Based on behavioral cues and performance of content I’ve seen across many clients and verticals I've worked on, I can surmise the following: Content, especially delivered in a native environment, works because consumers don't want to feel they are being marketed to. Rather, they want to make great decisions about what to buy and who to buy from in trusted environments. They expect brands to blend into their daily lives and offer value appropriate to what they are seeking in that specific setting. They also expect brands to show up and act like they were paying attention to any pre-existing relationship they might have with the brand or category. In a word, relevance. Consumers want brands to be relevant to their specific needs at that moment. And I've found native is often the key to achieving this for a diverse list of marketers.
Brands that meet this expectation will be rewarded with beautiful performance across the entire funnel. In some cases brands are distributing or inspiring content from partner producers that provide upper-funnel benchmarks of quality performance in regards to time spent, engagement and sharing for organic content. Brands are also activating content strategies in the mid/lower funnel and hoping to intercept consumers in a purchasing research stage, in which case performance is more action-based. Examples would be ads that appear and read like organic site editorial, but are clickable, or how-to videos or recipes with or without offer adjacencies. Smart marketers are tying all ad and content engagements across the funnel together with attribution to truly understand the big-picture value of their native investment.
The savviest marketers are also collecting and leveraging meaningful data from every interaction in near to real time. This data powers the relevance and the targeting of experiences across the ecosystem of the entire digital campaign. This also means that an advertising technology stack can be as critical to native advertising as it is to standard digital advertising. Then there’s smart SEO, social tagging, and search marketing -- all of which can do wonders for increasing the visibility of native content without a sophisticated tech stack.
When smart content is delivered with an underpinning of seamless distribution and targeting technology, native strategies can scale and become one of the hardest-working marketing levers.