It was 1 in the morning and wifey, then pregnant with our first child, was busy with her iPad reading page after page after page about what to expect on when you’re pregnant. I snooped in and observed the pages she was reading and I noticed something: every ad that I saw was from Johnson and Johnson. Suddenly, my brain juices were triggered.
The website she was browsing through was BabyCenter Philippines. The first thing I asked myself was “Was this just a remarketing ad from Google adwords?” But no, every Johnson and Johnson impression was a banner ad located on different pages. I went to my PC and checked if there were other ads from other companies but all are from J&J.
Now I wondered, who owns BabyCenter.Com? I checked some more and found out it was J&J. The website was branded and designed to publish content about pregnancy, baby, and parenting. Johnson and Johnson is practicing Branded Content Marketing.
What is Branded Content?
Branded content is content sponsored and/or produced by one entity or brand, as opposed to generic content riddled with a plethora of sponsors and advertisers. A sponsor collaborate with content producers to bring forth a creative idea and “sell” it to the consumers in a form that they want it. In the early 1900s, radio programs were sponsored by soap companies to connect with their audience (hence “soap operas”). This was their way of reaching out to their consumers.
With branded content, what J&J (and companies like them) achieved was to create a website with quality content which are relevant to their target audience. The upside is that it’s relevant to their products too. It has been proven that when a piece of content is well-written, educates, entertains and informs, visitors will keep on coming back for more. The sponsoring company does not need to buy media; instead, they create it themselves.
What is the Branded Content’s Approach?
“A successful branded content interconnects people stories to product stories in a very organic way.”
Traditional marketing is always based on features, benefits and unique selling proposition. You find the distinct parts of your product and connect that to the consumers. Branded content marketing is doing the reverse of traditional marketing. You first identify the passion point of your target market and connect to their stories first. The integration of currently existing content format and new content creation format are prioritized in the eyes of your target audience. The reason is that:
“Traditional advertising is all about product stories while content is all about people stories”
There are many known companies that practice content marketing. Here are some of them:
1. Johnson and Johnson
2. American Express
3. America Online (AOL)
4. United States Postal Service
5. General Electric
Other Examples of Branded Content Marketing?
Videos are one of the most appealing to the audience. They’re visual and have an inherent viral capability in nature.
1. Red Bull has one of the most successful branded video that has gone viral. It got 21, 559, 684 views!
2. Sony Ericsson launched a 9-part series and award-winning campaign called “Who is Johnny X.” In each episode, Johnny X would use his Sony Ericsson Xperia mobile phone to connect together the puzzle of his life after he was kidnapped.
What did Johnson & Johnson do that other retailers can learn from?
1. They targeted a wide range of audience who can ensure loyalty.
Branded content aims for impressions. Retailers like Johnson & Johnson can educate their target audience by giving answers to their questions and providing solutions to their problems.
2. They provided tools for their audience.
Tools that are useful for the users are easily recommended to peers.
3. They gave away freebies which was very good for lead generation.
Give something first before getting. This reciprocal process is building relationships to your audience.
4. They helped clear their audience’s confusions and questions.
Answering their most pressing questions builds trust and loyalty.
5. They became relevant.
Take note of the seasons or other issues that are relevant to their needs. Be generous to give relevant answers to timely issues.
6. They got other experts on the field to partner with them.
This will add trust to your content as you build thought leadership.
7. They sent targeted emails.
They were able to do this through the forms that they used for the subscription area.
8. They ensured that even the ads were relevant.
Don’t just blast them with your product promotions; be relevant even in your ads. If you don’t, you will interrupt their navigation experience.
What are the advantages of Branded Content?
1. You can develop a deeper understanding of your target audience.
You will get a good grasp on their behavior as they navigate on your website. You’ll be able to gather a lot of data for keywords that they type in looking for answers for their question and what attracts them to your site. You will know the types of articles that they read and what kind of content drives conversions. These kinds of data are really a gold mine for your business even if you are already an expert in your niche. Write evergreen content that can grow your business.
2. You’ll be able to implement flexibility in your marketing campaign.
Traditional kind of marketing is very stiff and follows certain kind of rules. Branded content marketing gives you the flexibility on experimenting with your funnels and channels. It lets you test which one is best for your audience as well as your business. You can run out-of-the-box ideas and become remarkable in your audience.
3. You will be able to build trust.
Nobody wants to be sold to but when you build trust with your audience, they can become advocates for your brand. Since branded content is highly contextual in nature, it’s easier to build relationship with your audience.
4. You will have an easier time in distributing your articles.
Brand advocates love their products, and when that happens you’ll find that your content will be easily shared in social media. Your content will have a higher chance to get viral. You don’t even have to nudge them; they’ll do the work for you. They become your advocates because you’ve connected their stories to your products or services through your content.
5. Brand loyalty and customer retention is increased.
When you are in the process of attracting possible brand advocates, you want your audience to stay. Since they know that you’re not only after their pockets but you continuously engage with them and connect with them using all the digital media available, they stay with your brand. They would even defend your brand.
6. Search visibility is increased and maintained.
With the advent of search spam pursuit, search engine giants like Google is on your side. They want quality and engaging content to provide the searchers. If yours connects to your audience’s stories, you will be rewarded with more audience who needs your content by search engines.
7. Cross-media opportunities may arise.
Not only will you get visibility through your website’s blog but other platform opportunities will arise. You may want to take advantage of videos, podcasts, mobile, book, magazine, or video games to increase your brand visibility.
Quick Action Guide For Branded Content Marketing
Creating branded content strategy is not static. It is very dynamic that every aspect is moving: from brainstorming, editorial calendar creation, targeting your desired audience, content creation, content governance, content distribution and sharing encouragement and measuring results. A clear plan must be laid in the table for effectiveness in your launching, analytics, and monetizing your branded content marketing program. This will help you engage your customers to become evangelists and repeat customers.
1. Who are your target audience?
What group people are most likely to relate your content as well as your product? Defining your audience can help you align your content strategy on what to write. You may also check how your competitors are doing. You may listen to the latest news in your industry, social media trends and what people are writing about in the blogosphere in your niche.
Don’t forget to define the substance of your content. What kind of content you need and why you want to write them. Determining the messaging of your content is also very important. What is the key message of your content? What do you want your audience to remember at the end of the day? Always invest for quality content.
2. Think like a publisher.
You are not an advertiser. An advertiser disrupts but a publisher educates and connects in a two way communication. Don’t put too much emphasis on your brand. The goal is to engage your visitors and in due time, your brand will get the proper recognition. Always put value in your content. To be accurate, content is not king but value is. It’s not enough to have content that is readable and no grammar mistakes. What matters is the substance of the content. What’s in it for your visitors? What value will they get?
3. Distribute your content.
Explore all possibilities where you can distribute your content. Check where your audience is hanging around most of the times. Bring your content to them and you will see how fast they will consume your content. A lot of these channels are free like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube and forums.
4. Engage the influencers.
By engaging the influencers in your industry, your branded content will easily be shared. Don’t think that these influencers are your competitors. Treat them as your allies. Look for other experts in your niche and partner with them just like what J&J did above.
5. Don’t forget to measure.
Without measuring your efforts will not lead to a successful campaign. Keep the scoreboard up. Measure the value of every content that you publish. Check the traffic that the your content is driving to your site. Check the visitors flow and where they exit. Check what content brings conversions.
I couldn’t emphasize more on measuring your content results. This may sound simple but it isn’t. You have to measure practically everything in your campaign. With a lot of data, your analytics maybe very daunting to many but there is a solution. Establish KPIs, key performance indicators to accurately measure your efforts based on your goals.
Do you have questions with regard to branded content?