It all started with advertorials, and then came infomercials. While both of these were clearly seen as advertising masquerading as content, branded content has managed to achieve a different reputation. And with the arrival on the scene of BuzzFeed, it has become the go-to option for marketers, and it’s delivering great ROI for brands.
Reason #1: It’s Still All About Value
In these days of inbound marketing, content that delivers value to the consumer is viewed as the ultimate in successful promotion. Building a following and a reputation through content marketing that results in actual sales is a slow process, however. Branded content has broken through the ranks as a much faster way to deliver the same message. The value is there, inherent in the content the way it always was. The difference is that in the past, marketing-speak in your content was a big no-no, but now brands unashamedly include their products and services by name. And as long as the content still offers value to the reader, it seems to be ok with the consumer.
Reason #2: Designer Labels Are “Hot”
With the constantly-rising popularity of designer labels, it’s no surprise that branded content is moving into the space already occupied by branded clothing and other items. There are few marketing results as satisfying to a brand as getting your customers to promote proudly on your behalf, simply for the privilege of being able to afford to do so. This has paved the way for the use of brand names in marketing content without any backlash from customers.
Reason #3: Storytelling Is In
It’s very difficult to tell a “real” story without mentioning names, and since storytelling is a great tool for explaining concepts and delivering messages, it’s an essential component of content marketing. By mentioning the brand name, you can tell the story in so much more detail that it offers far greater credibility, while still delivering the value your readers expect from objective content. And consumers know this, so they’re accepting of branded content in principle as long as it:
Isn’t blatant advertising.
Displays honesty and transparency
Contains an infusion of personality from the writer
Includes characters the audience can identify with
Has a beginning, a middle and an end
Qualifies as a “page turner” by not giving it all away upfront.
The goal of branded content is to surround your reader with your brand experience so he can decide for himself how he wants to interact with your company.
Reason #4: Social Is The New Search
With 75% of BuzzFeed’s 130 million monthly visitors coming from Facebook and Twitter, it’s clear that social is the new search. Much of the reason for this is that the branded content posted by the company is highly shareable, and 50% of users view it as entertainment rather than advertising. Since social search relies on popularity for ranking, the more sharable something is the more likely it is to get found.
Friskies “Dear Kitten” video is a great case in point. Nowhere in the video is the company name actually mentioned, but it’s clearly in use. The video tells an endearing story, includes the prerequisite compelling characters, has a beginning, a middle and an end and doesn’t give it all away upfront. The result: 14.8 million views since it was published on YouTube. Thanks to social media, where it went viral in no time at all.
In spite of these impressive stats, while branded content has clearly become a leading marketing option, it’s essential for the reader to want it for it to work. The goal of using this remains not whether it will spread on social media, but whether the product is exceptional enough to build consumer loyalty by satisfying expectations.