Branded content: the good, the bad and the damn ugly truth

02-08-2016

Branded content: the good, the bad… and the pretty damn ugly truth.

There's good branded content out there on some online publishing sites. For example, you have to admire what AIB have done in partnership with Maximum Media in recent times, around GAA, and the Club Championship in particular. They've elevated the clubs, the club members, the players and the Championship as a whole. And in doing so, they've probably helped to improve NPS scores, alongside their other marketing activity.

This is an example of a good partnership. A partnership that's the right fit. A partnership that focuses on creating good ongoing branded content that Joe.ie's target market is hungry for. It's content that is perfect for rollout on AIB's owned sponsorship social channels, and it's content that will hook general GAA/sports fans on Maximum Media platforms.

Then there's some bad branded content. Everyday I see examples of this. How many times have you seen a poorly written and researched “sponsored listicle/article" (some do not even say sponsored) about some random subject with a tenuous link at the end of an article to a brand. The online publishing site then generally pushes out one organic Facebook post, an organic Instagram post and two organic Tweets. And that will be €4K-ish please sir/madam.

A lot of these “sponsored listicles/articles" are doing nothing for your brand. Zero. Zilch.

In my opinion, there needs to be a brand guardian when it comes to the production of branded content that will live on one of the online publishers. And that brand guardian should be the creative/digital agency, working alongside the online publisher. The creative/digital agency knows the brand. They know what will resonate. They know what's on-brand. They know what's definitely off-brand. And a lot of what is produced is off-brand. They know what content works on owned channels.

I'm not anti-branded content. Far from it. We've had a lot of success using branded content on online publishing sites in recent years across Ireland and the UK. However, our approach tends to be a little different. Our brands allow us to work closely with the publishers. And we create a lot of the content ourselves. Our in-house paid social team then distribute on our brand's owned channels. If we feel the content is good enough to catch fire and that it will resonate with a wider audience, we engage an online publisher/radio station/blog/magazine to place the content on their site and social channels (with paid support recommendation and instructions on who and how to target).

The right placement, with the right publisher, with great content that you know will resonate with the publisher's audience, in tandem with the push via owned channels – can really ignite a campaign.

But there's the pretty damn ugly truth going on right now. It's that a lot of brands are throwing thousands of euro away on branded content that is having no impact for the brand. And if it's as poor as some of the branded content that I've seen – it could even be damaging for the brand. This is money that could be invested in creating great owned content, that is then pushed to a publisher at just the right time.

This article was originally published in IMJ in July 2016.