Branded content vs content marketing: What’s the difference?

In the world of marketing and PR, content isn’t just king — it’s queen, prince, princess and the whole (metaphorical) monarchy. 

Think of how many brands you became aware of or took more notice of because of great content. In the sports sector alone, the likes of Puma, Pepsi and Nike have sent their statuses to the stratosphere this way. 

When it comes to commercial content, there aren’t only plenty of types — from blogs and videos, to podcasts and social media posts — but various approaches, two of which are going to be the focus of this article: branded content and content marketing.

What do both strategies involve, and what is the difference between branded content and content marketing?

What is branded content?

Branded content is a type of marketing strategy that primarily aims to provide value or entertainment to the audience. It is typically produced in a way that aligns with the interests and preferences of the target audience, making it more engaging and less intrusive than traditional advertising, while still promoting the brand in question. 

We all love being entertained, so this alone makes it a winning marketing approach, if you ask us.  

Case study: Hyundai – Undercover Stars

An example of branded content in practice is our Undercover Stars campaign with Hyundai in partnership with Chelsea FC. 

In the video, Chelsea footballers Mason Mount and Erin Cuthbert took on roles as undercover car dealers and were told to speak to seemingly unsuspecting customers about Hyundai motors. However, these “customers” were actually actors tasked with tripping them up. The result was a highly entertaining piece of branded content that subtly promoted Hyundai in the process.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to address customers’ and potential customers’ pain points. This is in contrast to traditional advertising where bigging up the brand in question is the primary focus. 

The goal of content marketing is instead to build and nurture relationships with the audience by providing them with useful information and addressing issues they have. 

Case study: EE – Keep Kids Safe

Our Keep Kids Safe video for EE was released to educate parents on the issue of online phone safety, all while promoting EE’s PhoneSmart licence.  

It did so in the form of a Beano comic strip video, featuring the world-famous Dennis the Menace character and his cousin Minnie getting their first phones and facing issues like catfishing and accidentally broadcasting their location. This helped to explore the problem of online safety and how to combat risks, ultimately providing significant value to viewers. 

Branded content vs content marketing: The key differences


The primary aim of branded content is to entertain the audience, while still promoting a brand, its products, or its services. Content marketing, on the other hand, is a broader strategy that focuses on creating and distributing valuable content that solves customer problems. Results are the aim of the game. 

Level of brand promotion

Branded content is typically directly associated with a brand, and often prominently features its logo, messaging, and products or services. Meanwhile, although content marketing may indirectly promote a brand, the focus is on providing value to the audience, with the brand’s promotion being a secondary or subtle element.

Target audience

Branded content is often created with the primary intention of reaching and engaging a brand’s existing or potential customer base. Content marketing instead aims to attract a broader audience, including those who may not yet be familiar with the brand. It seeks to educate, inform, or entertain people and build trust, which can eventually lead to conversions.

Timing and strategy

Branded content is often more episodic or campaign-driven, and is released when a brand has a specific message or product to promote. It may be more immediate and short-term in its approach.

If branded content is the hare, content marketing is the tortoise. It is a long-term, ongoing strategy that involves creating and distributing content consistently over time to build relationships with the audience. It’s about nurturing leads and maintaining engagement throughout the customer journey. 

The takeaway

In practice, both branded content and content marketing can be crucial components of a brand’s marketing strategy. Content marketing serves as a foundation for creating and distributing valuable material to an audience, while branded content can be integrated into the wider content marketing strategy to promote specific brand-related initiatives or products.

The two can work together to create a cohesive marketing approach that offers both value and brand promotion. And with Pitch’s help, you can ensure the content involved will always be the crème de la crème of the marketing world. As a content-focused marketing and PR agency with over two decades of experience behind us, we specialise in both branded content and various types of content marketing. These include digital marketing, social media marketing and influencer marketing. Partners with some of the biggest names in the world, you can rely on us to get you the results you crave. 

Feel free to get in touch to find out even more about our services or to make an enquiry.

Further Reading