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Marketing For The People: The Role Of Branded Content

by Kristine Lasam

Think “Old Spice” and you immediately conjure up the image of a shirtless man talking about what your man could smell like. That is the power of content marketing – that even years later, you can still recall the campaign, brand and product, regardless of usage.

This is what content marketing or branded content focuses on: providing relevant and important information to gain, maintain and entertain consumers. But, it doesn’t sell anything directly – this is key. Gone are the days when a 30-second ad spot on television or a well-placed billboard was a complete advertising campaign. In the age of the Internet and information overload, brands need to start marketing for the people.

Okay, understood. How do you actually go about doing it – and why?

As a brand, you need to invest in branded content in order to build your identity, as well as establish yourselves as a source of trustworthy information. This helps you form long-lasting and loyal relationships with your consumer base. With content that is good and reliable, a brand can ensure that consumers keep coming back for more. In the long run, this loyalty is converted into definitive action – the gold mine for any brand.

The West has harnessed the power of this form of advertising well. The release of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is an excellent example to demonstrate why any brand should invest in this medium.

With both very well-known superheroes together on the big screen for the first time, the movie was already guaranteed to be a box office success. Why, then, a need for such a comprehensive content marketing strategy to promote the film?

One word: anticipation.

The strategy focused on humanizing a character of the film, Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg). Luthor was considered a divisive character, so the people behind the film staged interviews and news pieces for him, gave his company a website and Luthor a Twitter account. As a result, even the most casual fan could not help but be interested. The strategy came under heavy criticism, but it got people talking and it got people engaged. Imagine the same happening with and for your brand.

In Dubai, take the du Tuesday campaign: a bunch of viral videos to promote two-for-one movie tickets. Normally, people rarely go to the movies by themselves, but the campaign reaffirms the concept of having company at the cinema.

The campaign videos are unique and funny – the perfect blend to capture any audience’s attention, which is the true essence of content marketing.

With the worldwide trend shifting towards digital and content marketing, it is an ideal time for UAE brands to start investing in becoming publishers of engaging and relevant content as well.

In the UAE, 70% people go online just to browse their social network feeds, while 65% go online to watch videos. Just Facebook has 4.3 million monthly active people returning to the network every day in the region; with 48% using it to keep themselves up-to-date compared to Twitter’s 43%.

However, while videos are the most popular form of branded content (research says most UAE users are dual-screening mobile devices and television), small- to medium-sized brands cannot make such heavy strategy investments.

That’s where publishing platforms like Vice and Medium enter.

Vice is a perfect example that summarizes new-media success. Started as an online magazine for culture and music in 1994, it has since then grown into a “go-to source for millennials” for information. As a result of Vice’s phenomenal success, the company is now one of Facebook’s Anthology’s digital media producer. This means you have an amazing opportunity to tell your brand’s story in the most popular format, that is, videos.

On the other hand, Medium launched as a blogging platform for individuals, but has transformed into a place where brands put their creativity to test. What makes Medium stand out, however, is the fact that it focuses solely on quality. It ensures that readers only get to see the best content on the website, rather than, say, the content pushed by a brand which spends more on advertising.

Hence, while it gives brands a voice, it ensures eyeballs for only those who have something interesting to say; thereby, truly capturing the essence of good branded content. So it doesn’t matter how big or small you are, Medium will tell your story to the world if it’s good enough.

In other words, it is time for UAE brands to start marketing for the people via channels that their consumers are using. A key marketing principle is to know your target audience and this greatly applies to content marketing.

Tell your story. Provide vital information to your consumer base, something that they can’t do without (anymore). Share an infographic. Make a long-term connection with them and then maintain it. Trust us: be where the people are, bring them what they need and they will be yours. It is time for a new “Old Spice”.