Advertising is constantly evolving. As technology has developed and customers have changed the way they consume entertainment, old forms of advertising have been displaced. Simply buying time on TV networks or billboard space isn’t enough any more. When the majority of people you need to reach are online, other tactics are essential.
To attract attention in a world of smartphones, YouTube and social media, advertisers need to provide content that is addictive and grabs the attention of the individuals who are spending less and less time focusing on the media they consume. That’s where branded content marketing comes in; by offering high-quality branded content, marketers can more effectively reach digital demographics. So, let’s see how it’s done — and how it can work for your business.
At greatcontent, we work with brands all the time. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the SEO experts Primelis to create an exclusive Ebook, “SEO Content for Brands,” which is full of insights and guidance, and free to download. However, before you get hold of the Ebook, let’s quickly see why brands need to create content that goes beyond traditional advertising, and how that might work in practice.
What is branded content?
A basic definition of branded content would be “content produced by advertisers which doesn’t take the form of conventional advertisements“.A series of interlinked short movies would be one example, but comedy sketches, how-to videos or even smartphone games have been used effectively, too.
Good branded content tends to be short, well-made and easy to share. It is easy to find on whatever platform the marketer chooses, and it is relevant to the lives of those who consume it. While it definitely has to reference the brand itself in some way, this link needs to be subsidiary to the quality of the content.
Why is branded content important?
Branded content marketing works because it focuses on creating content that users want to consume. Most people see advertisements as an annoyance, so the challenge is to connect with them in ways that they enjoy.
Research from marketing agency Salsify suggests that younger demographics now rely heavily on smartphones when making buying decisions. In a 2017 survey of 1,000 American online shoppers, they found that 84 per cent of respondents aged 18-29 favoured using mobile devices when buying online over using devices like laptops or desktops. By contrast, only 36 per cent of those aged over 60 said the same.
At the same time, the kind of content that is consumed by and is encouraging this younger demographic when they’re making buying decisions may be changing, with a heavier emphasis now being on social media content rather than ‘pure’ advertising.
Animoto’s 2017 “the State of Social Video” report surveyed 1,000 social media consumers across the US. They found that 64 per cent of those surveyed made purchases as a result of watching social media videos. Moreover, respondents reported that “funny”, “behind the scenes” and “educational” videos were viewed most positively.
Forward-thinking businesses are starting to respond. Video marketing agency Yum Yum surveyed 160 US business owners in 2019 about their use of video in marketing campaign strategies.
The findings suggested that 50% of businesses using explainer videos saw conversion rates of increase by 15% or more. 85% of respondents were happy with the ROI they were seeing from social media video marketing.
With so many younger people avidly using mobile devices and taking their cues from social media, branded content is becoming a vital tool to reach consumers – and not just now, but most likely in the future as well.
Is branded content the future of digital advertising?
Given these findings, it’s safe to assume that marketers will need to factor branded content into their strategies in the near future, if they have not already, in order to boost their success.
The reason isn’t just down to consumers becoming more savvy, rendering adverts less powerful. Ad-blocking is another factor. 380 million people use ad-blockers around the world, denting the efficacy of pop-ups and other ads.
It’s becoming increasingly hard to “send” marketing content to potential customers. So, the main task now is to entice customers to come to you by offering content that they love.
Branded content trends in 2019
2019 has seen some impressive examples of putting these marketing strategies into practice.
For instance, AirBnB has boosted its “Stories” section, which features video snippets from users of the travel booking site. Visa have hired comedian Ronnie Chieng to play an “Urban Survivalist” who relies on Visa to get through the day. And, Nike has taken its video marketing beyond Kaepernick, introducing the #MeToo inspired “Dream Crazier” campaign featuring Serena Williams.
These campaigns are great examples of some of 2019’s major marketing trends. For example, many include themes like the desire for community, feminist campaigns, or the complexity of modern urban life, while skilfully entwining them with the brand’s identity. It’s part of the trend towards harnessing social issues for marketing ends.
At the same time, storytelling is a huge part of successful BC. We’ve seen that from Nike, Visa, Jack Daniels, and heaps of other brands. Instead of foregrounding products, they tell stories which represent the brand.
Some companies have also tried to leverage the ability to deliver stunning HD content via social media. Coors’ collaborations with Great Big Story have told stories about videographers and photographers who are capturing the world’s landscapes in exquisite detail.
However, we still need a hat-tip for the greatest branded marketers of all: the people behind the 2014 LEGO Movie.
Probably the finest piece of BC ever made, the LEGO Movie was hardly even noticed as a marketing exercise, but it grossed almost $500 million around the world, generating huge sales for the toy brand. But because the movie was loved by almost everyone, the fact that it was essentially BC didn’t matter.
Understanding the difference between branded content and content marketing
Now that we understand better the meaning of branded content and how it works in practice, we can unpack how branded content differs from mainstream content marketing.
Both techniques involve producing high-quality content that is relevant to watchers or readers. But there’s one major difference: branded content exists to tell a story and create a connection. It doesn’t need to contain a quota of keywords. It’s all about entertaining and informing
Content marketing often manages to form an emotional connection, for sure. But it’s focused around attracting traffic and ranking highly on search engines. So, different methods are involved in its creation.
Take blogging, for example. While you might want to make your blog a lead generator with useful content and SEO optimisation, you might take a different approach when using your blog for branded content.
In that case, you might use your blog to tell unique stories which aren’t directly related to your business or promote activist campaigns via editorial content. This may or may not boost your SEO rankings immediately, but if your stories strike a chord with a wide audience, they can be incredibly successful.
In either case, sourcing writing expertise is essential. So, be sure to find a content production agency with the skills and passion needed to create branded or SEO content that really works. At greatcontent, we’re ready to help create the perfect content for any campaign you want to run.
Both content marketing and branded marketing have departed from traditional advertising, which uses blunter messaging, where the products being sold are the focus of attention. That kind of primitive approach doesn’t work as well as it used to, and that’s why we’re seeing companies reach out for creative alternatives.
Discover how branded content works, and make it work for you
By now, you’ll probably want to start applying the principles of branded marketing to your own operations. But before you do, be sure to download our free Ebook, “SEO Content for Brands”. It provides a solid grounding in SEO and content creation, helping readers understand what works, and what doesn’t.
When you’re done, it’s time to commission some content. If you want to dip your toes into the world of BC, be sure to find a content production agency with the skills and passion needed to create content that really works. At greatcontent, we’re ready to help create the perfect content for any campaign you want to run.
Text: Sam Urquhart