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Based on your goals, you must choose between native advertising and branded content when developing a content marketing plan. You’re not the only one who doesn’t know what distinguishes the two.

It’s critical to comprehend what native advertising and branded content are, how they differ, and when to utilize each to achieve your objectives, whether you’re trying to increase awareness of, foster trust in, or compel customers to act on your brand. You may enhance brand perception, affinity, and revenue by effectively combining the two.

Marketers must adopt a more subdued strategy in this age of customer skepticism if they are to communicate their message properly. They must seek out novel approaches to engage with their target audience without being obtrusive.

Two strategies for doing this are branded content and native advertising, but what makes one strategy better than the other? When ought brands to make use of them? Let’s compare branded content to native advertising to find out.

Let’s start by answering the question: what is native advertising?

Native advertising is where ads are served on a third-party platform, usually a premium publication or social media platform. Advertisers pay publishers on a cost-per-mile (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC) basis and benefit by reaching new audiences who already trust the publication where the ads appear. Readers naturally transfer that trust to the native ad content, making a click and sale more likely.

Native ads aren’t disruptive. They blend seamlessly into the surrounding content, mimicking the look and feel of the host platform. Native campaigns provide value across the entire acquisition funnel to boost brand awareness and generate sales. Alongside the native ad widget, users see a phrase indicating it is promoted or sponsored content. In the United States, for instance, this would be as per the FTC’s guidelines.

Two statistics clearly show the effectiveness of native ads: Site visitors pay 53% more attention to native ads compared to banner ads. The click-through rate (CTR) of native ads is 8.8 times higher than banner ads.

There are pros and cons with the format, but follow native advertising best practices and you should achieve impressive campaign results.

Branded content 

According to Instagram, branded content is “a creator or publisher’s content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value.” To simplify, branded content is content that influencers create to promote a brand. In return, the brand will compensate them with money and/or gifts. 

Brands have traditionally worked with studios to create content for their marketing campaigns. But many have realized they can get high-quality content regularly from influencers too – at a fraction of the cost.

Some influencers are photographers, videographers, and graphic designers who are great at telling a story. They’re capable of producing content that you can reuse for billboards, social media, banner ads, print, and more!

The beauty of this marketing method is that influencers know their audience, so they know exactly what their followers want to see. This is how influencers have managed to build up a loyal following that engages with their content. Having this skill means that branded content created by influencers often performs equally as well, or better, than studio-produced branded content. 

Now you know the difference between the two techniques. The next question is: when does it make sense to use them as part of your marketing strategy?

Branded content is all about creating content to tell a story, entertain your audience, and tap into their emotions. So, it’s ideal for campaigns where the goal is to produce a lift in brand awareness, recognition, and engagement. You can work with influencers to showcase your brand by telling a story that their followers connect with. By doing this, you’ll build trust and establish a relationship with them. 

Branded content can also be a great way to generate leads and acquire new potential customers. For example, an influencer may produce a successful branded content video that goes viral. Viewers that enjoyed it might begin to follow you and engage with your brand, which can lead to more sales later down the line.

If your goal is to generate a short-term uplift in sales, it’s probably best to devote more of your marketing budget to other direct-response marketing methods instead.

Here are some types of native advertising that you should keep in mind:

  • In-feed units: Native ads that appear on social platforms and publishing websites as you scroll through the feed.
  • Paid search units: Ads that appear at the top of search platforms like Yahoo, Google, or Bing.
  • Recommendation widgets: Ads that appear at the side or bottom of articles. You often see them on news sites under a heading like “you may also like.”
  • Promoted listings: Promoted products listed at the top of shopping websites, like Amazon or Etsy, above other organic listings.
  • In-ad with native element units: Ad units that look like standard display ads, but contain contextually relevant content for the publisher. For example, an ad promoting a soft cheese brand that contained a recipe would be a native ad if it appeared on a recipe website.
  • Custom: Any other kind of native ad that won’t fit into the above categories.

Other qualities of branded content that make it a useful marketing technique include:

  • Builds trust and authenticity: Influencers have a loyal following that trusts their recommendations. By working with them to create branded content, you’ll have a more authentic way of connecting with potential customers.
  • Leverages storytelling: The main factor that distinguishes branded content from other marketing methods is that it’s all about telling a story. Storytelling helps humanize your brand and create an emotional connection with your audience. 
  • Appeals to the emotions: Branded content typically triggers an emotional response from an audience. This makes it more likely that they’ll remember and share the content. 
  • Come in multiple mediums: Branded content can come in many content forms. It might take the form of a podcast, video, photos, blog post, and more. 
  • Highlight brand values: A great thing about branded content is that it gives you an opportunity to highlight your brand values. We’ll take a look at how Dove did this successfully.

Unlike branded content, native advertising is more well-suited for lead generation and sales. It’s a more pushy marketing strategy that’s aimed at getting your customers to take action. For example, brands might want to use in-feed or paid-search native advertising units to drive click traffic to an article or use promoted listings to land more product sales.

Read Also: What Are The Benefits And Challenges of Native Advertising?

Here are some of the main reasons brands might want to use native advertising:

  • It attracts attention: According to data from Sharethrough, customers look at in-feed native ad units 25% more often than banner ads. They also look at native ads twice as often as editorial content – for the same amount of time.
  • The potential distribution is greater: Native advertising allows for much greater content distribution than branded content. This enables you to reach a wider audience and get more eyes on your brand.
  • There’s a higher click-through rate (CTR): Unlike branded content, native ads typically contain a clear call to action that encourages users to click through. They have an average CTR that’s 8.8x higher than display ads.
  • It’s less disruptive: Native ads are less disruptive to the user than traditional ads, as they don’t look like ads. They fit in with the surrounding website content, so they don’t negatively impact the user experience. 

It’s important to mention that some critics point out that disguising ads as native content is misleading. They argue native ads could be considered an unethical marketing practice because it’s hard to recognize the difference between unbiased editorial content and advertisements.

Everyone has a different opinion on this, so you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons when using this tactic. They’re still definitely worth considering. 

How do You Identify Branded Content?

The practice of using content marketing to advertise companies and their goods is growing in popularity along with the internet. One method of content marketing entails producing branded content, which informs potential customers about the firm publishing the content while also entertaining or educating them. Learning about branded content can help you develop content marketing strategies that resonate with your target audience if you work in marketing or advertising.

Any piece of content marketing that a marketer produces to promote a particular company or item is known as branded content. Branded content is frequently used by marketing experts to draw in new potential customers to a business by grabbing their attention with interesting media that they can view and engage with.

By offering amusing and informative content that appeals to current customers, branded content may also help a firm keep its customer base. Although marketing teams are able to create their own branded content, many opt to pay influencers or other content creators to produce and disseminate branded material from their online profiles.

Marketers might create a wide range of branded content, including:

  • Documentaries about important topics in the industry
  • Blog posts highlighting industry trends
  • Short videos about key concepts in their field
  • Podcasts exploring issues related to the product or service the company sells
  • Case studies of customers who used a product or service to solve a certain problem
  • Infographics explaining concepts or processes in the company’s field


Here are a few advantages of using branded content:

  • Increased brand recognition

Using branded content is a great way to establish brand recognition for a business because these pieces of media clearly show the name or logo of the company that created them. Branded content can promote brand recognition by including company logos in their graphics or videos, developing slogans that customers can quickly associate with a specific brand, and offering exciting ways to engage with a company that might encourage customers to remember the business.

For example, a childcare facility might create a one-page infographic about keeping children safe in the pool and send it to local schools. If the schools send the infographic to parents, the parents can see the facility’s logo and name and begin to associate the brand with safety. When they decide to send their children to summer camp, they might consider the childcare facility because they already know about the brand.

Low cost

Creating branded content can save marketing teams money since many social media and web platforms are free to use. For example, while a company’s marketing team might pay to display a pop-up ad on a social media website, they can create a post from their own account that promotes their business at no cost. Saving money in this way can give a company’s marketing team more freedom to create a higher number of promotional materials and allow them to use more of their budget to pay for other marketing activities, like hosting events or distributing written materials.

Focus on consumers

Branded content is typically consumer-focused because it can appear on platforms that the public can access easily. This can include almost any platform on the internet, like company websites, social media platforms, content creation websites and more.

Because consumers can find and interact with branded content quickly and simply, campaigns that use branded content typically reach a high number of potential customers. Marketing professionals also usually try to make branded content exciting and entertaining for consumers, which can also increase the number of users who might interact with it by appealing directly to them.

Potential for growth

Branded content most often appears online on platforms that function over the internet. Because the internet is consistently developing, there is always the potential for new methods and forms of branded content to emerge and become popular.

Having more platforms to publish branded content on can also increase the reach of a marketing campaign, as it might attract consumers who use different platforms than those a marketing team already uses. For example, the growth of video-sharing websites made it easy and affordable for many companies to publish informative and entertaining content for a wide audience.

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