How Non-Promotional Content Drives Brand Audience Growth

Advertising

Today’s digital media consumers aren’t interested in content about your brand. Alright, fine – if your brand is extra cool, your audience might actually want to check out what you have to say about how amazing your product line is.

But in general, people connect with content that rouses their emotions and makes them feel like they’ve revealed underexplored aspects of themselves.

Take Target’s celebrated “A Bullseye View” blog, for example, which features fun content about the company, design trends and contemporary urban lifestyles. To draw attention to the store’s grocery aisles, Target published an item of content called “Which Retro ’90s Cereal Are You?,” effectively tying together ironic pop nostalgia, supermarket culture and identity.

This is a brand that knows how to package lifestyle content in a sophisticated, digital-friendly manner.

We’re All Branded

Engaging with your existing audience members and inspiring them to share branded content experiences with like-minded peers requires a change in focus. You need to create content that’s primarily about them – not about you. If you can get people to see themselves in your content and to interact with it, then they’ll be far more likely to share it, thereby expanding your following and reach.

Today’s sophisticated audiences have plenty of media savvy. We can tell when a published item is promotional in nature, and we don’t like being sold to. On the other hand, we are far less loyal to specific publishers and media channels than we were before the dawn of the social, mobile era.

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When content makes us feel something, we don’t care what organization is behind it; when content makes us feel more like ourselves, we might even experience a sense of attachment to whoever created it.

American Eagle’s undergarment label, Aerie, recently published a quiz for Valentine’s Day to help young women come up with ideas for what to do on dates. This content resonates because it gets people to associate their identities and discoveries with intimate moments that are fun.

If we are what we eat, then content that empowers people to determine their “food personalities” can be a powerful tool for a food brand. Particularly well-executed examples include “What Does Your Taste in Food Say About You?,” published by Unilever, and “What Kind of Pizza Eater Are You?,” published by Dominos.

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Content that Aligns with Reasonable Goals

With few noteworthy exceptions, though, marketing with content doesn’t directly drive sales. That’s just not how it works. Superior content marketing does build brand equity, though. Your content can foster positive sentiment that spreads and holistically boosts business over time.

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Along the way, while you’re in the process of courting that following, your content marketing efforts will yield plenty of benefits to your business other than sales. You’ll get to know your followers intimately, you’ll get better at creating content that resonates with them, and your audience will organically grow in size.

Eventually, once you’ve built up enough brand equity, your most engaged audience members will feel so much affinity towards your brand that they’ll be open to messaging that’s more overtly sales-oriented. And because you’ve succeeded at opening up a delightful, immersive, experiential world to them, they’ll want to publicly associate themselves with your brand by buying your products.

Aiming for Relevance and Value

The key to success with brand content, then, is creating experiences that your ideal audience will love, share and come back for more of.

This requires reaching people where they already enjoy consuming media, which is why we’re seeing so much demand now for formats that are fun, interactive, quick, visual and mobile-friendly. But picking the right format for your branded content experience is only one factor in its potential for impact. You need the right concept, too.

The creative itself needs to be aligned with the passions of the people you want to reach and the value proposition of your brand. If a particular topic isn’t in any way relevant to your brand, then you’re probably better off staying away.

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Absolut vodka, a premium spirit, is about being a discerning drinker, so challenging the brand’s audience to demonstrate thorough knowledge of mixology is a good fit. Martha Stewart’s brand is all about living a more tranquil and creative life in the home and especially the kitchen, so a quiz that enables people to reveal their “kitchen personality” works well.

The best branded content is content that positions your brand as the hub of a passionate tribe, united by their shared values and lifestyle.

About the author

Shachar Orren

Shachar Orren is the Chief Storyteller at Playbuzz. Serving as Playbuzz’s evangelist, she is in charge of empowering the company's partners to achieve storytelling greatness, heading up both the content and brand marketing efforts. Before becoming Playbuzz’s sixth employee, Shachar worked for over nine years as a journalist and senior editor in Israel's leading publications, and holds a BA from Tel Aviv University.

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