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Branded Content Examples



Branded Content Examples

Updated Sept. 7, 2022

Branded content as a paid promotion tactic holds power and possibility for content marketers. It grabs consumer attention and showcases the brand’s value without appearing overly pitchy or promotional.

Its non-salesy appearance combined with the capacity to deliver deeply immersive stories, both entertaining and educational, branded content may be the best vehicle to bridge the gap between awareness and ongoing affinity.

Branded content also has given rise to a new business model that eases publishers’ reliance on revenue from traditional advertising with the addition of internal creative agencies to execute these feature-rich, customized paid campaigns (more on that point later).

In the name of brand love

To understand what branded content (also known as branded entertainment) entails, let’s start with a basic definition offered by the internet’s default dictionary, Wikipedia:

Branded content is the practice of marketing via the creation of content that is funded or outright produced by an advertiser… (it is) designed to build awareness by associating (the brand) with content that shares its values.

As definitions go, it’s a good start. Still, it doesn’t get to the heart of what distinguishes branded content from other paid promotion tactics like native advertising, influencer marketing, and sponsored social posts.

It also falls short of clarifying the valuable purpose branded content can serve for content marketing or when it makes sense to include it in your content marketing mix.

For answers to those questions, look at some hallmarks of branded content initiatives executed properly. Branded content:

  • Takes an immersive, sensory-driven approach to storytelling. Branded content typically uses rich multimedia formats like audio and video and can include interactive features. These features can enable deeper topical conversations and more emotionally resonant experiences than text or static images alone.
  • Builds connections through mutual interests and shared values, not sales goals. These content pieces often establish thought leadership, raise awareness, and generate positive brand perceptions. They are more likely to be viewed as worthy of the audience’s trust and attention as compared to more product- and pitch-driven formats like digital ads.
  • Contributes across the funnel. Branded content campaigns expand a marketer’s reach and capture new audiences’ interest. Yet, these stories are also well-suited for lower-funnel goals. In fact, 2021 research from Advertiser Perceptions finds 31% of brands use the technique to increase product consideration, and 29% use it to drive sales.
  • Enables on-the-go engagement. It’s easy for brands to publish branded content campaigns across multiple social networks, owned media properties, and other external websites. Furthermore, these efforts are well-suited for mobile consumption because they are primarily audio and video-driven.
  • Is often produced through a media partnership. Branded efforts are highly customized. Both the brand and the target media platform collaborate on content creation. Compared to native advertising’s paid placements, co-producing stories with publishing properties that share your values and interests makes it easier for your brand’s messages to gain traction. It also gives both sides a vested interest in ensuring the content succeeds – a benefit that may not exist when working with paid influencers.

At their best, branded content campaigns create marketing experiences almost indiscernible from the content the audience seeks from their favorite personalities and properties – including film studios, TV networks, and streaming media services. Not only does this make the content experience more immersive and entertaining, but it can contribute to lasting brand value.

Branded #content campaigns create marketing experiences almost indiscernible from the other content on the media’s site, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For instance, as CMI founder Joe Pulizzi pointed out years ago, The Lego Movie entertained audiences and earned millions in revenue as a traditional feature film. Still, it also performed strongly as a marketing vehicle by winning the hearts and minds of a new generation of prospective Lego consumers.

Consider the recent #SmellWorthy branded content campaign. Created through a partnership between Old Spice and Marvel Studios, its behind-the-scenes story unfolds through a series of “outtake”-style clips shared on Twitter.

Each cheeky spot (including the one below) features Luke Hemsworth who portrayed “Actor Thor” in the Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder. (His brother Chris Hemsworth is Thor in the Marvel movies.) Thus, the funny “next best thing” reference in the Old Spice tweet. As Luke as Actor Thor says, “Thor has his weapons. I have my Old Spice,”

That alone makes them entertaining promotions for the film Thor: Love and Thunder. But by giving Old Spice a featured role in the action, the content extends Thor’s story beyond the Marvel Universe – and into a real-world space where “mere mortals” (i.e., consumers) can relate.

Content outstanding in your brand’s field

Of course, not all branded campaigns are created alike in terms of their quality, transparency, and ability to inspire consumers to engage and interact. The additional time and expense required can put these efforts out of reach for some marketers.

You don’t necessarily need A-list talent or Hulk-sized budgets. You do need to make thoughtful decisions about what brand story to tell, which media to partner with, and whether the potential benefits make it worth the effort.

You don’t need A-list talent or a Hulk-sized budget for effective branded #content, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These carefully crafted campaigns exemplify how to make this technique pay off. While they don’t all follow the official definition to the letter, each strikes a balance between powerful media positioning and compellingly persuasive brand content.

Birkenstock treads lightly into a healthier purpose

Media brands have invested heavily in building their branded content production capabilities. Some – like The New York Times, Disney, and The Atlantic – have launched internal content studios. They enable branded content production and publication under the high-quality standards their audiences expect from those trusted media sources.

Birkenstock recently partnered with The New York Times’s T Brand Studio for its first paid global marketing campaign.

Ugly for a Reason is a three-part documentary on the history of the human foot and orthopedic science. The brand awareness initiative aims to explain why the brand’s footwear might not be the prettiest, but it could be the healthiest for both wearers and the environment.

@BIRKENSTOCKUSA worked with @nytimes @TBrandStudio on a branded #content video series about the human foot and orthopedic science, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The first two videos aired on Birkenstock’s website and The New York Times’s website (with the third scheduled to launch in late September.) Accompanying content includes interactive graphics, scientific insights from the brand’s subject matter experts, and personal stories and testimonials from athletes, sustainability experts, and others. In this image from the campaign, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Thomas Südhof is pictured alongside his quote: “Breaking free from trends.”

1662583317 610 Branded Content

According to Birkenstock, print and online takeovers also drew New York Times readers’ attention to the videos. The informative, health-focused branded content should help Birkenstock reach its marketing goal – to gain a stronger footing in the marketplace by linking its products to a stronger sense of purpose.

Walmart and Yahoo add heart to holiday shopping

To spur gift sales over the 2021 holiday season, Walmart partnered with Yahoo with a branded campaign featuring interactive shoppable storytelling.

Holiday With Heart focused on turning casual browsers into buyers, providing them with gift ideas, inspiration, and purchase options inside gaming and augmented reality-enhanced video experiences. In this visual example, Walmart invites users to scan a QR code to access the mobile Play for Joy game. Players use an iconic claw-machine arcade game to collect virtual Walmart gifts.

Branded Content

Image courtesy of Yahoo (from their Content Marketing Awards entry materials)

Additionally, Yahoo! distributed Walmart’s shoppable videos featuring lifestyle influencers across the Yahoo ecosystem, including on Yahoo Life and In the Know by Yahoo.

Influencer Taryn Newton, as shown in the image below, appeared in the Gifting To Win augmented-reality video series featuring her holiday decor. The accompanying 3D interactive experience enables viewers to see how Taryn’s picks look in their living spaces.

1662583317 177 Branded Content

Image courtesy of Yahoo (from their Content Marketing Awards entry materials)

This project is a 2022 Content Marketing Award finalist in the Best B2C Branded Content category.

Zelle and Vox Media explain scammer psychology

Financial fraud and scams frequently happen in the digital banking space. The schemes seem to get sneakier and more sophisticated by the minute, putting added pressure on financial brands to help their customers avoid becoming victims.

To tackle that challenge, peer-to-peer payment brand Zelle invested in a partnership with Vox Media. Zelle used Vox’s Explainer Studio platform to produce The Science of Scams, a series of entertaining long-form videos, fast-fact cutdown sequences, and additional related content.

Created from real-life scenarios, in-depth interviews, and insights from cybercrime experts, the stories use a lighthearted, witty tone to help consumers recognize common scammer tactics and understand the psychological reasons scams are effective.

Their urgency scam lesson, as illustrated below, uses verbiage such as “MUST ACT NOW” and  “We regret to inform you that your account has been compromised.” It speaks to the use of time sensitivity to pressure viewers to resolve the “problem” before they experience negative financial consequences.

1662583317 757 Branded Content

Image source

According to Zelle’s agency, Pereira O’Dell, the paid media partnership allowed for distribution across social and digital environments in the Vox Media network. Additional content formats included an interactive hub page featuring podcasts, short-form videos, and quizzes.

The artful, impactful campaign struck a chord with consumers by hitting them where it counts – their wallets. It also helped put Zelle on the finalists’ list for a 2022 Content Marketing Award in the Best B2C Branded Content category.

HBO goes out of bounds to leave a permanent local impression

Not all branded content efforts must conform to the standard, paid digital media approach. For example, HBO Max spun components of the technique into a hyper-local live event to promote its 2022 series, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.

Winning Time explores the history of the Los Angeles Lakers during their rise to fame in the 1980s. It offers a fictionalized view of the personal and professional lives of legendary team members like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and coach Pat Riley.

An enduring part of Los Angeles’ cultural identity, it makes perfect sense for HBO’s marketing team to promote it with a branded mark on the city’s future.

The brand upgraded an outdated community basketball court in Inglewood, which is in metro Los Angeles. The refurbished court, as shown in the illustration below, includes an original mural painted in the Lakers’ signature purple and yellow by California artist David Flores.

Branded Content

HBO scores by leaving a permanent impression on Los Angeles.

Image source

The bright, inviting space allows community members to gather and local kids to sharpen and show off their basketball skills. At an unveiling ceremony, HBO Max donated $10,000 to support Inglewood College Preparatory School’s basketball program.

While the HBO Max spot didn’t involve a traditional paid media placement, the brand did need to secure approval from the city of Los Angeles for the installation. According to Marketing Brew, HBO Max partnered with Project Blackboard – a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening local communities by restoring basketball courts and installing striking visual artworks.

A brand-building pitch audiences can’t wait to catch

Are you experimenting with branded content in 2022? These examples show how great branded content campaigns can help build rapport with a new target audience, expand business’ creative horizons, or simply entertain and engage the experience-loving masses.

I’d love to hear how branded content worked for your company and about your plans for the tactic.


Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Take back your ROI by owning your data



Treasure Data 800x450

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Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.

Click here to view more MarTech webinars.

About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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Revolutionizing Auto Retail: The Game-Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai



Revolutionizing Auto Retail: The Game-Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

In a groundbreaking alliance, Amazon and Hyundai have joined forces to reshape the automotive landscape, promising a revolutionary shift in how we buy, drive, and experience cars.

Imagine browsing for your dream car on Amazon, with the option to seamlessly purchase, pick up, or have it delivered—all within the familiar confines of the world’s largest online marketplace. Buckle up as we explore the potential impact of this monumental partnership and the transformation it heralds for the future of auto retail.

Driving Change Through Amazon’s Auto Revolution

Consider “Josh”, a tech-savvy professional with an affinity for efficiency. Faced with the tedious process of purchasing a new car, he stumbled upon Amazon’s automotive section. Intrigued by the prospect of a one-stop shopping experience, Josh decided to explore the Amazon-Hyundai collaboration.

The result?

A hassle-free online car purchase, personalized to his preferences, and delivered to his doorstep. Josh’s story is just a glimpse into the real-world impact of this game-changing partnership.

Bridging the Gap Between Convenience and Complexity

Traditional car buying is often marred by complexities, from navigating dealership lots to negotiating prices. The disconnect between the convenience consumers seek and the cumbersome process they endure has long been a pain point in the automotive industry. The need for a streamlined, customer-centric solution has never been more pressing.

1701235578 44 Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai1701235578 44 Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

Ecommerce Partnership Reshaping Auto Retail Dynamics

Enter Amazon and Hyundai’s new strategic partnership coming in 2024—an innovative solution poised to redefine the car-buying experience. The trio of key developments—Amazon becoming a virtual showroom, Hyundai embracing AWS for a digital makeover, and the integration of Alexa into next-gen vehicles—addresses the pain points with a holistic approach.

In 2024, auto dealers for the first time will be able to sell vehicles in Amazon’s U.S. store, and Hyundai will be the first brand available for customers to purchase.

Amazon and Hyundai launch a broad, strategic partnership—including vehicle sales on in 2024 – Amazon Staff

This collaboration promises not just a transaction but a transformation in the way customers interact with, purchase, and engage with their vehicles.

Pedal to the Metal

Seamless Online Purchase:

  • Complete the entire transaction within the trusted Amazon platform.
  • Utilize familiar payment and financing options.
  • Opt for convenient pick-up or doorstep delivery.
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Hyundai’s Cloud-First Transformation:

  • Experience a data-driven organization powered by AWS.
  • Benefit from enhanced production optimization, cost reduction, and improved security.

Alexa Integration in Next-Gen Vehicles:

  • Enjoy a hands-free, voice-controlled experience in Hyundai vehicles.
  • Access music, podcasts, reminders, and smart home controls effortlessly.
  • Stay connected with up-to-date traffic and weather information.

Driving into the Future

The Amazon-Hyundai collaboration is not just a partnership; it’s a revolution in motion. As we witness the fusion of e-commerce giant Amazon with automotive prowess of Hyundai, the potential impact on customer behavior is staggering.

The age-old challenges of car buying are met with a forward-thinking, customer-centric solution, paving the way for a new era in auto retail. From the comfort of your home to the driver’s seat, this partnership is set to redefine every step of the journey, promising a future where buying a car is as easy as ordering a package online.

Embrace the change, and witness the evolution of auto retail unfold before your eyes.

Revolutionizing Auto Retail The Game Changing Partnership Between Amazon and Hyundai

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How to Schedule Ad Customizers for Google RSAs [2024]



How to Schedule Ad Customizers for Google RSAs [2024]

It’s no wonder that responsive search ads have steadily grown in popularity in recent years. Through Google’s machine learning capabilities, RSAs provide a powerful way to automate the testing of multiple headlines and descriptions to ensure a closer match to user intent. The benefits are clear: RSAs mean broader reach, better engagement, and improved performance metrics.

However, all these benefits come at a significant (but reasonable) cost – they can be extremely difficult to manage, especially when it comes to updating ad copy to promote limited time offers.

I know this firsthand – I work with several ecommerce clients with promotions that constantly change. Not too long ago, I found myself going through the consistently tedious process of updating a client’s RSA headlines and copy. As I was making the changes, I thought to myself: “There must be a better way to update this ad copy. I shouldn’t have to use find and replace so many times while pausing and enabling my ad campaigns.”

After expressing this to my colleague, Jordan Stambaugh, the two of us agreed there must be a better way. But we’d have to make it happen. A few weeks later, we put that idea into action and created a more efficient process for updating RSA ad copy on a scheduled basis. If you want to try this process for yourself, just keep reading.

Responsive Search Ad Customizers 101: Basic Options & Execution

Before diving into the process of scheduling automatic updates for your RSA customizers, it’s essential to understand some key Responsive Search Ad fundamentals.

First, you can customize three main options within RSAs: the Attribute Name, the Data Type, and the Account Value. Each of these plays a vital role in personalizing your ads:

  • Attribute Name: This is essentially the identifier for the customizer. It is how you’ll reference the specific piece of information you’re customizing within the ad. For instance, if you’re running a promotion, you might name an attribute “Promotion.”
  • Data Type: This indicates the kind of data the attribute represents and it determines how the information can be formatted and used within the ad. Common data types include Text (for plain, non-numeric text), Percent (to represent percentage discounts), Price (to denote monetary values), and Number (for any numerical value).
  • Account Value: This is the default value for the attribute that you set at the account level. It acts as a fallback if more specific values aren’t provided at the campaign or ad group level.

For example, if you wanted to promote a 10% off discount using RSAs, you’d use the “Discount” attribute, a data type of “Percent,” and an account value of “10% off.” Then, when someone is searching for products, Google would test automatically inserting a copy regarding a 10% off promotion into your ad.

Once you’ve set up the right customization options, you can start to format your RSAs with customizers.

Here’s how:

  • Start by typing in {
  • Click on Ad Customizer then select your attribute
  • Google will populate your attributes that are already uploaded
  • For a simple offer, use the “Default text” attribute as a catch-all. This will ensure your ads run smoothly if Google can’t pull the right messaging from your RSA feed



How to Schedule Your Ad Customizers with a Feed

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s cover how to schedule your ad customizers.

Just follow this three step process:

1. Create the feed

Start by creating two sheets: The Parent sheet, and the Child sheet. The “Parent” sheet will act as the primary data source, while the child sheet will pull data from the parent sheet.

We’ll start by building the parent sheet. After opening the sheet, start by renaming the active tab to “Promotions.” Don’t skip this step, it’s crucial for referencing this range in formulas later on.

In your “Promotions” tab, head to the top row and label columns A, B, and C with the headers of your ad customizer attributes. For example, you might have “BrandSaleHeadline” as your attribute in column A, “text” as the Data Type in column B, and “Shop the Collection” as the Account Value in column C.

Once your headers are in place, move to cell C2. Here, you’ll input the expression =lookup(today(),F:G,E:E). This formula will play a key role in dynamically updating your RSA customizer based on the current date.

Next, go to columns E, F, and G, which will be used to manage your scheduling. In these columns, you’ll list out the different values your chosen attribute might take, alongside their corresponding start and end dates. For example, under the “BrandSaleHeadline” attribute, you might schedule various promotional headlines to appear during different sale periods throughout the year.

Here’s how your sheet might look:

Now look back at the first 3 columns on your sheet. They should look like this:

Now create a second sheet. We’ll call this sheet the Child sheet. It’s going to automatically pull in data from the parent sheet you just created, and will be the one you link to Google Ads later on.

Columns A, B and C will be almost identical to the child sheet, but we will be using a special formula later so we can automatically populate this. So, start by labeling Row 1 Column A “Attribute,” then the next column as “Data type,” then column C as “Account value.” 

Then go to C2 and use this expression to populate the right account value from the parent document: =importrange(“[PARENT DOCUMENT URL HERE]”,”Promotions!C2″)

Your sheet should now look like this:

We recommend adding a date range with default text for any days you’re  not running a promotion. In the example above, we have “Shop Our Collection” appearing as default text.

2. Input attributes

Once you have your feed created, the next step involves inputting your attributes into the Google Ads platform. This can be done either manually or through a bulk upload.

For the manual approach, navigate to “Tools & Settings” in your Google Ads interface, then go to ‘Setup’ followed by “Business Data.” Here, you’ll find an option for “Ad Customizer Attributes.” Click the plus sign to add your attributes. It’s crucial to use the same attribute names that you’ve established in your Parent Google Sheet template to ensure consistency and proper data synchronization.



Alternatively, if you prefer the bulk upload method, again head to “Tools & Settings.” This time, select “Bulk Actions” and then “Uploads.” For this process, you only need to upload columns A to C from your template. 

Be aware that it might take some time for your uploaded attributes to be reflected in the business data section of Google Ads.

3. Set up an automatic schedule

At this point, you’ve almost finished scheduling your ad customizers. Navigate to Tools & Settings, then Bulk Actions, then Uploads, then click the Schedules tab at the top. Select your Child Google Sheet as the data source, and share your Google Sheet with the appropriate email.



And there you have it – Google will automatically pull in the data you populated in the sheets into your RSAs.

Common Challenges When Scheduling RSA Ad Customizers

When we test these sheets with our clients in the wild, we’ve uncovered five common challenges. Be on the lookout for these issues – solving them before they happen can save you a lot of trouble down the line.

Not scheduling your upload when the site changes 

The first and most significant hurdle is the mismatch between the scheduled data upload and website content updates. For instance, if the Google Sheet is set to upload at 11 am, but the website changes occur at 3 pm, there’s going to be a discrepancy where the wrong message could be displayed for several hours, or new messaging could appear prematurely. Conversely, if the website updates happen before the scheduled sheet upload, outdated promotions might linger until the new data is imported. Synchronizing these schedules is crucial; it’s best to align them so updates occur simultaneously.

Skipping QA during a message change

Another pitfall is neglecting quality assurance (QA) during message updates. It’s vital to regularly check the business data section to verify that the correct values are in place post-update.

Issues with the IMPORTRANGE function

Then there’s the technical aspect of setting up the IMPORTRANGE function correctly in the Google Sheets template. The ‘child’ template must reliably pull data from the ‘parent’ sheet. If this function isn’t configured correctly, data won’t be imported as needed.

Not sharing access of the Google template for automatic uploads

Pay attention to your access permissions for the Google Sheets template. Google will prompt you with the email address that needs permission to access the ‘child’ sheet for automatic uploads. Overlooking the sharing of your sheet with this address will prevent the system from working.

Having date range gaps in your parent sheet

Lastly, a common oversight is leaving date range gaps in the ‘parent’ sheet. Every single date must be accounted for without overlaps. A practical tip is to have an ‘evergreen’ backup message ready, scheduled to run continuously, ideally through the end of the year, to cover any potential gaps.


Leveraging Google Sheets in conjunction with Google Ads to schedule RSA ad customizers is a game-changer for managing dynamic promotional content. This process not only streamlines your workflows but also ensures that your ads remain relevant and up-to-date, reflecting current promotions without the need for constant manual intervention. 

By adopting this method, you’ll save significant time and effort, allowing you to focus more on strategy and less on the minutiae of ad copy updates. Give it a try and experience a more efficient way to manage your RSAs, keeping your campaigns fresh and engaging with minimal hassle.

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