The last year has seen the rise of a new kind of advertising that moves beyond the traditional banner advertising. It has been credited with an 82% increase in brand recall. It has performed exceedingly well in clickthrough rates vs traditional display ads and people view native ads 53% more than they do banner ads.
With the decrease in clickthrough rates on traditional online advertising, publishers have been on the lookout for the Holy Grail of ad revenue. And they may have found it in native advertising.
For the unititiated, there may be some confusion on the difference between native advertising and branded content. In branded content, the company simply creates content that is published on their own platforms – such as on their website or branded apps. For example, American Express runs the Open Forum targeting small business owners or even Footsmart’s Running Health Resource Centre. It isn’t the same as placing advertisements on a webpage. The company creates the content (images, blogs, articles, infographics, etc.) and places it on their own property.
What differentiates native advertising is where the sponsored content is published. To be considered native advertising, the content must be published on a media property or a publishers site. It is a type of branded content that treats branding as secondary to the content. The goal of native advertising is to present the branding in a way that’s doesn’t interrupt the consumer’s experience of the content. A good example is what The Onion did for H&R Block.
Of course, partnering with a media property or publisher is a strategy that you can consider, but make sure that it doesn’t dilute your brand equity.
If you’re considering a native advertising campaign, there are a few things that you must be aware of.
Shareable content must be dynamic and authentic first, and it should be a sales tool second. No one outside of your company is going to share a straight pitch for your product. An article discussing only your product is technically native advertising, but it won’t reach a wide audience.
Too many companies see native advertising as a way to conceal their product message in the form of a blog. It’s like an infomercial and no one is fooled by this tactic.
Good native advertising is like product placement in a movie or a television show. You might not even notice it, or if you do, it doesn’t bother you or change your enjoyment of the entertainment. The value is in the association of your product or service to the content or publisher that creates the brand recall. The value that the content brings to the consumer, either if it’s extremely entertaining or educational, is the authenticity that draws in web users and makes native advertising engaging and (most importantly) shareable.
Remember, users are used to being able to choose if they want participate in an advertisement. They will resent your brand if your content is thinly-veiled advertising much like the much derided misstep of The Atlantic Magazine promoting Scientology.
The majority of consumers (66.1%) find that links to more information (leading to the product website) at the end of articles are the best way to introduce native advertising. That makes sense, because end-of-blog links are non-intrusive and clearly marked as advertising. If you use this tactic, you must make your content so engaging that the reader sticks around until the end of the article.
Attention grabbing online content is informative and of high-quality. Low quality writing and SEO keyword stuffing isn’t going to fly like it did in the if-you-build-it-they-will-come days of content mill domination.
By creating customer personas, you have a higher chance of developing content that meets the needs of your target audience. Customers identify well with brands that that reflects their current needs and personality, and that includes content. When creating content, think about the needs of the end user, just as would when you design a product.
Consumer attention is fluid, so native advertisers must engage in continuous improvement. Test different kinds of content and use analytics to prove what kind is working. Don’t rest on just one successful type or style of content though, move from videos to text content and even apps, because it can quickly fall out of Internet favor, as was the case with infographics.
The biggest example is how The Atlantic, a well-respected intellectual publication allowed the Church of Scientology to create a When the sponsorship came to light, The Atlantic Magazine (and the Church) lost the trust of their readers and suffered an even wider backlash of negative publicity.
Publish bad quality content, and your readers will remember your brand in a negative light, or even worse, ignore it. And you will never be able to win them back.
- Vet your content vendors thoroughly and make sure that they understand your style guide and have the experience in producing content for different audiences. Ask them about their portfolios and have them identify the target audience.
- Plan a detailed editorial style guide that allows any content producer to understand who the target audience is, editorial tone, and examples of style so that anyone can contribute content at a consistent quality.
- Do not rush in producing content. Create an editorial calendar and make sure that you have enough time for edits, re-edits that may occur until everything is ready to go.
But, if this communication isn’t natural and polite, it quickly becomes the abrasive equivalent of shouting at people walking past you on the street.
“Natural” branded content is quality, informative, appropriately labeled, and placed where it might reach interested consumers. The advertising portion of the material is visible without overwhelming the rest of the content.
The producers take care to keep up with current content trends. Most importantly, the content reflects both the nature of the brand and the personality of the target market.