MANILA, December 10, 2012 – The fiscal health of the US economy continues to push business owners to explore creative avenues not only to survive, but more importantly, to thrive. In light of high unemployment and bankruptcy rates, a proper marketing strategy then becomes vital to gain the confidence of careful consumers and maintain the inflow of clients.
With the Internet changing the landscape of information sharing, individuals, organization/business owners, and even politicians now see the potential of marrying the elements of online marketing strategies with the traditional ones. This where branded content marketing comes in.
Branded content marketing is defined as “content sponsored and/or produced by one entity or brand, as opposed to generic content riddled with a plethora of sponsors and advertisers.”
Compared to traditional marketing ploys (e.g., TV ads) that are by and large intrusive, branded content marketing is more subtle by nature. It goes down to the level of the consumer by providing information they actually need—not the usual content focused on the organization/business itself (e.g., newsletters, reports), but on what the target market would look for in that particular niche.
This is a growing trend nowadays. In fact, even President Barack Obama in his recent re-election campaign, as well as other large businesses (Johnson & Johnson, Red Bull, General Electronics, etc.), have already employed this kind of strategy effectively.
With Google and other major commercial search engines constantly improving their algorithms in pursuit of quality content, branded content provides a viable opportunity for business owners to give their customers an innovative way to patronize their products and/or services.
Branded Content in the Business and Political Sectors: Is it effective?
The branded content approach in the digital world is fairly new. However, it traces its roots back to the entertainment industry, circa 1920-1950, when soap companies sponsored numerous programs aired on what was, at that time, the hot new medium of radio. From then on, the success of this approach has trickled down to the way it’s currently conducted via television and other media streams.
Branded content marketing proves beneficial for business owners primarily in the process of building relationships with current and potential customers.
Think about it: when a particular website provides informative and high-quality articles in a given niche—say, pregnancy and baby-related topics (as is the case with Johnson & Johnson’s sponsored websites)—chances are high that the reader would bookmark that website for future reference. Trust is built, and there is also an increase in the probability of customer loyalty and referrals.
Business owners who effectively employ this strategy can potentially tap into the high number of active American Internet users. An August 2012 study conducted by Pew Internet showed that 85% of American adults (18 and older) use the Internet.
Additionally, by surveying the activities of American Internet users in February 2012, Pew Internet also found out that 91% of their sample used search engines to look for information. Since Google favors quality content, you can use this to your advantage by employing a variety of techniques to to assure a high-ranking on the Google search engine results page and becoming the top go-to source in your product niche.
Branded content is not only confined within the boundaries of the business sector. During the recent US elections, politicians also used this strategy through various social platforms and websites.
Obama’s campaign for re-election led the race for branded content on the political marketing front . Barackobama.com was and is a powerful tool in the President’s online marketing strategy, since it provides the general American population with politically oriented tools used to investigate topics in various sectors such as healthcare, employment, women’s issues, voting, and many others.
However, whether his online visibility proved to be a tipping point toward winning his second term as president still remains to be seen until the data can be further analyzed.
The Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA) maintains that there is no “universally accepted methodology” that would evaluate this particular strategy. There are only studies customized to answer the questions of a particular organization or company. BCMA did, however, came out with an evaluation system aimed to be an all-inclusive measurement for assessing branded content marketing.
Interestingly, a study conducted by Content Marketing Institute in July 2012 illustrated the two sides of the coin in branded content marketing. Results showed that Americans are receptive to the concept of credible branded content online—seeing websites sponsored by businesses, politicians, etc. However, branded content websites have low credibility compared to other digital sources (e.g., big and niche media).
Adopting This Strategy
In this industry, a single click on social share buttons would mean tapping into the network of one user and so on. This opens the way for word-of-mouth marketing through viral content. When a business applies this technique, quality content then becomes a chief requirement.
Hence, venturing into this strategy requires:
- 1. Relevant Content
Similar to traditional marketing, research should also be done regarding the behavioral patterns of the target audience. That way, you will be able to come up with content that is highly relevant to how they conduct certain day-to-day activities. Even ads posted on the website should be in line with the customers’ needs. Take note that the operative term here is “valuable content.”
More than the articles and videos, however, there should also be tools that the readers will be able to use and refer or recommend to others. For instance, Obama’s website provides a link for readers to find everything they need to know regarding the voting mechanics in their respective states—how to register, specific local requirements, and so forth.
- 2. Credibility.
Increasing your credibility would require transparency concerning who you are as well as specific information on your sponsored site. Make it clear that you are behind a particular website. That way, you are giving the readers the power to discern whether they should trust your content or not.
Credibility also entails providing well-researched content based on facts of other credible sources, such as the government, third-party research bodies and experts.
As the year ends and with the U.S. elections just concluded, it remains a question of great interest to many countries as to whether the US will likely remain as one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Regardless of the state of the economy, however, the key for most businesses is still to find out which of the myriad of marketing opportunities one business can best employ to achieve success. Keep in mind that with branded content marketing, the primary goal is not so much to promote the product or service, as it is to focus on and address the needs of the users.
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