Branded content: A game-changer for brands

Branded content: A game-changer for brands

Branded content is driving a whole new marketing model, which calls for a more integrated approach in the region’s hyper-connected markets. We know well that Asia-Pacific leads the world in terms of digital device penetration, broadband speeds and the sheer growth of connected consumers. We call this ‘hyper-connectivity’.

We have over one billion online users, growing at a rate of 10 per cent a year. That’s 100 million new users every year ready to connect and share content with colleagues, families and friends.

In the world’s biggest growth economy, China, urban consumers, who already allocate the largest share of their income to consumer technology, plan to increase this share yet again in the coming year, while almost three quarters of Singaporeans own a smartphone — the highest penetration in the world. This has all driven a seemingly insatiable appetite for video content, with 11 billion videos consumed every month on Youku and Tudou, according to I-research.

But these huge numbers only set the scene for a new marketing model for brands, they don’t actually change the game. What does change the game, however, is when a brand has a deliberate focus on its content strategy as much as its advertising strategy, and when it uses an integrated multiscreen approach to execute this strategy. At Newcast, we have four simple recommendations to help develop a successful branded content strategy:

First, identify what value the brand wants to offer the consumer and why. What consumers are looking for in a cluttered environment is genuine value from brands. Whether it’s entertainment, educative content or a useful application, consumers value content that credibly appeals to their interests and passion points. This is the key difference between advertising and branded content.

Branded content: A game-changer for brands

Second, brands must meet the demands of the ‘always-on’ consumer by moving from a linear ‘campaign’ model to an ‘always-on’ interactive model. A shift is developing from brands being one-off content creators to becoming genuine content publishers. This is nowhere clearer than in Facebook, Twitter, Qzone and Sina Weibo, where winning brands are constantly refreshing and iterating content to engage their communities.

Third, brands need to harness each screen’s unique power and adapt content accordingly.  Brands have to invest time in distinct approaches for each of these. The cardinal rule to achieving an integrated yet additive experience is to create a complimentary consumer journey which exploits the unique attributes of the screens you are working with. Content which sits well on a TV screen won’t necessarily work on a mobile screen or on a tablet.

Finally, and most importantly, there has to be an integrated communications approach when it comes to deploying content. The myth of viral marketing still endures, but needs to be exposed as a misleading lottery-level gamble. Most successful video-based content is initially fuelled by paid stimulus with over 85 per cent of branded content views on YouTube being paid for by brands, for instance.

There is only one sure-fire way to guarantee distribution of branded content and that is to pay for it, via SEO or traffic-driving promotion. ‘Use Paid to promote Owned, to drive Earned’ is one of our maxims. The media agency’s stewardship of the paid budget means it’s in a perfect position to bring paid, owned and earned media together to optimal effect.

A beautiful example of where the power of storytelling across multiple screens brought engagement to the highest level was the recent Nestlé 100 year celebration campaign. Nestlé wanted to say thank you to over 90 million Filipinos for 100 years in their country. A TVC campaign simply could not cut it, so 10 of the country’s top directors were commissioned to tell 10-minute stories about how Nestlé products have been part of the lives of every Filipino for over a generation. These ran across all screens integrated with a nationwide series of events. The results helped to make Nestlé the number one branded YouTube channel in the Philippines.

In summary, the ‘tech readiness’ of Asia and the huge explosion of ever-more-powerful multiscreen devices means we are well placed to exploit the big brand engagement returns. But, it will only be those clients who set out a clear deliberate strategy around content who will truly realise the size of the new opportunity. The future of communication belongs to branded content. This isn’t easy or cheap, but it is more effective at driving sustainable brand differentiation. That’s enough to awake even the most conservative marketing director.

This article originally appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.