2013 guide to branded content image

Defining Your Business: The 2013 Guide to Branded Content

Every day people consume content in the form of articles, videos, tweets, TV commercials, and more to learn about the world around them, not often aware that some of this content is coming from their favorite brands and businesses. People love to hear stories that match their interests that are relatable or even spur emotions. Quite often a consumer will listen, read, or watch a story about a business and its offerings because the content is just that good even if it’s subliminally advertising something about a particular company.

Studies show that branded content observed under certain circumstances is preferred by a majority of consumers over more traditional content like a press release or an advertorial. According to the Custom Content Council, 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content; they are also more likely to buy from that company.

It’s critical to create content on behalf of your business that captures the interest of your customers overtime to build a relationship with them, as opposed to trying to force the sale of your products or services.

Creating branded content is a marketing tactic that’s been around for decades, yet has become even more necessary in recent years due to the changing social, mobile, and digital landscape around us. To reach your customers effectively, create a strategy around developing branded content that matches the interests and needs of consumers at every stage of the purchasing funnel.

Where to Start: Define Your Voice and Determine Your Audience

From the very beginning, define what your unique voice is as a business and what audience you’ll be communicating with. These two factors will help direct all of your content efforts for the future. Draft a concise style guide that defines how your business wants to present itself, what topics it should discuss, what structure or tone should be used in all your content, what topics not to cover, how your unique voice will drive sales from your content, and more.

This style guide will act as a checklist for anyone at your company to follow and uphold as they create content on the behalf of the organization. A guide like this is necessary to ensure that consistency, accuracy, and value is present in all of the branded content created for your company.

For further help defining your unique voice, create an interest graph to map out what type of interest define your business. Define what music, colors, activities, feelings, books, celebrities, people, and other specific aspects of human culture that do and do not make up the interests of your business. This interest graph will also help shape what type of audience you’re developing content.

Second to defining your voice, it’s beneficial to identify who your audience is and what type of content would be most engaging for them. For example, if your audience is younger, your approach to branded content might be more heavily focused on micro-content on mobile social networks as opposed to developing lengthy TV commercials or YouTube videos. Understanding the demographics of your audience is essential to accurately informing what series of content will be a success for your business.

The best part about your audience is that it develops with your business as it grows, providing feedback about what they like and do not like, better informing accurate content creation efforts for the future.

Choose the Format of Your Branded Content

Branded content often resonates well with your audience because it’s personalized to match their niche interests and preferences. The type of content your business decides to create is important because it needs to match the voice of your business and the preferences of your audience or it won’t be effective.

Structure the development and distribution of your content marketing based on different series of content, similar to the idea of a television series that consistently airs at the same time once or twice a week to help build rapport with its viewers. By following the TV programming model you can help teach your existing and potential customers to expect certain forms of content from your business at a specific frequency.

The branded content your company develops could come in the form of TV, videos, print, articles, blogging, eBooks, catalogue, iPad magazine, tweets, Vines, and more, all dependent on what will work with your audience or not. Curating the content of others is one format of branded content that works for some businesses, but not for others. It is all about finding what type of content works well for your organization distributed on certain channels. The content must suit the channel and vice versa, helping to define what different formats of content work best for your business.

By defining who your audience is from the beginning you’ll be able to make educated decisions on what types of content will work for your business. However, it’s important to remain flexible with your approach because some types of content will resonate and others won’t, it just depends on how often you’re willing to experiment with your audience and trying to find new ways to engage them with content.

Focus on How to Distribute This Content in 3, 6, and 12 Months

The attention of online audiences today is always changing, which is why it’s important to consistently stay ahead of the curve by experimenting with different channels of distribution for your content. One day your customers could be reading your iPad magazine religiously and then the next day, they could be spending most of their time on a free mobile-first social network instead. Changes like this occur all the time, forcing your business to remain agile and flexible in terms of what types of content you’re will to create and invest in for both the short term and long term.

Forget the idea of marketing campaigns, since it is often associated with more traditional advertising and doesn’t quite match the nature of today’s media landscape. Campaigns are typically a one off marketing activation centered on a particular theme, holiday or event, which don’t often have the same impact as they once did. The creation of branded content today should instead be a focus of your entire organization and this focus should be happening all year long.

The content you’ve spent time developing to match your brand’s values, the interests of your audience and the format the best suits it’s spread online should be carefully distributed to ensure no quality content goes to waste year round. Establish a three, six and twelve month distribution schedule that clearly defines what content will be shared on what channel and when. This plan should also feature how the distribution of content will improve across each time interval to become more efficient, engaging and impactful for your business.

For example, if you plan to publish 10 YouTube videos and 6 blog posts by the end of the three months on behalf of your business, then look to raise your goal after six months to 12 YouTube video and eight blog posts accordingly. Consistently pushing your content efforts to the next level to achieve quality content at scale is important to ensure your business remains relevant regardless of the changes in the marketplace. Creating branded content is only half the effort, which is why it is so important to not only focus on the editorial aspect of your content, but on the marketing strategy of that content as well.

Draw Inspiration from Others: Red Bull, General Mills & NET-A-PORTER

It’s always informative to look at what other competitors are doing inside and outside of your industry to get inspiration, learn from their mistakes and see what type of content is working to reach their customers. Red Bull is always referenced as the king of branded content because they are a content first organization, creating and sharing a large quantity of original branded content with every event, action, product launch or moment occurring across the company all year long.

The Red Bull Bulletin is the company’s print and iPad magazine featuring action, sports, travel, arts and music related to the interests of their customers. They don’t often mention or show their actual product in the publication, but instead use this form of content to build an ongoing dialogue with their audience around the shared interests of the company and its customers. Analyze their approach to branded content to find ways to emulate the quantity and quality of their content creation efforts on an ongoing basis.

General Mills is the parent company to many brands, most of which are seasoned professionals in the world of branded content. Pillsbury and BettyCrocker are two brands of General Mills that create and execute quality food related content on a regular basis to build more engagement around their products and pull in other revenue stream from display advertising on these properties using their publisher network Platefull. The content present on these blogs are heavily focused on food, recipes and more, which is perfectly suited for their audiences. Take note of General Mills’ curiosity and dedication to experimentation that they have demonstrated by locating another source of revenue from their branded content efforts on their own brand websites.

What are some of your biggest obstacles when creating branded content for your business? Would you agree that getting started with content is half the battle? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Updated November 17, 2017.