If Content Is King, Make Brand Advertising Your Kingdom

  |  November 15, 2012   |  Comments

Engaging content is the key to successful brand advertising campaigns.

Except for the world's largest brands, it seems like many companies have given up on the opportunities that brand advertising brings.

Marketing teams shell out a bunch of money for boring display ads and feel OK about mediocre engagement rates. Advertising teams keep using the same old formula hoping for better click rates, and yet, nothing changes.

In order for ads to succeed, they need to be engaging. In a world where technology changes every minute of the day, marketers must strive to adapt ads for the consumer. Draw your audience in with more than just an offer, logo, and a link.

After all, people don't share ads. They share content.

The Goal of Brand Advertising

The goal of any brand advertising campaign is to engage people with your brand and have them remember you, or better yet, share your brand with others.

Making the effort to distribute content that's deemed valuable by your audience isn't easy, but one of the best ways to make it relevant is by incorporating content into your ad units. Brand advertising works extremely well when it's built on relevant content. Campaigns that focus on creating the best, most interesting content are more successful than any other type of online advertising.

Seeing a company's logo stand alone is a great reminder of that company's name, image, and what it stands for, but it doesn't really offer anything to the viewer.

A brand ad with the company logo and a piece of useful content is engaging on a much higher level. Imagine browsing online and seeing a Coca-Cola banner ad with the brand's logo. Great. Now what?

In a recent report, eMarketer defined several factors that help brands create great content marketing. Best practices include creating value, telling a story, choosing the right channel, and building traffic. But perhaps the key for generating great content is for brand marketers to put themselves in their customers' shoes.

"Think like a consumer. You know, would I pin this? Would I 'like' this? Would I comment on it?" said Emily Schildt, director of digital communications at yogurt maker Chobani.

Take the Form of What People Care About

In a recent Ad Age article, Jason Del Rey discussed native advertising and how "web readers, viewers and social-network users are more likely to respond positively to marketing tactics that don't look like advertising and instead take the form of the rest of the content on a website or platform." The big key to creating content is to make sure that what you create is useful, interesting, or actually helpful. Vagueness and over-generalizations are a waste, and don't help you relate to your audience.

People want precise information, numbers that mean something, and real-life examples - things that are tangible. Cut out the clichés and summary overviews, and instead add engaging content to your ads.

Here are two ways to add relevant content to your brand ads:

  1. Give expert advice in the topic you're covering. Seek out a local expert in your area and discuss their successes and failures. Ask for tips and advice about how they were able to achieve great results.

    Offering people free information about how to better themselves or their work is a great way to drive meaningful engagement. People never like to feel like you're selling them, so if you can find a topic or need your audience wants addressed, you can come in as a helpful voice and offer them information of value.

    But, make sure when you're speaking to the expert that she is specific and offers real-life examples. "Reach for the stars"-type advice is a dime a dozen these days, so ask the expert to speak about concrete ways to implement her advice in real life. So how do you accomplish this in a small 300x250 brand ad unit?
  2. Use video to share the expert's advice in an engaging format. Reading articles is great, and I enjoy reading up on topics I'm interested in, but engagement levels are usually much higher for people watching videos.

    The video doesn't have to be professionally shot and edited, just interesting. A video recorded from an iPhone is high quality and perfect for capturing expert advice, funny moments, or quick commentaries. You could even ask the person you're speaking with to record herself on her own phone.

    You might also consider recording people from different teams/departments in your company and get their opinions/expertise on current topics relating to your industry. Maybe have a client services representative answer a frequently asked question about your products or services. Another idea is to go out into the field and meet with your clients and customers. Talk with them about their experiences with your company and how things are going, or how things could be better.

No matter how engaging you think your ads look, you always have to keep what your audience wants at the top of your strategy. No one is going to take a screen shot of your banner ad and email it to a friend.

But people do share funny pictures, engaging stories, and entertaining videos. So try finding ways to incorporate this type of content into your online advertising and you'll see a jump in engagement.

Home page image via Haslam Photography /



Aubrey Beck

Aubrey is the director of marketing programs at Salted Stone, a digital marketing agency in Southern California. She specializes in brand strategy and inbound marketing, working with emerging tech companies and B2B providers to identify their voice and create revenue-driving content plans.

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