Today, brands are thinking differently about how to reach consumers: not by interrupting consumers' experiences with advertising messaging, but by offering value through original and co-created content. This content allows a brand to tell its own story, bring to life its core sensibilities, and connect with consumers in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Now more than ever, brands face an array of choices for branded content -- from cooking shows to healthy eating, fitness to balancing your life, reality shows to scripted comedy. It's also a challenge to choose which entity will be your partner: cable networks, film studios, portals, online communities, video ad networks, online celebrities or independent producers?
Here are five things to consider to make your branded content stand out and succeed:
1) How content is developed, written and produced makes all the difference in its quality. What the audience sees on the screen, whether big or little, reflects your brand and should be guided by your brand guidelines. Working with the unions -- Writers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild -- has gotten easier and should be welcomed into your production.
2) Talent continues to play an important role in every content production and can be worth investing in for branded content. Gone should be the days of talent showing up on set, delivering their lines and walking away. Instead, we want talent who will bring their online clout and leverage their social graph to help promote the program and drive viewership.
3) Audience design is critical to getting your target viewership to watch your branded content. You want to identify your audience first and then create the right content and distribution model. The content can then hit the right messaging through the right distribution. This design for the paid, earned, owned ecosystem for the customer journey connects people with content and amplifies participation.
Think about it this way: if you develop a Web series for moms, moms will want to watch if the content is right. But you still need to use paid media to help target that audience and bring the content to them.
4) Today, engagement is the most important metric for savvy brand marketers -- while in the early days of branded content, many were happy just measuring views. We can help activate audiences by creating relevant content: content that is entertaining, educational, or funny or valuable. Real engagement or success can be measured by users creating their own complementary content, coupon downloads, shared videos, hashtag tweets, etc.
5) Lastly, it is important to understand how the content and the audience can be owned by the brand. When the flight dates have passed and the paid media spend is complete, will anyone still find your content? Or will it disappear into the midst like so many of its 40+ million views branded content paid media-only programs of the past? Your brand website, Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube channel play critical roles in the long-term value of your content. Do not underestimate their value, since you are not paying a CPM for those views.
This a great time for branded content. What was once a dream is becoming more and more a smart reality. Be bold with your brand and take advantage of the content opportunities that are out there. Your consumers will thank you with the best metrics out there: loyalty and sales.