The spring pandemic forced many brands to stop marketing campaigns and reconsider ad spend and overall marketing budgets. Businesses around the world are only now starting to pick up pace and reboot the 2020 objectives for their corporate strategy, marketing and branding initiatives.
As a consequence, many marketeers are still working on figuring out their next move in the pursuit of this years’ ROI on marketing and branding efforts. Brands are venturing into unknown territory, as many experiences, that there is no easy way to find the “right thing to do” in a market, that see weekly societal changes.
The current disruption can prove to be a golden opportunity to take a step back and consider how to move forward with marketing practices that fits the new reality, including testing out new platforms and formats. And within this opportunity, there’s a conversation about brand safety in branded content to be had.
Because, being critical and acting with intent and in respect of brand purpose is the new black. And putting ethics first and sticking to brand-safe environments is a growing tendency.
Take control of the context – your brand deserves it
When choosing your content distribution mix, beware of the platforms that do business strictly on their terms and not necessarily on behalf of you. If you find yourself in a situation where you are not able to take control of the context in which your content is being placed, my advice would be to get out. And fast. At Biites, I speak to many brands that express concerns about the platforms on which their content is placed. They think advertising formats, such as display and pre/post video rolls, take up way too much space and time, and they are generally worried about which brands might be linked to their content. The concern is legit. But despite this, many advertisers continue to place their content on these platforms out of pure habit.
Ironically, it feels like the safest personal choice (no one has been sacked for doing what everyone else is doing) and because of a lack of knowledge about the alternatives.
It does not have to be this way. You should not have to settle when it comes to distribution of your content. There are many, both existing and upcoming, new platforms, that in various ways focus on ensuring the safety of the content they distribute.
Before you pick up your campaigns again, I would urge you to take some time to explore some of these alternative options. Be bold and choose and test platforms that are able to honor your demands and cater to your brand-related concerns.
Make your content the center piece
Also, you want to make sure that your content is treated as premiere content. Don’t let your content just become the ad inventory on someone else’s platform – make sure your content is THE main focus for your audience.
Historically, when you speak about distribution of branded content, you often have the option of placing your content as an ad piece in a channel that users visit for other reasons than to view your ad (your content is not the primary reason). In some cases, the platform or media channel have a commercial setup or a content policy where you have to tailor your content to fit a particular context and editorial setting, perhaps forcing you to compromise in a way, that you would not otherwise have wished to do.
That said…and in respect of the discipline of branded content, this also forces you to change your mindset from traditional advertorial to one that is user-centric and native. If you produce your content as if it could be the ‘centerpiece’, if you go deeper and tell a longer or better story about your company or subjects that are close to your company’s core value, this could pay off in ways that you could only dream of. Brand awareness, brand preference and a brand image of thought leadership and expertise are only a few of the upsides that could come from this. If you produce (and distribute) content where the premise first and foremost is relevancy and value to the viewership, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Look not only for brand safety, but for brand suitability
Increasingly, the concept of brand safety is evolving into a talk about what is the most suitable context for a particular piece of content, or as Digiday describes it “we may even be headed towards the notion of working with brand suitability, rather than talking merely about brand safety in overall terms” https://digiday.com/marketing/brand-suitability-replacing-brand-safety/ – something I find particularly relevant for branded content.
Brand suitability is all about choosing the right platforms in the right setting for the right message.
One platform or distribution space may be “unsafe” for some brands and campaigns but be the perfect place for others. When finding the most suitable place, there are a lot of factors to take into account other than just ensuring the safety from unethical or unsuitable related content. The meaning of your piece of content, the context in which it should be seen or considered, the opportunities for the target audience to take the next step in their journey with you etc.
Basically, it’s about finding the places that work for the piece of content that you have created. And this implies thinking out of the box. It may well be that different content pieces from the same brand should sit at different content platforms and not just heedlessly be posted on the same social media or social platform. This is something we often see as well, a brand placing all their marketing at the same content hub, making it one big pile and extremely difficult for the user to figure out what’s relevant to him and what is not. Placing all your marketing content in the same spot often becomes an odd mix of categories and pieces, that does not leave a great impression of your brand.
Make the unwanted 2020 break worthwhile
Because of the unwanted 2020 market break, we do right now have a golden opportunity to press the reset button on marketing priorities and ‘business-as-usual’ approaches to choosing channels, platforms and media to boost brand messages. The current global crisis has given us the opportunity to pause and think afresh on how we move forward with ensuring how we position our messages to the right audiences in a proper context.
I urge you to be more critical and to at least reflect on some of the points made here. Put your brand safety first and make a pledge to create user-centric content that matters and offers the viewer relevancy and value. Ultimately, this is what forms lasting opinions and brand impressions among the viewers consuming your efforts and making decisions based on what you give them.