f you clicked on a post with the title 'What is branded content', I'm assuming that you have little knowledge into this area of the marketing spectrum and are looking into whether this would be worth investing budget towards. Should my assumptions be correct, you are in the right place. Spend just 6 minutes of your time here and you will leave with further clarity that will help make decisions on whether to action on this.
With all of the different mediums available in the digital advertising space: Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Pinterest Ads, Reddit Ads, Snapchat Ads, Programmatic Ads... capturing the attention of potential customers is becoming very fragmented and requiring increased sophistication. Also, through the presence of competition from other companies, it is becoming more expensive. This results in margins being squeezed and ROI found much further down the line.
Platforms are doing an excellent job of attracting users to their products, collecting data that is useful to enable advertisers to showcase creative to those who will be more receptive to their offerings. This contrasts traditional methods like TV that enable you to reach a broad range of people with information being inferred by details like the time of day, what programmes they are watching etc. However, with people being inundated with messages from various brands all using the same (or similar) data, effectiveness is also wearing off slightly.
This leads advertisers to look for new methods and strategies to reach their target audience. How amazing would it be to have these potential consumers gravitating towards you, seeking out your brand, instead of continuously chasing them around the internet hoping to catch their attention?
This is the power of branded content, which I'm going to focus on; running you through exactly what it is, who is involved, where it is distributed and how you can start building a strategy involving it.
Part 1: What Is It?
Simply put, branded content is the art of creating video content linked to a brand that consumers will watch voluntarily. This is different to advertising as it is opt-in, with people choosing to consume the content and brands messaging rather than being subjected to it - like a mid-roll ad.
A key component of branded content is that it will add value to the viewer, instead of trying to extract something valuable from them, time or money. The intention is that after giving value to the audience, they will be much more receptive to future messages, or even take the time to learn more about the brand and begin the relationship.
As this can often be a difficult concept to imagine without visual stimulation, let's check out an example:
Red Bull have pioneered the branded content space for over a decade, consistently putting out videos featuring their athletes pushing the limits of extreme. The result? They have stapled themselves at the pinnacle of extreme sport. They say their energy drinks will 'Give You Wings' and through their videos are following through, pushing boundaries and doing what seems impossible.
Even if you do not have the budgets to pull off high quality productions like this, there are still ways for you to attract the attention of your target audience through interesting video concepts, which we will share with you.
Part 2: Why is it important?
With the development of the internet, and platforms like Shopify, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and others, it has never been easier to start a brand and get your products in front of people. However, this also means that it is easier to find competition who are trying to push similar products to the same group of potential customers. You need a differentiating factor. If you just rely on outspending and A/B testing ad copy, you will quickly find yourself in an unprofitable downward spiral.
The difference is your relevance in the eyes of potential consumers, having content that they naturally gravitate towards and feel obliged to share with their friends/family.
Part 3: Who should it feature?
Branded content should feature people, or themes that are highly representative to the overall nature of your brand. Think back to earlier in this article when I mentioned Red Bull, they align themselves with extreme sports and their videos always feature athletes in this space. People gravitate towards other people, this is why we "celebrity" as a concept exists. Whether as inspiration or through admiration, people are intent on following and staying updated with those they follow.
Here is another example, Nike. There are many sporting apparel companies out there, however, Nike are by far the biggest because of how they have made sure to associate themselves to the pinnacle of sport. By aligning themselves with star athletes across different sports, like Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, they ensure that they are present in all of the big moments. The extreme highs and lows and timeless highlight reels.
I like to go for broad examples like sport because the mass appeal should enable pretty much everyone to understand the concept. However, these new social platforms have enabled people to gain followings in more targeted niches. Now you have access to people within niches like beauty, fashion, fitness, food, tech... all who have been able to accumulate millions of followers and subscribers due to the engaging content that they have been producing - at a fraction of Nike or Red Bull's budgets.
Once you find these 'influencers' that align with your brand, you should work together to provide value to their audience in a way that also allows you the opportunity to showcase your brand.
Part 4: Where would I distribute it?
We've reached a point of maturity on the platforms where we see massive scale. Instagram has over 1 billion users now. YouTube has over 2 billion users. Snapchat has around 229 million daily users. The eyeballs and attention of potential customers lie within these platforms, it's just about finding the way to engage them.
The good thing about working with people who have already accumulated a following is that you can tap into their network for either distribution or amplification. We believe that all brands should have their own channel on a platform like YouTube, however, if you do not necessarily want to invest heavily into building your own base, you can always have the content distributed either by the creators you are working with, a publisher or similar.
Instagram also lets advertisers boost organic posts, which means that you can amplify the effects of your content and ensure it reaches the right people.
Part 5: How do I start?
First, you need to identify exactly who you're looking to reach and engage with your content. How old are they? What are they interested in? What are their viewing habits? Then you need to find people they align with, this will make it much easier to lower the barrier between them consuming content from a different source, because it will have the familiarity and draw due to the presence of someone they've followed for a while.
The most difficult thing is actually coming up with the concept of what will actually be shown in the content. We know the power of video, with increased engagement and focus needed to consume compared to more passive formats like still image. However, you get it wrong and have people feeling like they wasted their time, or the content is way too inauthentic, then people will voice their opinions. Therefore, it is crucial to navigate this area properly and create something meaningful.
You also need to understand the distribution process. Are you just going to put it out and see what happens, leave it to chance? Or are you going to throw out short teasers to build anticipation? Once it is out, are you going to extract the best moments and throw those out as short clips? Are you going to put paid support to ensure it reaches the right audience?
Lastly, you will need to put processes in place to analyse the results of your videos. Did I manage to engage my target audience? How are people reacting to it? What are they doing afterwards?
These are all questions that need to be tackled.
Here are a few good examples of brands who are investing in branded content:
The examples show how brands have the opportunity to produce engaging video content that has people gravitate towards you, rather than endlessly chasing them around the internet. (Tip: If you do have them watch a video of yours, it makes it much easier to put them in a retargeting pool to continue that chase 😉)
Some question the financial commitment to producing this type of branded video content, however, technology has made the cost of producing video much less expensive. The real question is, how long can you afford not to?
Millennials are increasingly less receptive to digital ads, and spending time on watching videos on platforms like YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ where ads aren’t a prevalent part of the viewing experience. At Limitless, we give brands a competitive advantage by aligning the goals of your organisation to the viewing behaviours of your customers - creating exceptional digital experiences through YouTube.
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