Make Branded Content Great Again

Sit in on any presentation for a creative idea, media recommendation or publisher response and you are bound to hear the suggestion for some form of “branded content”.

And, it does make sense.

Why? For two main reasons.

1.    The “attention economy” made brand’s shift their focus from “disrupting what people were interested in to being what they were interested in”.

In essence, brands needed to redefine their remit from selling products to consumers to building their relevance with consumers through culture.

And so, a wealth of curated and created branded content was required to help give brands credibility in culture.

2.    In culture, society still has a growing thirst for content and knowledge (don’t believe the doomsayers when they suggest we have reached content saturation).

We are a society of knowledge gatherers who have a desire to be up-to-date and aware of what is happening, where and when.

“Binge watching” something has actually become an acceptable activity to engage in, if not desirable.

Content series, programs and online videos have become the new “watercooler” conversations.

Festivals are now in fact starting to showcase content rather than art or music! Check out the festival Video Junkee next year if you get the chance.

So, if people still want content, why does branded content need to change?

1.    Consumers demand more control

The dissemination of trust through digital media has empowered consumers to be more informed, educated and in control of how and what they decide to purchase.

In fact, JWT reported in their control shift report that 89% of consumers agree control is important to them.

And so, people are seeking out brands that provide them with “content” AND the ability for them to control their experience with it.

Essentially, an experience where the brand plays a supportive role through consumer relevant tools rather than a leading one through directive content.

2.    Consumers demand more value

With the amount of content now available, people expect more from content than just the words on a page, images in a video or sound in their ears.

They expect a level of personalization and intimacy where they can receive and learn something specifically relating to their own needs – and not those of others.

They are less willing to pay attention to generic information that is readily available. They want something in return for engaging in it.

The popularity and success of buzzfeed quizzes is a nice example of this.

So, how does branded content need to evolve?

The purpose of branded content must be re-defined from the provision of information for consumption to the development of experiences for interaction.

It needs to become more interactive.

Essentially, plan and create branded content for two-way communication, not just one-way messaging.

Dentsu X aptly captured this sentiment at a higher level stating their “X” stands for “experience over exposure”.

“Experience over exposure”, exactly how branded content needs to evolve.

How can brands start creating interactive branded content?

Assessments, surveys and quizzes, calculators, self-directed videos and conversational technology are the “tried and tested” and most readily utilized formats for interactive content.

And, it would make sense to start straight away given the content marketing institute recently found interactive content is more attention grabbing and enhances retention of brand message far more effectively than static content.

But, be careful. Too often brands focus more on the interactive element of content rather than the real purpose for it. It becomes “cool for cool sake” rather than “built for purpose”.

So, to avoid falling into this trap – and maximize the return on your investment in interactive content – keep these five tips top of mind.

1.    Know what phase of the journey you are trying to influence

While interactive content drives better results across the entire consumer journey, certain stages offer more value and “bang for buck”.

Many marketers would believe the objective of interactive content is to drive engagement.

But, myth busted.

The content marketing institute found 75% of content marketers agreed content should be used for “education” compared to 59% for “engagement”.

Interactive content is more likely to be effective at the pointy end of the funnel when aiding consumers in the decision making process.

2.    Know what interactive functionality is most effective in driving consumer response based on your objective

Different interactive content formats have more impact and influence depending on what the consumer is seeking from the brand at a certain point in their purchase journey.

At the awareness stage of the journey, gamified content and contests are more effective at eliciting consumer responses.

Conversely, calculators and dense content like ebooks are much more impactful and preferred for consumers when considering and researching options.

3.    Build for your brand first and campaigns second

Longevity of interactive content is important given the higher outlay – in both time and money – for production.

It’s established in content marketing – but it’s especially true with interactive content – quality is more important than quantity.

So, take the time to identify the pain points consumers may have with brand interactions – or opportunities for “surprise and delight” – and build interactive content in these spaces first.

Focus on the consideration and research stage of the consumer journey first and then consider how you can build some “cool gamified content” to drive engagement and likeability with the brand or specific campaigns.

4.    Be entertaining for them, offering utility can only get you so far

Understand your target market – who will be interacting and engaging with your content – to frame your conversation in a way that is relevant to them.

Building interactive opportunities is not enough – even if it does provide some form of valuable utility.

Build with your consumers always in mind and have fun with it!

5.    Amplify awareness of your interactive content through paid media

It takes time to create unique content, let alone that with interactive capabilities.

So, promote it!

Use paid media to push traffic to the interactive content.

Or better yet, build interactive content with the consideration of how it could live off platform.

That’s right, interactive advertising.

A final thought…

The increasing availability of content and consumer expectations from it are making it more difficult for brands to cut through the clutter with their own content.

And so, branded content as we know it must evolve with the growing demands of society and culture.

Interactive content represents a great opportunity for brands to stand out and offer value for attention in a way that benefits both the brand and consumer.

So, build for interactivity now, or risk becoming part of the clutter.