Somethin’ Else’s MD explains why there’s no such thing as branded content

Steve Ackerman

Steve Ackerman writes in The Wall about the key questions marketing teams should be asking about content

Steve explains why he believes branded content is a misnomer, and gives his tips on how brands need to approach creating video, audio and interactivity for audiences. The original article is here or read on below.

Making Content Work For You

The recent content led campaigns for Guinness and Sainsbury’s have illustrated that content marketing has finally arrived as a serious part of the marketing jigsaw. Perhaps most interestingly they have both, for very different reasons, served to highlight the questions that are being raised in marketing teams, such as How do I guarantee the content works with my wider marketing strategy? How do I ensure my content is compelling enough? How do I choose the right platform? And of course which agency do I work with when my creative, PR and media agency are all claiming to be content experts?

Think audience!

To state the obvious, content takes your brand out of the ad break or away from the banner and sticks it firmly in the editorial space, next to all the great TV, radio, games and websites that you, and everyone you know, use every day to entertain, inform and educate. Content marketing doesn’t just get compared to other beautifully crafted and brilliantly executed adverts. It’s compared against TV shows, radio programmes, games and interactive experiences that are being made by broadcasters and creative companies that have the same level of experience in this sort of content as an ad agency has in the campaigns they create for you. This means thinking about audiences not consumers and putting your demographic at the heart of the creative thinking. It also means that…

Branded Content doesn’t exist

Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is attaching themselves to a buzzword as a means of getting your attention. The audience doesn’t distinguish between great content created by a brand, and great content created by the trusted sources they always look to. Judge the Guinness work by this barometer and you immediately see why it falls down. Do the same of the Sainsbury’s film, and you see why it succeeds. Content is content is content.

Be platform agnostic

The audience consume content by diving from one platform to another effortlessly (‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ fans are talking on Twitter about the show as they watch it). They are also keen to engage with anything related to their favourite shows which is how Ant and Dec can take Saturday Night Takeaway on an arena tour. You may think you want a stunning online video, but be as open to platforms as the audience are, which may mean you need to think about how your content is also iterated as a game, an app or within social media –maybe all at the same time.

Cuddle the creators

Creating editorial content is not the same process as creating an advert. Good games and TV and radio shows are not made by advertising creatives dictating to production companies about the treatment they believe should be delivered. They often involve a collaborative and flexible creative approach that can allow an idea to be developed that puts the audience at its very heart. This is how TV and radio commissioners and production companies work all the time. Quite simply, great content means involving great content makers from the very start of the creative process.

Know your personality

Making an engaging film or game means in most cases having the confidence to put the personality of your brand before the product. Creating an emotional resonance for your brand gives the audience a reason to have a relationship with you. This is not the same as ramming your logo or product in at every opportunity. The recent PlayStation, “For the Players” YouTube film is a great example of a brand that understands its emotional resonance to its audience.

Stories not messages

Think about your favourite content. Whether its X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Woman’s Hour, One Born Every Minute, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, strong story telling is at the heart of great content. Some, but not all advertising, also requires powerful story telling, but content demands a story every time.

Content first

Content is no different from any other marketing execution. It needs to be created out of well thought through strategy and insight, planned alongside other media and supported with as many appropriate platforms as possible. The new John Lewis Christmas ad is a good example – you may have seen the TV ad, but have you checked out the e-book, children’s book or social media content surrounding it?

Steve Ackerman is MD of content agency Somethin Else. Follow the agency on Twitter @SomethinElse.