The fundamental rules for branding aren’t what they used to be as more consumers are turning online for information on the products and services they’re seeking to buy. Social media, inbound marketing and the sophistication of the younger generation are just a few trends that are challenging companies to reconsider how they handle branding. It’s a battle to develop trust when there are so many marketing messages bombarding today’s consumers, but here are a few examples of success with a branded content strategy.

Beyonce: Defying the rules to capture customer engagement

Sometimes you have to stop following the herd and incorporate unique, innovative tactics to branding yourself. Musician Beyonce did just that when releasing a recent album contrary to the norm, which is to put out an advance single to generate early sales. She leveraged her reputation with fans by releasing all tracks with a complement of music videos. Consumers appreciate surprises and variety, so don’t be afraid to mix it up when developing a branded content strategy.

Target: Making an impact with lifestyle branding

Retail is no longer just selling food, beverages and home goods to consumers. Today, it’s a multimillion dollar opportunity to brand your company as an all inclusive lifestyle provider, which is exactly the approach taken by Target. The company’s marketing is dedicated to using the brand to inspire a certain state of mind, motivating consumers to bring DIY home. Wisely, Target recognized that it’s sometimes necessary to re-evaluate strategies and stimulate new consumer relationships to communicate the brand.

IBM: Never falling victim to identity crisis

A unique and innovative approach like Beyonce’s or Target’s doesn’t always work when a company is attempting to build on the consistency of an existing reputation. A leader in the technology industry, IBM doesn’t benefit from a new and unusual marketing strategy when there’s no need to change. The message the company wants to communicate is their premium quality and unwavering reputation, so the key is to convey that same point. The X Factor is to deliver that message with flawless execution.

Some Inspiration to Guide You

You can borrow ideas from these marketing innovators without piggybacking onto existing concepts or falling in line with what’s already been done. Consider some inspiration to help you develop a branded content strategy that’s unique.

Share the wealth Companies of all sizes have found success by showing consumers their philanthropic side. You probably have a cause that hits close to home personally or strikes a chord with your employees. One idea to brand your company is to follow suit and offer a certain percentage of profits to a charity of your choosing. The bonus is that you and your team get that “feel good” sensation every time to convert a sale.

Try a giveaway Show your customers advance appreciation by offering some perk that no other company awards. It doesn’t have to be expensive, as businesses have thrived on giving away “BOGO’s” and discounts on future purchases. Your giveaway today may be what consumers associate your company with for years to come.

Developing a branded content strategy that works may be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible – even in today’s highly competitive online environment. The point is to separate your company from the pack with a unique approach, while still staying focused on a consistent brand message.