Once upon a time, the path to purchase was pretty simple. From brand awareness to interest and then product purchasing, the consumer journey was a linear one. Today, with the rise of branded content, the process, once commonly described as the ‘marketing funnel’, is being reimagined. No longer can we assume that customers will take this linear journey. In fact, they’re likely to do quite the opposite. The pathway is now ‘choose your own adventure’, as buyers enter the ‘funnel’ at whichever stage they want and bounce around as they see fit, creating a personalised purchasing journey.
Branded content is responsible for this seismic shift. The antithesis of traditional advertising, branded content isn't invasive. Instead, it's designed to build brand awareness and encourage consumer connection. It can include blogs, videos, podcasts, publications and live events – anything deemed to bring added value to the consumer.
Research continues to show that audiences want a more multi-dimensional understanding of brands. In fact, according to this study by global insights and strategy agency CROWD DNA, 72 per cent of people “appreciate it when brands speak to them as humans and not just potential consumers”. And the results? The same study found that 84 per cent of consumers took some form of action (buy, share, follow, save) and 34 per cent purchased a product, after engaging with a recent piece of brand content.
Everything in its place
If those statistics left you ready to dive head-first into the world of branded content, we wouldn’t blame you. But we would suggest you take a minute to examine your goals. While branded content has become a crucial marketing tool, it needs to be carefully executed with a comprehensive strategy in place.
Branded content tells a story, and that story should be compelling, relevant to your audience and likely to provoke emotion. To do this well, you will need to clearly define your business goals and understand your target audience. From here, you will be in a stronger position to decide what type of content is appropriate and which channels that content is most suited to.
As well as creating engaging content, it is a good idea to create a schedule. Not only will a content calendar keep you organised, but it will also provide consistency (for you and the audience), minimise mistakes, and allow you to better track what works and what doesn’t.
That’s right: once a piece of content is posted, the process if far from complete. Be sure to closely monitor the performance and measure this against key metrics (including competitors and the industry overall) to determine its success. Then, identify aspects that could be refined and apply to future projects to help maximise your ROI.
Leading by example
There are a number of Australian businesses using the power of branded content to great effect. Adore Beauty, for example, uses content across its owned media channels to engage with customers and, ultimately, drive awareness, hype and sales. The company’s podcast, Beauty IQ Uncensored, has been downloaded more than two million times, its YouTube channel has more than 21,000 subscribers and almost four million views, it has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram and 15,000-plus fans on TikTok.
Importantly, the aim is not to sell, sell, sell, but rather to communicate, add value and build relationships with existing and potential customers. Yet, thanks to the resulting customer loyalty, sales tend to follow.
Coles is another name with an enviable branded content portfolio, including Coles Magazine, Coles Health and Beauty Magazine, Coles Radio, and various social media channels. To give you an idea of the success, Coles Magazine is Australia’s No.1 read mag, and the first publication to reach five million readers every month, according to Roy Morgan data.
Reeton Media has worked collaboratively with more than 100 businesses to elevate their branded content. For example, we worked alongside Ego Pharmaceuticals on their SunSense Sun Safety hub, which features a series of informative articles about the importance of SPF, how to apply sunscreen correctly and premature ageing. We have also worked with Shaver Shop to help bolster the brand’s How-To hub, contributing more than 30 posts in two years.
Content marketing expert and Managing Director of Reeton Media Sheree Barrett-Lennard (née Mutton) says that while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to brands, the ones that are thriving have invested in their owned media channels.
“Not surprisingly, the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour dramatically. Consumers are looking for real connection with brands in the digital world – they want to support companies who share their values.
“Owned media has played an important role in connecting and communicating with customers and clients, members and subscribers during the pandemic. It has prompted many brands to invest significant resources in the channels that they have control over. It ultimately gives them the power to build a highly-engaged community and communicate the messages that are most important to the brand.”