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Marketing has moved from the linear to purpose-led engaging communication. After connecting to the consumers through print, radio and television ads and making the most out of it, the brands shifted to sponsored shows, then digital ads and thereafter to sponsored digital content. Later came the era of branded content, where the brands started integrating themselves in the content consumed by people online, in a way that it doesn’t look forceful.

Then came the time when the brands realised that by educating consumers and gaining their trust, they will automatically attract consumers and all this can happen through content marketing.

Even as brands are increasingly realising the power of content to capture the consumers’ mindspace, not many marketers actually understand the difference between branded content and content marketing.

Therefore, it’s important for the marketers to understand and use content strategy in a way to make the most out of it. It totally depends on the brand purpose, if they want to undertake the branded content route or content marketing.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing the consumer behaviour. While branded content (also known as branded entertainment) is the practice of marketing via the creation of content that is funded or outright produced by an advertiser.

Content marketing only works when marketers go easy with it in the long run. It rarely brings short-term results, while branded content is a short-term play. Even with the intention of doing content marketing, quick ROI lures marketers to do branded content.

Neeraj Chaturvedi, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Housing.com, PropTiger.com, Makaan.com, added, “It is the desire to get quick results that make brands take an unnecessary and undesirable shortcut. Brands are getting wired to quick wins and growth hacking is the buzzword. So while some companies may be doing this well, some definitely walk into this for quick “results”.

Stating the right strategy of doing branded content and content marketing, Ashim Mathur, Senior Director Marketing, Emerging Markets, Dolby Laboratories, said, “While branded content may be effective in the short run, branded content may not be the best approach to sustain over long periods. Content marketing enables you to sustain content on your platform, build context and engage with audiences over a period of time.”

Khundmir Syed, Brand Manager at FreshMenu feels that more than quick ROI, the intention behind doing more of branded content vs content marketing is also about staying on the safer side. He said, “More than the quick ROI, I feel that many marketers feel that it’s a safe bet since it’s pushing the brand. Then, of course, the hope for a larger ROI comes in once they push out branded content.

Another aspect that Ixigo’s Content Marketing Head Aashish Chopra gives is that at times brands are lazy to experiment with content and end up doing branded content. “The whole idea of branded content and content marketing stems from the idea of experimentation. Even having the thought of doing content marketing, brands end up doing branded content, depicting more the lazy approach of the brand.”

It totally depends on the brand’s objectives if it wants to take content marketing route or branded content. Chaturvedi said, “Branded content can work very well for newly launched products and getting a consumer to explore their offering. It will typically work well with products that are not high involvement or too complicated.

He said, “Content marketing works when the objective is to add and enhance a brand by providing information, reviews and news to their prospective user base. This helps build both familiarity and trust with the brand and typically works well with brands which have higher involvement or are complicated to use and need a lot more information.”

For Syed, it’s all about how the audience wants to engage with the brand. “Any brand in its content strategy must start with what its audience wants. If it’s more topical content, then give them topical content. But as a brand, do take a stand even when you speak about that topic. There is no set formula for it, just seamless integration of brand with content that is interesting.”