Creating content takes time, resources, creativity and expertise. Being genuinely helpful is hard. To create a strong content marketing strategy takes commitment to producing quality content consistently. 

So why would you want to do all this, and then not brand your content? Counterintuitively, there’s some advantages to subtle or no branding. Branding content is no longer a black and white matter. Content is going uncover… 

Types of content agents

Branded: Uniformed officers

british_policeman

On the obvious end of the scale is your typical branded content. Whether it’s a company blog or a white paper, there’s a logo or clear attribution to a brand. This makes sense, if you’re creating valuable content, to want credit for it. Content marketing is a slow burner that requires time to see results, so this is often the most logical approach to getting a return on content.  

Pros

  • Raises brand awareness 
  • Easier to link content to desired actions (and show ROI)

Cons

  • Can be meet with cynicism, people understand companies want to sell to them! 
  • Less likely to be shared – only three brands have cracked the YouTube Top 500 (HBR – Branding in the age of social media). Instead viral content is dominated by bloggers, celebrities and other real people. 
  • As marketers start to understand the value of content marketing the space is becoming crowded with branded content making it harder to cut through

Example:

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 6.29.21 pm

Vend runs a high quality blog sharing advice for retailers, it lives in a clearly branded portal.

Co-branded: Plain clothed officers

164614-mcgurk

This is the “cake and eat it” option. Content that at first seems unbranded, but on closer inspection has a subtle link. Like a plain clothes officer who carries a badge and gun.

Sometimes a new brand is created for the content which is then “presented by” the parent brand. Another common approach is a partnership with a media company. Traditional media like the New York Times are gaining more revenue through “branded content” to offset reducing subscriptions and advertising revenues. 

Examples: 

Media partnership: Orange is the new black

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 6.15.17 pm.png

A brilliant example of long form content by the NYT for Orange is the new black, there’s a small logo at the time of the page, a CTA at the end and the URL is paidpost.nytimes.com

 

Curated content: Product Design Weekly (presented by Atomic)

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 6.17.42 pm

Subbrand: HP Tech Beacon

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 6.36.56 pm.png

HP Enterprise created the sub-brand Tech Beacon with minimal branding.

Pros

  • Best of both world approach
  • Content can lead the conversation, not the brand

Cons 

  • Branding is less obvious and can mean reduced awareness 
  • More investment is required to build awareness for multiple brands

Unbranded: Undercover agents

In an effort to create more authentic, editorial experiences some brand are taking a backseat and producing content that isn’t branded at all. This takes a lot of confidence that getting the content to your audience is more valuable than the branding. For example, if you’re Telsa, producing unbranded content on the benefits of electric cars might get more press coverage and lead to an increase market size which in turn creates more sales opportunities. 

It’s a risky strategy, but there are some reasons you might want undercover content; 

Pros

  • Can be a good approach for wary audiences that are shy of marketing  
  • Can make the content seem more authentic 
  • Helpful when you’re promoting awareness for a new product category generally 

Cons

  • Can be harder to link to desire actions 
  • Can be confusing/negative when the audience discovers brand behind content 
  • Can increase costs to build and support two brands 

Examples

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 6.26.53 pm.png

Shifting Gears is a blog and event series run by Mountoux to reach their insurance audience. No mention of the parent brand is made to focus on the content and building the product need.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 6.38.56 pm.png

Makeup.com is run by L’Oreal, a fact that is only apparent in a tiny footer mention and in the About page.

Cover image courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons

The type of content agent that will suit your needs will depend largely on your audience and how receptive they are to branded content, and how they would view “undercover content”. I know some developers would react negatively to discovering that unbranded content was actually commercial.

What type of content agent does your brand use? Do you think brands should go under cover? 

Posted by Nicole Williams

I'm a marketing geek with a passion for tech. Previously, I was the marketing manager for SilverStripe (open source CMS and cloud PaaS) Currently, podcaster and blogger for TechMarketer.org and founder of Wellington Marketing meetup. Currently exploring Europe and living the dream! I'm always up for a chat about marketing and I love sharing my experiences so that others don't have to learn the hard way.

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