Branded Content & Seamless Journeys

To create great branded content you first have to realise that rather than creating promotional material to sell your products/services, you are actually creating an entirely new and separate product to add to your range; albeit a free one.

Why? The people in your target market only want to hear about how great your products/services are when they are in ‘buying mode’. The problem is that they are so bombarded with advertising that your window of opportunity while they are in buying mode is incredibly narrow.

The solution is therefore to engage potential customers with things they are interested in when they are not in buying mode. If you do that for free and you let your brand sit in the background you can maintain dialogue with your audience. If you manage to do it seamlessly across different channels you will create valuable ‘organic’ experiences that creep into previously off-limits areas within the consumer environment (i.e. when the consumer is in advertiser shut-out mode).

For many years the term branded content has been abused. It is bandied around by marketers wishing to tick a box on their ‘must-have’ to-do list but who don’t really understand what they are trying to achieve – so they simply force low quality content on people after slapping a logo on it. But branded content is finally maturing. Moving into 2014, brands need to think about these 4 things if they want their content to fulfill its true potential:

1. Targeting

You might think that branded death metal songs with wittily rewritten lyrics could form the core of a hilariously paradoxical marketing campaign. You may be right. But if you are selling over-60’s life insurance, chances are the target audience won’t find it as funny as you.

Ok, so that’s an obvious example. My point is that it’s important to come up with suitable creative ideas for branded content. The goal is to create something that your target market would genuinely want to consume even when they are not dwelling on the desires and needs satisfied by your core range of products/services; good enough that they might even pay for it, hypothetically speaking.

As branded content from your competitors becomes ever-more targeted, you will need to keep up.

2. Accountability

Who is in charge? What resource do they have?

One of the reasons why many marketers have struggled with branded content is that most of it has, historically, been produced as an after-thought or by loose arrangement between departments. Soon enough, branded content creation will require dedicated team members (or at least dedicated time in the diary); similar to the way social media marketing has evolved over the last few years.

There is much more at stake than relationships with customers who aren’t actively in buying mode. Successful content marketing presents fantastic social media opportunities, affects conversion rate and, in turn, affects SEO. After all, viral videos, memes, infographics, news stories and blogs (like this one) are all forms of branded content… they get shared and talked about, generating online activity which Google can pick up on.

3. Strategy

With so many marketing channels available, the key to success is efficient integration of the most effective channels; and different channels demand different media formats for content.

Online, offline, social, mobile, tablet, desktop, email, SMS – these are ideas and concepts that marketers and advertisers think about, not the members of the intended audience. They have a much simpler view of things: they expect to interact with you everywhere, they expect it to be seamless and they expect it to be good.

If all marketing consists of a brand telling a story to its customers, then one key to success is telling that story through integrated channels in such a way that the content actually becomes a part of the consumer’s environment rather than an intrusion into it. The goal is to distance yourself from the inherent distrust and wariness that all modern people harbour towards traditional advertising.

4. Tracking

Search and social, content marketing and lead nurturing, data and analytics – each one of these areas affects every other and they are steadily becoming a single entity. Since branded content is at its best when it seamlessly bridges multiple channels, the integration of data and profiling information will become paramount to monitoring effectiveness and staying efficient.

Following the advent of the smartphone, we saw a tide of ‘Big Data’ come in. Just dealing with such a large volume of new data posed many obstacles. The trick with branded content, however, is less about gathering new types of data and more about seeing the connections between different data-sets; understanding the transitions from one channel to another as consumers move ‘seamlessly’ through the story.

Creating branded content is not an entirely new concept. However, a great deal of subtlety is required for content to be ‘branded’ without being overly promotional and to be ‘everywhere’ without being intrusive. Therein lies the challenge.

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and digital strategy specialist. A Google certified SEO expert and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he has worked on award-winning campaigns since 2003.

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