Remember back in the ’90s when some supermarket psychologist proposed that men were from Mars and women from Venus? That’s how we see content marketing and advertising.
They are two entirely different methods of selling.
Advertising is a heavy-handed approach that involves interrupting the audience to sell a product or service. Content marketing, on the other hand, is about getting discovered and filling a need. By being helpful, educational or entertaining, branded content encourages consumers to take actions that, ideally, will lead to a sale. The most successful branded content also gets redistributed far and wide by people who recognize value in it and pass it along to others in their circles.
Brands that tart up ads and try to pass it off as content are not only out of touch, they are showing a blatant disregard for the intelligence of their customers. If your branded content has the self-serving tone of an ad, your audience will treat it like one – especially if it has no redeeming entertainment value. They’ll ignore it and won’t share it. And while subordinating your marketing pitch may go against every instinct you have, the less prominent it is in your branded content, the more likely your content will be read, watched or listened to, and ultimately, shared.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Content marketing aimed at an audience that adores your brand allows you greater leeway to incorporate it into the material. Just look at the experience Lego has had with The Lego Movie. Despite an overt brand presence, the movie was a blockbuster success with a sequel already in the works. Moviegoers were happy to pay $16 for the privilege of watching a 100-minute-long ad…about a brand they love.
Ultimately, the key to content marketing is having an intimate understanding of your brand and how it truly fits into the lives of your audience. Portraying that brand essence in an intelligent, fun and captivating manner will take you a long way toward meeting your marketing objectives.
And you won’t look like a huckster doing it.