We live in an era of transformation for marketing and communication. Models that until a few years ago seemed the only ones possible now seem insufficient or even inadequate. We live in times of Permission Marketing, which, unlike Interruption Marketing (e.g., TV commercials), does not intrude into people’s activities (thus becoming an harassment), but enables those who are interested to approach the company and what it offers naturally, without being forced.
In this context, content takes the lion’s share. If content marketing is the talk of all the experts, it is because it works. People appreciate useful and entertaining content, and brands know that good content carries engagement. In the context of a content marketing strategy, branded content also finds space.
Let’s start from the definition: branded content is original content related to the values of a brand, capable of entertaining, informing and creating engagement. It must be content that the target audience is happy to see and share without being forced to do so.
Articles, web series, videos, shorts, infographics, cartoons: branded content can take any form; the important thing is that it captures people’s attention. The preparatory work is very important: to produce the right content, a strategic study of the target is essential to identify what will work and what will not. Set in a well-designed marketing strategy, branded content is very effective.
Before deciding on form and content, a marketing department must thoroughly analyse the objectives to be achieved, then ask itself what will work and where—a video content or an editorial, a web series or a series of infographics?—and through what media to convey them (for example, whether it is more suited to Facebook or Linkedin).
In addition, if the content does not “speak” with the same voice as the brand, it is useless, if not harmful.
Equally important is the data analysis: a content can be made with care, but if the data tell us that it does not work, it means that it is unsuitable to our target, and we have to try something else.
Many large companies have successfully tested branded content. Let’s see some examples.
Dove, the New York Times, Lego: great examples of branded content
The beautiful Dove Real Beauty campaign dates back to 2013. Research revealed to the management of the well-known cosmetic brand that only 4% of women considered themselves “beautiful”: based on the research, the campaign was aimed at testing the difference between reality and its perception. The video showed some women describe themselves to an artist who was drawing their portraits: the same artist then drew the protagonists’ portraits again based upon the descriptions given by a stranger. The result? 170 million views on YouTube, and a huge return for the Unilever group’s brand.
What can be said about Lego? With its videogames and its movie, the most famous brand of toy building bricks in the world knows only too well how profitable branded content is when it is done well. The Lego Movie grossed well and was nominated for prestigious awards: a spin-off focusing on the figure of Batman is expected in 2017.
We conclude this brief with the New York Times, which recently acquired the Fake Love marketing agency, which specializes in branded content. This comes as no surprise: the NYT has long believed in branded content. Last March, it also acquired the Hello Society agency, specializing in influencer marketing, which leverages influencers to create engagement around specific content.
Small and large companies, therefore, have chosen and will continue to choose branded content to create engagement around their brands and turn prospects into customers.