  10. There is so much to learn about marketing! Thanks for offering this great information.
    Teri recently posted…How to make your blog look Pro!My Profile

  11. Such wonderful suggestions, Debra, thank you! I love the “entertaining” suggestion, and feel like video will be a great outlet for me, as well as more style tools and checklists to give away. My mind is reeling after reading this… YAY! 🙂
    eyenie recently posted…Upcoming Speaking Gig? 3 Style Mistakes to AVOIDMy Profile

  12. You know what I like about your blog? You are always right on the money with information that is both relevant and useful. You provide actionable steps that actually make sense.
    Thank you for providing such great content!
    DeAnna Dimmitt recently posted…A Time To Wake UpMy Profile

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