So, this can be very confusing… The two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Let's try to sort it out – what's the difference?
The only important thing you should remember after reading this is that they differ depending who the content is produced by and where the content is published. It’s as simple as that.
Companies are really starting to embrace content marketing as a valuable channel to reach their customers – brands are becoming publishers. This means that many brands are creating their own platforms to publish relevant, inspiring and educational content that’s produced in-house. In other words, brands are building and engaging with their target audience by providing them with content that they want to consume. In short, branded content is produced by brands (or their consultants/agencies) and published on their own channels.
Want a visual example? Check out this great example of a branded content publication from Harry’s, the exquisitely designed German shaving company.
Sponsored content is produced in collaboration between the publisher’s editorial staff and the brand. When a brand wants to create sponsored content, they commission a publisher to both produce the content and to publish/distribute it. Mediaplanet for example, creates sponsored content pieces for our clients through our award-winning journalists. The content is then distributed via our niche print campaigns and influencers for a large and targeted reach, and published on our content hubs where we readership through a tailored distribution strategy that includes content recommendation partnerships, social media strategy and influencer marketing.
A very important aspect of sponsored content is that it must be very well produced to receive high engagement. Just think about how you consume content. Brands and publishers typically avoid a 'salesy' tone. Rather, they focus on delivering educational or entertaining content to readers. Brands value this because associations with a publication and exposure to its audience can strengthen brand equity, help position the brand, drive awareness, traffic, conversions, and ultimately leads.