Branding and marketing gurus are constantly finding ways to lure customer segments with rising spending power – read millennials – who in turn seem unexcited and unresponsive to television and display ads. You’ve heard it a thousand times: Instead of rehashing the same old tactics, marketers need to give their audience something fresh and valuable.
This is where branded content comes in. Content marketing is one of the most immersive methods to exchange conversation and thoughts with your audience. It gets people to “follow” you and potentially get hooked to almost everything you say. When you combine branding and content marketing, you get tremendous results.
From traditional B2C companies like Red Bull to modern product-based B2B companies like Zendesk, almost every organization these days is finding ways to push content with subtle branding that is not too in-your-face and yet lingers on in the back of your mind.
In this article, let’s explore a few channels that help us do the same.
When LinkedIn announced their top 10 company pages for 2014, it wasn’t just the “expected” faces (logos?) of social media masters like Hootsuite and L’Oréal that made it to the summit – they had surprise entrants like Wells Fargo! (You can read about content marketing strategies of all the 10 winners here.)
The reason they made it to the top 10 was their informative content they created for diverse industries. For a finance company like Wells Fargo, it might not seem worth their while to discuss anything but loans, mortgage and finance on LinkedIn. However, their page has content with actionable tips for all types of businesses. This, along with subtle branding through its humanitarian and philanthropic contests, helped Wells Fargo to endear themselves to their audience.
While you’re on social media, the challenge is to stay relevant; if you think too broad, you end up losing your core audience – people who follow you because they’re only interested in your niche.
This segment can be targeted by building psychographic profiles of followers, in order to discover what makes them tick (and buy). A social media management tool such as Oktopost can help you stay on top of customer/industry conversations and gain real-time insights on what drives them. Oktopost also has a recommendation engine that can curate/suggest content to share based on the engagement and conversion ratios of your previous posts. Along the way, you can figure out how to gracefully include your branded content in the mix.
While it may be easy to discard blogs as a platform for companies to rant and rave about their own industries and successes, they are in fact the best places to push your branded content. Readers of your blog actually expect you to talk about yourself too; so every now and then, you can throw in a post with brand messaging that talks about you, your product, your services or offers.
Check out this clever design trick Ikea used on their “Everyday” inspiration blog to highlight the value of a couple of their products. However, note that not all their posts mention their products and merely act as inspiration for a beautiful home. Even if you’re a B2B business, it is suicidal to have content that talks about little else than your products. Zoho understands the need to create content that resonates well with today’s audience. They manage to break through the clutter by turning the spotlight on their customers’ needs and achievements.
The same goes for the InVision app blog, where they offer inspiration, tips and tricks that can help designers become better at their work. Here are some more examples of companies that are killing it with their blogs when it comes to reinforcing their brand values.
A lot of tech giants and B2B companies are increasingly relying on webinars, webcasts and even social media hangouts to present informative and branded content. Some companies are satisfied with the byline “Sponsored by XYZ” while others strike the right balance by making webinars a regular feature of their content strategy. It comes as no surprise that innovative digital marketing companies like Moz and SEMrush are taking the lead here.
Needless to say, a video or a podcast is a very subtle way to mention your products and their features while you’re talking about industry trends and statistics or explaining how to do something. Webinar and videoconferencing platforms like ClickMeeting also allow you to add your logo, brand colors and graphics to your online meeting rooms. This way, you’re promoting your brand without explicit plugging.
On its 140th anniversary, beer brewer Heineken launched a Your Future Bottle design contest. The campaign was a roaring success in terms of the interest it invoked in the centenarian brand as well as the engagement it received with loyalists and new audiences alike! It reinforced Heineken’s image as an innovative company that aims to create the best possible drinking experience for its customers.
Contests and competitions bring in word-of-mouth publicity like no other marketing tactic. From the traditional punch line competitions like “Tell us why you love us in 140 characters” to the now routine selfie contests, these attempts at audience-grabbing may at first seem like drawing attention away from your key message or product, but eventually you realize that this is just another tried and tested way of enhancing brand recall.
To make full use of every piece of content you ever created, make sure you give your email subscribers a chance to see it. Emails get more attention than any other form of marketing because they eventually become the users’ property. An inbox is a searchable, private and convenient space they can repeatedly revisit.
Email is that mother lode that allows you to share virtually any form of content, including blog posts, infographics, videos and ebooks, with a targeted audience that already knows you. This doesn’t mean you inundate their inbox six times a day with irrelevant links and never-loading graphics. Take a leaf out of PageModo’s book and strive for an ideal mix of top stories and updates, useful tips, and links to conversations on other web properties where you’re active.
What we discussed here are excellent methods to be there without being there too much. All successful companies are trying to master this art. It’s too hard for people remember other people’s names, let alone brands’ identities, but if you’re giving them something of genuine value, they will not only remember you but also become lifelong fans.
As Robert Rose put it, “Marketing is telling the world you are a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world you are one.” So rather than shouting how good your brand is from the rooftops, start creating value content that shows people how your brand is really making a difference to someone’s life, home, business or career.
Another wise quote: Joe Pulizzi wrote in his book Get Content Get Customers, “Before you create any more ‘great content’, figure out how you are going to market it first.” This is spot-on advice to marketers who are not effectively promoting their content. Be creative, think different and strive to be unique so you can bring value (and amusement) to your audience. From social media to emails, try to reinforce your brand message everywhere.
Tracy Vides is a content strategist who likes to keep her finger on the pulse of the latest small business products, services, and apps. Tracy is also a prolific blogger in the digital marketing space. She’s always up for a chat @TracyVides on Twitter.