Branded content is becoming one of the hottest trends in advertising. So much so that even some journalists are choosing to make the jump to the marketing side of media as opposed to the news side. After all, the only real sacrifice a writer has to make when creating branded content is that every once in a while their work is based on some kind of new item or service as opposed to actual hard-hitting news.
So is it worth it? As a former journalist and someone who likes to think he has been closely in touch with both ends of media (journalism and marketing) I believe the answer is an unequivocal “yes” and here is why: branded content barely costs a thing.
Think of it this way: a spot in this year’s Super Bowl cost an average of $3.8 million. Half of the commercials that aired this year were mercilessly panned for their lack of creativity or misguided content (although I guess it could argued that any publicity is good publicity). However, if, let’s say, a post on a brand blog is poorly written, it didn’t cost a penny. It can be made up in a much better post tomorrow (or deleted, if it is incredibly horrible).
There is also the worry that audiences (particularly millenials) have grown immune to ads. Branded content gives interacting with an ad a sense of purpose, as they are most probably getting some kind of valuable information out of it.
Realizing the value of informative content, Coca Cola totally revamped their homepage this past November. Not only has coca-colacompany.com gone from boring, corporate website, but it has actually become a destination for legitimate news consumption. In the process, Coke has the ability to speak to many of its marketing and charitable efforts, including helping veterans find jobs, environmental care and its support of a healthy lifestyle.
As a matter of fact, some companies, such as Contently, actually serve as a sort of “LinkedIn” for journalists looking to write for brands. In an interview with the New York Observer, Contently Founder John Hazard explained that many mainstream papers (i.e. the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal) had no problem finding people looking to write for them. However, brands did. Hazard explains that once journalists get past the fact that they are writing on behalf of a brand, they realize it is simply journalism. It’s no different than writing for anyone else.
While the jury on branded content may still be out for many companies, there is no denying its benefits from a financial and attention point of view. It may seem sneaky, even dishonest in some cases (that is, mixing news with a brands message), but in the end, it is still content, and good content will keep people coming back.