Brands need to be willing to step back from branded content and let the story do the work, says Scott Donaton, Global Chief Content Officer at UM, in an interview with Beet.TV. That means marketers should use a deft touch on instilling a brand message (or not) in branded content, he explains.

“You need to give people the pathway to understand the brand, but in the pure storytelling the brand has to step back and be the confident that the brand and story stand for the same thing and that will come through to the audience,” he says, pointing to a campaign Johnson & Johnson implemented for Clean and Clear skin care that included lightly branded content paired with ads that included more specific brand details.

The key to successful content marketing lies in studying audience insights and their motivations, and pairing that information properly with brand objectives, Donaton adds. He’s an advocate of seeding a range of branded content in the marketplace and then layering in paid media behind that. “Once something catches fire on its own, you can dial back the paid,” he says.

We interviewed Donaton at the IAB conference during Advertising Week in New York.