It's the latest craze, the emerging brand-sponsored content site where companies pump out content off of their corporate website with the hopes of connecting to their target consumer in a way that doesn't feel "Salesy."
Visit sites like Forbes or Inc. and find brand sponsored content from global companies like SAP, Disney and EMC where the line between the pieces being native and advertisements is so thin that it could slide under a closed door.
This trend doesn't root in hunches or guesses, it roots in truth; People trust content when it informs and educates and that is what these brands are doing, only they are doing it so intelligently that they have created the newest form of media company...
"The Branded Media Company"
While the first to jump onto the brand media train were companies like Coke, American Express and Proctor and Gamble, marketers at companies from Inc. 5000 to Fortune 500 have seen the trend and followed suit under the notion that corporate websites as we know them are a dying breed and people want to date your brand before they marry it.
Consider the way we buy. Knowing that trust is the biggest factor in driving an online buyer from interested to customer, brands have been trying to find a way to infuse trust in the consumer in a way that is non-intrusive and moreover helpful.
If you go to American Express Open Forum you can gain advice as a small business owner on everything from human resources to finance to sales and marketing. Jump over to the SAP Innovation blog and learn about employee engagement, software, business and leadership. While both of these examples produce content that are peripherally related to what these brands sell, what these sites really accomplish is they aggregate meaningful content and provide the reader a single place to consume.
The magic is what happens next. If a reader spends substantial time on the site they begin to build intimacy with the brand and when a purchase is needed to be made of a service that one of these brands offer, guess who comes to mind?
Think of it this way, Open Forum produces content for Small Business Owners. Now, who are the people that need credit cards to run their businesses?
But it goes farther, companies like Red Bull create more content than Disney and they literally take their content efforts to a place where their identity, community and brand are in perfect alignment. When you think of Red Bull, what do you think about?
Extreme Sports, Young Entertainers and Cool Events? That is what they want you to think about. They have taken content consumption to the point where we don't even know we are consuming, but we are.
Moving From Big Brands To All Brands
For many brands the idea of being able to spend infinitely to build owned communities just isn't feasible. We all have constraints and our budgets, resources and capabilities all vary, but the idea of the branded media company says something about what the future of marketing and advertising will look like. It will be very different.
As reported rates of trust in traditional advertising continue to sink to levels well below 50 percent, brands are going to continue to invest in channels that increase trust. This means we will see more informative content and very likely more influencer driven content where brands seek out persons that already have the trust of a certain audience type. This method which has seen an influx of activity in the past two years will also require evolution as more people begin to see gaps between influence and money.
The brands that will most easily connect to their community will recognize the role of content as a tool to build much needed trust that is required for a consumer to connect closely to a brand. The more important for a brand that they have advocacy, the more important that a high level of trust exists, and that trust comes from what?
Teach The World, Tell The Story, Make It Compelling
What we have gained clarity on is that there is a finite alignment between a brands vision, its message and the way it delivers content.
The companies that are making the media play well are utilizing content platforms with a community focused approach; if you note what Red Bull does you will see that they almost never try to sell you Red Bull, yet they've become a household name in just about every half-pipe and dance club across the planet.
However, what they did in terms of content, alignment and delivery was just a scaled up version of what any brand can do.
First thing to ask is how is the content that your brand is creating adding to the sum of knowledge in your industry? Do you educate, inform and inspire your current and prospective clients beyond what is already widely available? How do you make your content useful and exciting? More of the same is just that, and imitation may be a form of flattery, but it isn't a great way to build advocacy!
Next, make your efforts in the form of a story. People connect to what they can see and even if it is the written word, what kind of picture do you paint? In a very, very cluttered world do you tell a story that paints a picture? Think about the best articles you read vs. everything else, what sets them apart? Often a good story creates the visualization needed for the reader to connect.
Last and perhaps the most often missed part of media from brands is finding what is compelling. What makes the reader want to take action? This can be an inch or a foot, but driving the reader directionally closer to your brand should always be the goal. When content educates and informs it moves inches, which is good, but when it is really compelling it builds advocacy, which is rocket fuel for brands.
The Brands Of Today Are Media Of Tomorrow
The line will only get smaller between the brand, the media and the consumer and that isn't necessarily a bad thing since the consumers will have choices and those that not only have the biggest budget, but also best execute will have the chance to stand out.
To educate, tell your story and be compelling you don't have to cast a net to blanket the oceans, but really just sprinkle salt over your audience. Once they can see that you are there and committed to helping them in a meaningful way, advocacy (real influence) is born; this is where the best will separate from the rest.
Welcome to today, a world where Brands and Media Companies aspire to inspire...