Future of Branded Content Lies With In-House Media Hubs

Written by: Gideon Marken

Chivas Regal hired The Catania Group, via their ad agency and Microsoft, to direct/produce a series of 38 webisodes to promote their brand on the Web as far back as 2008. Some say it may be the first endeavor of this kind.

Chivas Regal hired The Catania Group, via their ad agency and Microsoft, to direct/produce a series of 38 webisodes to promote their brand on the Web as far back as 2008. Some say it may be the first endeavor of this kind.

What do a hotel, an energy drink, and a creative computer software have in common? The answer lies in their content marketing strategy.

RedBull. The Marriott. Adobe. While these three brands are seemingly unrelated to one another, they all share a common thread: they all own a media hub that produces engaging content.

Marketing and media have become closely intertwined over the years as brands turn to native advertising and influencer marketing to spread the word. With a focus on storytelling, marketers need to create a compelling but educational message that naturally captivates audiences rather than bore them to death. In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and brand promotions, only relevant narratives that audiences can relate to will see the most success. The most effective messages are the ones that feel like they’re coming from our peers rather than a corporate entity.

Take Adobe for example. Best known as a creative computer software company that helps people create, deliver and optimize content, Adobe actually owns CMO.com, a site that delivers news, insight and expertise for marketing leaders. In fact, it’s “so objective, it’s hard to tell that it is an Adobe property,” says Ann Lewnes, the CMO of Adobe. Individuals looking for marketing expertise trust the site because it curates content from thought leaders across the industry and doesn’t feel like you’re reading an Adobe webpage. Rather, people looking for expertise on multiple marketing topics can pick from a library of articles written by top industry leaders who share their advice in the form of text.

Another popular form of brand messaging comes in the form of videos. “Video is highly engaging and entertaining,” remarks Lewnes. “As marketers, you need to think about how many ways I can reuse videos I produce.” That’s exactly what Red Bull was looking to capitalize upon when they launched their Red Bull TV service, featuring programming from live global events and sports, music and lifestyle entertainment. It’s free for viewers to watch and promotes Red Bull as an action-packed, extreme product that delivers awesome content on any mobile device. Similarly, Marriott’s creative agency seeks to establish itself as the go-to publishing brand for the travel industry, with an entire division dedicated to building video content

For some, editorial integrity is a huge challenge. “We have tools to understand what is working and what is not,” says Lewnes. “So it’s a shame if you can’t figure out what your audience cares about.” Simply producing content for the sake of producing won’t get your brand very far. Creating a story for your brand is great but unless it’s relevant to your audience it might not accomplish the goals you set for yourself. The content you produce should educate, engage and entertain; it should target your audience’s needs and, most importantly, your target market shouldn’t feel the need to skip past or ignore your content.

Brands have become wiser over the years, understanding that in order to engage with their audience efficiently means staying ahead of digital trends. As media and marketing continue to intersect, we see the lines blurring between what constitutes as brand storytelling and brand messaging. An Instagram photo you like could be part of a fashion brand’s social influencer marketing campaign. Record companies might hire popular figures on social media to cover music festivals via Snapchat or Vine. The most persuasive and effective messages are stories that connect brands to their target market on the digital platforms that are most popular within that demographic.

This new in-house approach for many brands is in part due to the demand for more content and long-term interactive campaigns. Instead of hiring a third-party to consult and create marketing materials for them, brands are using the tools and data available to them to produce content that they know their audience will engage with. As consumers increasingly are able to distinguish branded messages from content created by their peers, brands need to alter their tune to stay relevant to their customers and to avoid ignored.