10/05/2011 11:54 am ET Updated Dec 05, 2011

A Re-Think on Branded Content

Few concepts in marketing are more misunderstood or abused than "branded content". For most, the term conjures up either a) an expensive integration with a high-profile entertainment property or b) a custom web-video featuring the brand in such a ham-fisted way that we wonder if anyone will ultimately care about it as legitimate "content".

But adding the word "brand" to the Wikipedia definition of "content" provides a more useful way to think about and use branded content:

"Information or experiences that provide value to audiences in brand-specific contexts".

For any content to create value for the audience, it must either be entertaining or useful. Whether branded content should be entertaining, useful (or some combination of both) completely depends on the marketing objective at hand -- Change Perceptions? Increase Conversions? Different types of content from the "entertaining to useful" spectrum will be required.

Instead of thinking about how to integrate brands into content, marketers need to be more disciplined about how to integrate the right kind of content into the brand's marketing mix to accomplish a specific objective.

A great example of this is fashion e-tailer, Net-A-Porter. Editorial fashion content on their site (that is both entertaining and useful) gives the Net-A-Porter audience up-to-the-moment fashion inspiration which in turn fuels commerce on their site. The content is in a business context that is relevant to the brand. I would guess Net-A-Porter website content is not what first leaps to mind when I say "branded content". But if we re-think branded content as something that creates value for the audience in a context that is relevant to the brand, it's one of the best examples I can think of.