Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Branded Content - brands getting closer to consumers

Audiences have a voracious appetite for content and the internet has become the much sought-after melting pot housing it all. As appetites rapidly shift towards digital and interactive consumption, the traditional advertising model (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA)) is slowly starting to unravel into a more integrated, rather than disruptive, solution. One-way comms alone are no longer consistent with consumer engagement patterns – and as such, brands are realising the value of a more immersive, yet still mass-market advertising model. This means going beyond putting digital banners & buttons alongside offline advertising placements. In this day of market fragmentation and advertising overload, the brands that audiences are falling in love with (or staying in love with) are those that are adding real life and depth to their brand comms and audience touch-points.

The first signs of life beyond the 30sec ad spot started many years ago, with the rise of brand storytelling through beautifully shot film work. Brands such as Guinness, Stella Artois and various major car manufacturers (Nissan, BMW, Volvo) have long been champions of this technique. More recently, the Chanel No. 5 / Baz Luhrman / Nicole Kidman (then Audrey Tautou) collaboration is an excellent example of modernising and romanticising a brand essence through exquisite brand storytelling. Some brands have even gone as far as producing brand-sponsored expensive short films, subtlety incorporating the brand for subliminal or association effect. These are often directed by famous directors for increased credibility or PR effect. Even Unilever - collectively one of the largest brand advertisers in the world - has embraced the lure of brand storytelling by launching a musical "produced by" Pot Noodle. The musical, which is very loosely based on Hamlet, features a scene in which a troupe of dancing factory workers pluck noodles from trees.

Advertising is now progressing a step further from brand storytelling into branded content. Highly successful sites such as Kellogg’s Map My Fitness (http://mapmyfitness.ninemsn.com.au) and Aussie sponsored, Your Home (http://money.ninemsn.com.au/yourhome) are providing consumers with highly engaging and interactive content, founded in core brand heartland and differentiation. Even with the rapid rise of UGC, audiences are still drawn to professionally produced editorial and content because of its credibility and usefulness. And interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be the same audience cynicism around branded content as brand storytelling or standard advertising. Compare the brand impact of the Cadbury drum-playing gorilla (highly entertaining, yet one-step removed from the audience) with that of http://insidenikerunning.nike.com, where the audience engage in a very personal and interactive way with Nike and its products. The movement is happening - branded content has the power to add depth and amplify brand connection and loyalty at an extremely tangible level. Now that’s a powerful connection point and a story worth telling!

Here’s some key ingredients for producing a feast of content that sells:
• Create first and foremost through the lens of your audience– agenda, style and tone must be led by them
• Provide information, tools and editorial that your audience would love or need – and aren’t getting anywhere else
• Keep branding and brand messages subtle – don’t over brand the page or turn it into an advertorial
• Have short, sharp content that is scan-able
• Provide good navigation to different content sections and/or CTA’s
• Audiences are highly visual – play to this
• Use strong titles and headings to pull consumers in
• Have deep linked content – this keeps audience engaged longer and highlights the depth of your content
• Be as timely and up-to-the-minute as possible – in the digital world, a week is a long time
• Provoke a discussion or dialogue
• Interactivity is compelling, but ensure it is led from audience insight