When 60% Think Brand Content Is 'Clutter' It's Time To Deploy Every Storyteller's Secret Weapon

Oh dear, you can't really get two more standout diametrically opposed findings from a piece of research. When Havas looked into attitudes toward branded content for its "Meaningful Brands" report, it found some good news and some pretty awful news. 

First the positive -- 85% of consumers expect to see brands out there sharing content, so in case you're being held back by concerns that nobody wants to hear what your company has to say about anything, you stand corrected. The point is, though, to be open to brands pumping out content is one thing, to enjoy it is quite another. Here Havas found that 60% of consumers find branded content is simply "clutter."

Now, before we go any further, it's probably worth pointing out that media companies are not immune from this, and I use the term 'media companies' very loosely. Just look at all the nonsense clickbait that surrounds nearly every article you're likely to read online, even in highly rated media sources, and you could hardly say that content "clutter" is not exclusive to brands. 

However, whether or not someone clicks to find out what a star of an old film looks like now or why number 7 in some endless sequence of photographs will make you cry is so low down most of our priority lists that it doesn't even factor. What is important, however, is that being a meaningful brand means -- according to Havas -- a company will usually outperform the stock market average by more than 200%. Owning a brand that has meaning to people is important and content plays a role here. 

The basic finding of the report is that while brands are out there sharing content about their products and services, where they usually fall short is communicating what that means to a person's real life, beyond the mobile or desktop screen. So if you cannot relate to consumers as individual readers and if you can't make it clear that there is a purpose in there for them if they carry on reading your content, then just don't bother. All that will happen is you'll add to the "clutter" and risk being one of the three in four brands that consumers wouldn't think twice about if they no longer existed.

A good example the researchers give is a series of short videos from Nicorette that scored very highly for meaningfulness because they explained the products as well as their impact on customers' lives. Conversely, a glitzy and hugely expensive ad slot in which Gwen Stefani unveiled a new single, courtesy of Target, scored a spectacularly low meaningful score. Put simply, people care more about how Nicorette could help them quit a filthy habit which could mean they will be around to see their kids getting married than they do about a pop star's latest release.

So it's not just about big named and big budgets. It's about connecting with people and relating your storytelling to what's important in their lives. It's a little like chatting at the school gate or a party. The people who have nothing to say are as annoying as those who have too much to say, about themselves. The people you want to talk to will ask bring you in, orient their stories around you and leave you feeling that you've been involved, not talked at. It's the same for brands and content.

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