Best Practices For Better Branded Content

by , Dec 13, 2013, 1:56 PM
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While owned and earned media remain critical components of any communications strategy, native advertising has become a valuable weapon in the marketer’s arsenal. According to a recent survey from Forbes Insights, 61% of publishers value the importance of a native approach to their advertising when compared to the standard ad. And per Nielsen and video native ad platform Sharethrough, some ads are generating as much as 82% brand lift amongviewers.

Even The New York Times is embarking on a branded content push Times ad chief Meredith Kopit Levien, who helped spearhead Forbes’ dramatic transformation, gave more details at a native advertising conference in Chicago earlier this November. “For the Times ,it's a moment of great opportunity and it's also a moment of great responsibility to get it right,” she told the audience.

If even “The Gray Lady” is getting in on the action, then there’s no question that branded content is here to stay. But how do brands get it right? At a high level, good native ads convey the spirit and message of a brand without appearing overly promotional -- but as we’ve seen on more than one occasion, it can go very wrong, very quickly. To learn from the best, we decided to take a look at some of the most successful pieces of branded content/native advertising and why they worked for their specific audiences.

SAP (Forbes)

The Nine Hottest Android Tablets for Kids and Education

While it’s not surprising that Forbes is included here, what might take readers by surprise is that this piece of content on SAP’s sponsored blog SAPVoice has racked up over 783,173 views since last September. Why did this piece resonate with consumers? One major reason: it provided utility for the reader. Instead of being an overly promotional piece of content, the piece reads as if it could have been written by a Forbes reporter. For that reason alone, it makes sense that this post remains SAPVoice’s most-read piece of content to date.

DSW (The Onion)

Dead Hamster Feels Its Life Has Been Properly Honored by Shoebox Coffin

Just a few months after The Onion published a blistering post sending up native ads, the Chicago-based parody news organization began offering sponsored content through Onion Labs, its original content studio. Among the brands taking advantage of the studio is DSW, which launched a campaign with The Onion earlier this fall. One of the most noteworthy pieces of content stemming from the campaign was this article, which acknowledges that sometimes, the final resting place for smaller critters may be a shoe box. The article seamlessly integrates the DSW brand while maintaining the humorous tone that has defined The Onion for decades. Articles and content from the campaign are amplified through shares across The Onion’s social network of 8 million fans and followers.

Ford SYNC (Buzzfeed)

13 Signs You Have a Bad Sense of Direction

While Forbes and The Onion opt for long-form content, Buzzfeed’s native ad model is built entirely on the listicle - the format that drove BuzzFeed into mainstream conversation.  BuzzFeed partner Ford SYNC is leveraging Buzzfeed’s native ad platform to promote the company’s on-board communications and entertainment system. One of Ford’s latest pieces, “13 Signs You Have a Bad Sense of Direction,” mixes Buzzfeed’s fondness for GIF’s with content that points to a need for the Ford SYNC navigation system.

The post, like many of Buzzfeed’s native/branded content offerings, provides just the right balance between content and a brand’s message. Ford Sync content has generated thousands of shares to date.

So, what does this content from some of the world’s top brands have in common? They’re all free of promotional jargon, yet manage to create positive brand association. If you follow the lead of the brands and publishers above, you’ll be on your way to creating content that consumers will remember.

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