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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Powerful examples of the potential of branded content marketing are everywhere. For example, supermarket giant Tesco has sought to offer recipes involving ingredients from their stores, while the New York Times provided readers with Google Glasses to access VR news content.
However, probably the finest piece of branded content ever made was hardly even noticed as a marketing exercise. The LEGO Movie 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 branded content didn’t matter.
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.
Text: Sam Urquhart