Branded Content vs. Native Advertising: Which is Better to Use For Your Brand
When considering how to build your brand, it’s vital to think about the type of advertising you use. Advertising can either put off the consumer, especially if it frustrates them, or bring them into your loyal band of followers. With integrated advertising on all our devices, and with the marketing possibilities being seemly endless on social media sites, we are more exposed to brands’ voices than ever before. So the way you present your brand voice really matters.
The question is, how is your brand’s voice represented best: branded content vs native advertising?
To help you make that decision, we’ve broken down for you the main features and benefits of both approaches:
Native advertising is a term that refers to a type of paid media advertising, which blends seamlessly with the website it appears on. The ads match the form and function of the site, the design of it matches the website design, and it is a relevant topic for the visitors of that site. Successful native ads blend in with the website they are displayed on, with a topic that interested readers and without any visible difference at first to the rest of the site. Native ads receive 53 % more views than traditional display ads, so you might want to pay close attention. Native advertising is an umbrella term which encompasses under it a variety of different ads, such as:
- Recommendation widgets, run by third-party providers such as Outbrain or Taboola, often including the language “you might also like…”
- Search engine optimized paid search ads, which appear first on a search engine such as Google or Bing
- Promoted, optimized listings, appearing on e-commerce sites like eBay or Amazon. They integrate into other, unsponsored ads, so your advertising won’t appear spammy.
- Integrated ads that appear on your news feed on Pinterest, Facebook or other social media platforms. This is especially useful in the image centered platform Instagram, where users seamlessly consume advertising, as it is in the same image and video focussed medium, integrated into their feed and thus their interests and viewing patterns.
Native ads usually contain a brief amount of copy designed to catch the reader’s eye. For example, if you search something on Google, at the bottom of the search engine you will see several ads in a box labeled “articles for you.” This short amount of copy catches the reader's attention and invites them to click. They know that they are being asked to view personalized articles, handpicked for them, from the copy and thus are more likely to click. Therefore native ads can increase your CTR. From there, the native ad links to whatever the sponsor of the ads wants to take the consumer to. For example, an item listed for sale on Amazon, a sponsored article, or the brand or business' website.
Some sites, such as news websites, present ads that look like news articles, but are actually native ads. However, the most persuasive native ads offer something useful to the consumer. It’s unlikely that if they click on an ad thinking it’s something unconnected, and then are led to your product listing or business website, that you’ll have a high conversion rate. Not only will the consumer probably not want to complete the desired action, but they are also likely to lose trust in your brand. The most effective native ads blend seamlessly with the site, and don’t lie to the consumer, they offer them something that they want to engage with such as an article, blog or product that they are actually interested in.
Another benefit of native advertising is that you can use it to track and measure the number of clicks, shares, and views you receive, and engagement. This is important information to have for analysis and to use A/B testing to compare the success of two different ads with slightly different marketing strategies. This, used hand in hand with technology like cookies or other tracking methods, can help you perfect your contextual, native advertising strategy.
Sponsored content is a type of native advertising, and could be a useful addition to your marketing campaign. It has the same approach of native ads: embedded ads that blend seamlessly with the user experience on a site, matching the form and function and design of the site, blending in so that it seems “native”. However, instead of linking to a product listing or site, the reader is redirected to useful and valuable information. This can come in the form of educational pieces, linked to the content of the site, or entertainment. Sometimes referred to as “advertorials”, these informative links often have their own CTA, linking to a product listing or site. Although this does act as a middle man, in a sense, adding another click into the equation, the approach of sponsored content in native advertising can really build brand trust.
Content which is linked to a brand - reviewing or celebrating it which allows consumers to form a trust in that brand - is the marketing technique known as branded content. Branded content doesn’t focus on products or services. Instead, it highlights the values of your brand and promotes your brand identity. This builds hype around your brand and builds trust across the board in who you are. This, in turn, seeks to generate conversations. When you’re measuring the success of your branded content, it won’t be in the number of conversions, but the number of mentions: or how much you are being spoken about. Encouraging conversations is playing the long game, and over time, the number of conversions will grow.
Branded content is an umbrella term which encompasses under it a variety of different ads, such as:
- Video content, on social media or YouTube
- Interactive websites
- Events or appearances like pop up stands at festivals
Branded content can be presented in many different formats, and you might want to choose a few to diversify your marketing strategy. But, as a strategy, they should all be telling the story and history of your brand, and its voice. Another benefit and feature of branded content is that value is added for the user. Branded content turns expectations and old stereotypes of advertising on their heads. Instead of advertising being annoying white noise, that the consumer tries to block out, they are brought in by the value-added content (usually entertainment). An article about a topic they’re interested in is far more likely to grab their attention than a sponsored ad, and peppered into that article or blog can be educational material, which represents your brand voice. This reaches consumers in a more down to earth way, appeals to their emotions, instead of listing why they are better than their competitors.
This different, less invasive, form of marketing leaves room for new possibilities. Many brands have collaborated with famous photographers, artists or filmmakers to make inventive and modern ads. Or you could even think of something more out of the box than this! One of the most successful examples of branded content was Red Bull’s viral video of Felix Baumgartner jumping from nearly 40,000 meters above the ground. Live streaming this new world record in the making tripled Red Bull’s investment, and people are still talking about it even today. Stunts and videos like this example fully demonstrate the power of branded content: Red Bull’s brand identity continues to grow.
So, which is better for your brand?
The answer lies in what your e-commerce site needs. Native advertising is an effective way to integrate your product placement into the user’s browsing experience. If you are trying to sell one particular product or service, in the short term, then this would be a good option for you. Your ads will blend seamlessly with the style, content, and layout of the host site, leading to higher conversion rates for you. However, we would not recommend the approach to native advertising that is misleading, for example: creating ads that appear to be news articles but are actually product listings. This can cause frustration in the consumer and may lead to them losing trust in your brand.
If you’re in it for the long game, and want to grow the success of your brand for the future, and build darts in your brand identity, then branded content is the best choice for you. With this option, which is far less invasive than branded content, the consumer will grow to respect your brand, leading to higher conversion rates over time. This is because, with value-added content, the consumer builds more of a connection with your brand voice and identity. If your educational, informative or entertaining content grabs them, like with the example of Red Bull, they are unlikely to forget your name or opt for your competitor. With 90% of the most successful content marketers out there prioritizing educating their audience over promoting their company's sales message, branded content is an e-commerce marketing trend you can’t afford to ignore.