'If it is not engaging the audience, then it's not branded content,' report notes as content marketing is now a mainstream discipline
Because of the fundamental changes to the way in which audiences consume and use media and digital technologies, content agencies are competing or evolving from advertising agencies as more and more brands get involved with producing branded content. While marketers grapple with the increasing demand for branded content, from a managerial point of view, branded content must cater to the pull-logic that separates it from traditional forms of advertising.
According to a recent report from the Branded Content Marketing Association, what makes audiences choose to engage with the brand based on pull logic is due to its entertainment, information, and/or education value.
Traditionally, advertising has interrupted the newspaper, magazine or online editorial content or TV program the audience wants to engage with. In comparison, branded content is based on non-interruptive pull logic. The audience has to choose and "pull" branded content to be able to engage with it. The difference, according to the report, is that while advertising normally has paid for distribution, branded content can earn more distribution in the form of a content video that has been promoted then re-tweeted by a personal friend, and can earn higher levels of earned distribution through shares - something traditional advertising cannot do.
For example, branded content on a video, a TV series, a blog, a book, an event or a customer magazine that is different than advertising means that the choice to engage is important. When it comes to the delivery mode, since branded content is based primarily on a pull-oriented logic, it is in contrast to advertising that is based primarily on a push-oriented logic.
When branded content is promoted as part of a content marketing campaign, it can potentially be used in a push market context as well. In other words, the choice to engage is important when it comes to the value which branded content provides to an audience, the report notes. To make audiences choose to engage with a brand, branded content usually offers entertainment, education and/or information value to its audiences. However, occasionally it could also provide a different kind of value, like an inspirational or an emotional connection.
The second part of the research in the report was conducted in 2016 and found that although two conceptualizations of the term branded content exists - one being the holistic definition and the other being a marketing practitioner oriented content, the latter is far more preferred by marketers than the former. What the holistic definition of branded content does is play a role in understanding branded content in its widest sense. It also demonstrates that "these are scary times" for brand managers and their organizations and ad agencies since today nearly anyone can become a branded content creator and distributor for a brand without a manager being in control of that.
The report notes that there is a different criterion between branded content and advertising as marketing managerial concepts because of the firm belief by most managers that if content is not engaging the audience then it's not branded content.
The report notes that one of those surveyed said "I wouldn't class TV spots as branded content I would class them as advertising. I would say content should have more of a value for the viewer than for the advertiser by creating topical or valuable content that the audience is going to genuinely want to watch and maybe even share as opposed to something that's just a marketing message."
The report suggests that branded content as a marketing communications concept has emerged because of the fundamental changes to the way in which audiences consume and use media and digital technologies. The resultant opportunity for organizations to use branded content indicates that the marketing communications industry is trying to solve the changing nature of media consumption by consumers. Ranging from the fact that people skip and block ads, and watch TV series on demand and do not spend a lot of the time seeing the ads.
Because of this paradigm shift, the report continues, the dialogue has shifted and audiences can embrace or dismiss content and therefore the organization that owns the brand that creates funds and curates the content has an alternative to advertising through its pull-oriented logic, and non-interruption based approach.
The study concludes that in the future, branded content will become a mainstream marketing communications concept and an integral part of marketing. Brand owners will become the new "media owners" who "develop their own content channels" and "curate their own audience." This will change the media landscape, as we know it. Many advertising agencies for instance will have to become content agencies as more and more brands get involved with producing content. With the volume of content production growing considerably, the strategic reasons why a brand gets involved in content production needs to be asked.
The report suggests that content marketing will become more of a discipline and the quality of content production will become more important. There is no doubt that branded content will have a more important role to play within the marketing industry in years to come.