The rise of digital has created opportunity and complexity for brands in equal measure, with opportunity stemming from the ability to reach more of the right people more effectively, yet complexity coming from getting those people to listen.

Users now expect uninterrupted individual experiences online, driven by increased choice in what they see and when 22% of UK internet users use ad blockers, while those that don’t only recall 1% of digital ads served to them, a clear statistical indication that ads no longer deliver the powerful impact for brands that they used to just a few years ago.

As a result, many are turning to branded content as an alternative; from sponsored social media posts with credible influencers, to viral story-led videos, brands are having to think differently to get noticed.

What Is Branded Content?

Branded content is advertising that uses content to promote a product or service. The aim of branded content is simple; to drive a brand message organically through quality, original content that users want to engage with and share. It’s specifically designed to resonate with the audience on an emotional level, through tapping into their hearts and minds, creating a story that can then be linked to a product or service. It’s the reverse of the process used for traditional advertising that starts with the product, and highlights the features and benefits within the product story.

Branded content: The Stats

  • 90% of people prefer customised engaging content from brands rather than traditional ads.
  • 66% of people have greater trust in custom branded content over traditional advertising.

What Makes Great Branded Content?

Rule 1: Keep It Entertaining

Academic of format chosen, the content has to be immediately engaging to the user. So, thought-provoking rather than salesy, evoking emotive user responses.

Rule 2: Make Sure It’s Not Product Led

Branded content has to sell the concept, not the product, focusing on the story and the execution of the story, rather than the product.

Rule 3: Know Your Audience

The content must speak to your audience in a way they would expect, through carefully chosen tone and style, to achieve the intended emotive response.

Rule 4: Be Proactive

  • People trust people, not brands. Identify credible influencers with whom you can activate a partnership and reach more people. Quality content takes a long time to produce, so make sure it gets the eyeballs it deserves.
  • Make sure any assets have your brand logo on, especially if shared on social media. It’s simple to do and ensures brand recognition, no matter where the asset is shared. It’s not just logo-slapping though; the content needs to be original and valuable to your audience, or the presence of your logo will do more harm than good.
  • Involve yourself in social conversations. Create a hashtag and drive the story to your audience. Don’t sit back and hope it happens, make it happen.

Examples Of Great Branded Content

      1. Video: John Lewis – Annual Christmas Story
        The John Lewis Christmas campaign has become as much a part of Christmas as mulled wine and mince pies. The entire nation waits with baited breath for the seasonal tales of festive joy released every November, and it’s one of the best examples of branded content marketing; it gets people talking, it gets people engaged, and it goes viral every year.
        https://www.johnlewis.com/christmas-advert
      2. Interactive Online Content: Leeds Building Society – Kick My Habits
        This interactive piece of content was designed to help people understand the cost of their bad habits. It’s a great example of a brand understanding their target audience, considering the objective was to encourage saving, feeding directly into the purpose of Leeds Building Society.
        http://www.leedsbuildingsociety.co.uk/resources/kick-my-habits/
      3. Video: Dove – Real Beauty Campaign
        Ignoring the recent faux-pas committed by Dove in its recent annual release of the Real Beauty campaign, they’re usually pretty good at getting branded content right. The Real Beauty campaign from 2013 was the most watch branded piece of content online from 2013 with 170 million views on YouTube, and the third most shared brand video in the same year. The video says nothing about the product, but got the world talking about beauty, allowing Dove to sit at the epicentre of the conversation.

      Consumer intelligence towards brands has increased. Gone are the days where the brand that shouts the loudest, is rewarded with the biggest wins. Now to grab consumer attention, brands have to be engaging with thought-provoking stories, if they want their voice to be heard.