Live and die by these 3 principles for good branded content


These days it’s hard to stand out from the crowd when virtually everyone out there has a personal brand, or business-related brand. So how do we differentiate? How do we make ourselves not only known to our own audience but develop a loyal following, too?

The answer: good branded content.

Branded content is content that shares our values. By developing content that shares our values we build brand awareness. Ultimately, it’s video with a message, it’s a short film or documentary with no product placement, just a story with a cause that reflects our brand mission.

Now naysayers will tell us that our industry is too saturated, that there’s too much competition, that even with branded content, we won’t ever be seen. While it may be true that our industry is over-saturated, there’s still a way to rise to the top with good branded content.

How do we make sure our branded content is good?

Just follow these three principles:

Principle 1

Promote causes that align with our brand mission.

Principle 2

Find a relatable story worth telling that highlights these causes.

Principle 3

Be vulnerable and transparent in our storytelling.

We’ve got to have a product or service that’s outright better than the competition, too. Or a product or service that’s packaged in our own brand ethos, an ethos that’s distinct enough to attract our own industry-specific audience. Or perhaps both.

But for sake of brevity let’s say we’ve already carved this part of our business and brand growth out, and jump right into how living and dying by these three principles can help us achieve good branded content and ultimately a larger slice of the pie in our respective industries.


In a recent interview with MusicBed, outdoor brand YETI’s head of content, Scott Ballew, had this to say about what good branded content can look like:

“I think from a branded side, they probably tend to be a little more inspirational or aspirational, with some of our core values thrown in. You have something to gain if you’re just a random viewer in a cubicle watching. Whether that’s convenient inspiration to go out and go fly-fishing or to start thinking about where your food comes from. Or to think about how you spend your free time or protect our natural resources. Whether it’s Patagonia, YETI, or The North Face, I think the brands that are making quality films impart some sort of wisdom or ethos to viewers.”

We agree. It’s about imparting inspiration to our audience. That’s what we’re really selling. When the market or industry is thick with competition this is how we can set ourselves apart.

Apple sells inspiration first then computers. Nike sells inspiration first then shoes. Patagonia sells inspiration first then puffy jackets. Not the other way around.

What kind of inspiration do you sell? That’s up to you.


We’re loyal to Apple for the think-different creativity they promote within us. For Nike, we connect to the stories of human spirit because we relate with a story of our own. And Patagonia, they live for the outdoors and for the Earth. Well, we live for that, too.

Every video they share, every piece of branded content they release into the world is them speaking directly to us about who they are (Principle 3: Being vulnerable and transparent in their storytelling), what they care about (Principle 1: Promoting causes that align with their brand mission), and why we should care, too (Principle 2: Finding a story worth telling that relates to their cause and their audience).

The best of these brands don’t even have to sell us a product either. They promote a cause we care about through genuine storytelling and soon enough we’re a part of their tribe. YETI’s Steve Ballew, from the same MusicBed article, shares why branded content matters for brand loyalty:

“…it matters because people have a lot of choices out there and there’s a lot of competition. There are a lot of knock-offs. There are a lot of coolers. For Patagonia, there are a lot of puffy jackets. People, in the long run, want to feel part of a tribe or feel like they’re contributing alongside like-minded people; and that’s how a brand becomes a brand. People put bumper stickers on their cars and wear hats because it starts to stand for something bigger than just a cooler. When there’s a soul or a purpose or some sort of philosophy, people begin to connect with things that give them purpose. So, if you’re a fly fisherman and wear a YETI hat, that means something.

I don’t think people are wearing their YETI hats because they’re proud of their ice. I think content like ours give a brand a soul. That’s it. It gives the brand a soul.”

Again we agree. We may not be inspired right away to go out and buy an Apple computer, a pair of Nike shoes or a puffy Patagonia jacket after watching their branded video content but we will someday.

What these brands have shared with us time and time again is imprinted on us. We remember that their DNA matches ours when we see them in a store or run across an ad online. We trust them because they’ve bared their brand’s soul to us. We’ve seen their blood. And it’s the same color as ours.


Simply put:

1 We relate to their causes.

2 We resonate with their story.

3 And we respect and trust their vulnerability.

If we can live by these three principles for our brand then good branded content will follow. And our audience will grow in both numbers and loyalty. If we don’t live by these principles then our brand may very well die someday. Because, ultimately, there’s nothing for people to hold on to, to connect to, to help them understand why our brand is any different than our competition’s.

Show them why and how we’re different. Invite them to be a part of our tribe. By sharing good branded video content on a regular basis, pretty soon we’ll see our tribe grow exponentially.