People are moving away from watching traditional TV and have become masters at scrolling past blatant digital ads. So how can you break through and generate meaningful engagement with your audience? You need to try something different. Here's one way you can do it: Partner with an influencer who aligns with your brand and create quality branded content.
Quality Branded Content: What It Is
First, what is quality branded content, exactly? It’s not about taking an existing piece of content and slapping a logo on it or inserting a blatant product placement into an otherwise seamless video. According to AdWeek, “The best [branded] content keeps the consumer in mind, aiming to entertain, inspire, or educate, whether the brand is there or not.”
In other words, it’s not about quick conversions. Rather, it’s about understanding your audience, where they are in the customer journey, and what they’ll find interesting. You have to first build trust with your audience and gradually increase the online conversation through multiple pieces of content.
By creating consistent pieces of compelling work, you’ll increase your brand awareness and positive association with the audience, so your brand is top of mind when it comes time for them to make a purchase.
Why Quality Branded Content Is Worth Your Time
With quality branded content, you’re more likely to make an impression. In a 2016 study conducted by Nielsen, they found that branded content generated an average 86% recall over 65% from pre-roll ads. (Note: Their analysis also showed that what really resonated and drove the intent to view was for consumers to perceive the content as “for people like me.” In other words, the content was high quality, seen as relatable and engaging.)
And when you get it right, you can also drive purchase intent. According to a study that Collective Bias conducted last spring, just over 30% of US consumers have made a purchase based on branded content, with millennials being the most receptive.
Why You Need Influencers
So why do you need influencers? Because, if they’re truly influencers, they already have that trusted relationship with their audience, and they can help you reach them. People choose which influencers to follow based on their personal interests and aspirations, and, typically, influencers already share what products they regularly use or brands they appreciate. With the right brand-influencer partnership, that influencer can even help you develop your quality content.
But, of course, you need to find the right influencer.
What to Look for in an Influencer
When you’re looking for influencers, don’t narrow your choices down simply by the number of followers. Having 100K followers looks great on paper, but if no one is interacting with their content, what’s the point? Instead, look for influencers who have developed a community around their personal brands. You want people who understand their followers and have an ongoing dialogue with them—in other words, actual influence.
It’s also important that your influencers are transparent about how they make their money and the types of sponsorships they accept. If their fans know they work only with brands that they really use, the fans will be more open to branded content. With an authentic fit, an influencer who genuinely loves your brand, you’ll generate better quality engagement.
Deluxe Chief Brand and Communications Officer Amanda Brinkman stresses the importance of being authentic, stating in a Forbes post, “Successful branded content does not trick viewers into believing that it’s not branded. It creates something meaningful—in which the brand plays an authentic role.”
Basketball player Kevin Durant also spoke about this need for authentic alignment during a recent Variety event. He has pared down the sponsored content he’s involved with to a select group of brands who fit in with his personal values and the themes portrayed on his YouTube videos. Brands are invited to partner on content where the message aligns, but it’s always about just that: the message. For instance, Nike produced a documentary called Still KD for Durant’s YouTube channel that chronicled his life on and off the court, but the only mention of the brand in the piece is a “Nike Basketball Presents” title during the opening credits and a logo at the end. There’s no specific product hawked here. Instead, the content simply aligns with Nike’s mission statement: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
So, whether you’re looking to launch a film campaign with influencer artists around the globe (like we did for 20th Century Fox’s The Greatest Showman) or amplify your brand’s story through a glimpse into your influencer’s life (à la Kevin Durant)—remember to do two things: first, find the right influencer to partner with, and then make the most compelling, authentic content possible.
Looking to incorporate branded content into your marketing strategy? Drop us a line. We’d love to help!