In years gone by organisations controlled the gateway to content, allowing them to own the message and the timing and the pace of release to consumers. Technology today allows consumers to control the discovery process – to choose the means and tools of access. This conundrum has compelled brands to increasingly create mass volumes of content for differentiation and branded content is the easiest and fastest way.
While branded content has been around for years in the form of advertorials or paid travel reviews, it is today an organised commercial practice with specialist agencies placing brands within existing or bespoke traditional and online environments. In this post I recommend five principles that advertiser should use to sense check their approach when undertaking a branded content project. Because what you put out there is not just content but your most valuable asset, your Brand.
Authenticity – Brands shouldn’t get into content creation unless they have a brand guideline manual in place, which lucidly articulates brand voice and personality. Resist the lazy option of outsourcing content creation to an in-between agency or publisher. Create as much content in-house as you commission through sponsored options. The best branded content arises from a perfect marriage of publisher and advertiser synergy, each bringing to the table the in-depth understanding of their readers and customers respectively. From this alignment springs content that appears authentic to the end user. A fail safe way to achieve authenticity is embed someone close to the brand (either from marketing or creative agency) within the leadership core of a branded content project.
Context – Always choose your final partners and environments with caution. Today decreasing revenue margins mean media owners are more open to offering editorial integration to advertisers. However tempting this may seem, it is better to wait for the right opportunity rather than rush in and allow the brand to appear in an irrelevant or worse still an inappropriate context. Consumers are more sensitized to branded content today, and jarring brand juxtapositions run the risk of harming the master brands credibility in the longer run.
Adding Value – Understand the needs of consumers in your category. What does the product (your product) add to their lives or simply what is the problem it solves. An easy way to identify these needs is by analyzing search queries in the category. Once identified create solutions that add value at every stage in the purchase funnel – information or comparison. A noteworthy illustration is the Commonwealth property app which allows prospective home-buyers to access.immediate buying and selling information as they are actually viewing properties.
Consistency – Make content marketing a part of an always-on budget line, so it’s not only done when you have a major campaign or launch. Just as it’s rude to leave abruptly after striking up a conversation with someone new at a party, don’t leave your readers in the lurch. And if you strike gold with a branded content series or sponsorship, stick with it. That is consistency. Transparency – Both publishers and advertisers must be transparent so as not to erode the trust of loyal advocates of both. Make it clear when a piece is paid for through clear labeling. Native advertising is a form of branded content that claims its place in the marketing ecosystem by seamlessly blending into editorial spaces. But consumers will soon wise up to the distinction through over-saturation with these formats. There is a fine line between deception and clever. Thread it carefully and err on the side of transparency always.
So there you have it, five principles to think about that should hopefully help you achieve your content marketing goals while also protecting your brand promise. If you have experience in this sphere and would like to share your own learning’s, I welcome the opportunity to interact and gain from your knowledge.