Is Branded Content The Future Of Online Marketing?
In one of my posts last week, I mentioned how Google’s algorithm changes and third-party search engine blocklists are changing the content marketing landscape. Anyone in the game must create useful content that engages more than ever before while still maintaining SEO best practices.
This requires balancing out the “left-brain vs right-brain” equation: you need a blend of creativity via great writing or video production mixed with the technical expertise of optimizing that content for search. Leaning too far either way gets you poor results, so anyone planning a campaign must now use a “whole-brain” approach.
As recently as one month ago, you could get away with sucky content with a sprinkling of keywords, ala the notorious content farms we all know and mostly scroll down to ignore in our search results. Today, that can be considered a “no-brain approach.” So what is a marketer to do? A great solution is to jump on the branded content gravy train.
Branded content harks back to the days where radio shows were sponsored by detergent manufacturers and the like, hence the term “soap opera.” Listeners received free entertainment produced with an advertiser’s funds; in exchange, they had to listen to the occasional sponsored message by the soap manufacturer. Not a bad deal, and pretty much everyone walked away a winner.
Today, branded content is a bit of a renaissance on the web, and for good reasons. According to marketingcharts.com, sites with branded content totally kick butt, outperforming in 41 out of 43 advertising metrics. Those figures should make a content marketer sit up and pay attention.
Here are some of the ways branded content, even its traditional forms, might make an impact in future online marketing:
Remember those old nature shows sponsored by Mutual of Omaha, an insurance company? I don’t quite remember the name of the show, but I sure as heck remember Mutual of Omaha. This is an example of how effective a sponsorship can be even if the content has ZERO to do with your product. What do lions and zebras have to do with insurance? Absolutely nothing, but to this day I am willing to check out offerings from Mutual of Omaha—my animal-loving buddies!
On the web, the parallel would be to provide informative or entertaining content and slap your name on the video itself, in its title, or on the webpage where this great content is found. Any advertiser that makes repeat visits to the content site worthwhile with fresh material and encourages interaction with visitors and their brand will win.
Product placements are a way for Hollywood filmmakers to obtain money for their projects and are usually unobtrusive. A spiffy new vehicle model here, a cereal box there…these things could plausibly just be regular props (but are not). It is not a stretch to use this method for webseries.
One recent development in this area is to make content featuring the brand and even incorporating it into the plot. While early attempts have been amateurish, such as the dreadful Woke Up Dead webseries that repeatedly refers to a specific Kodak video camera in the storyline, there is potential in this burgeoning advertainment medium if better quality stories are written.
Imagine a self-deprecating storyline about a college kid who downs gallons of Mountain Dew before a final and starts spazzing out from all the caffeine. I’d watch that, and probably get thirsty for some Mountain Dew and think they were cool for making fun of themselves.
Educate, inform and entertain.
There is a big difference between telling someone how great your product is and showing how it can solve their problems. Future marketing efforts might talk more about useful ways to use products to solve real-life problems instead of selling the product itself.
A clothes manufacturer could discuss how to pair clothes stylishly. A pet supply store might provide a series of articles on the pros and cons of vegan diets for dogs. See the difference?
Don’t forget the offer!
One last note: Engaging content might build raving fans, but these fans should have a way to interact via their wallets. In other words, they need an offer, even if it’s just to sign up for a newsletter which allows for more direct selling later on.
The key for marketers is to provide branded content that positions a company as an authority or otherwise valuable entity, and put the “offer” separate from the content itself, as overselling and branded content just don’t mix.