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Why Asian Start-ups Love Branded Content

4 ways to engage your audience and not do the hard sell

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 18 Jul 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Today’s consumers thrive on content, from photos and static images to videos to articles. But with the advent of numerous platforms – and because digital natives can spot advertising at first glance – firms have to constantly be creative in promoting their brand, including content production and distribution.

“For brands, the boom of the digital age is a golden opportunity to get their message across to their specific target market at a faster and sometimes more cost-efficient way. It would be a shame if one did not take advantage of it,” says Ira Macalindong, social-management director at global digital marketing agency MRM//McCann.

She adds that the “possibilities on digital are endless.”

Simon Kearney, CEO and editor-in-chief of content marketing firm Click2View, says that producing brand content is important since we now know that people make buying decisions based on an “information journey” that they go through. Traditional advertising does not work anymore, he says, which means brands need to engage their audience in different ways.

Prior to working in the digital space, brands made sure to balance advertising materials – billboards, print ads, radio and television commercials – with public-relations efforts such as advertorials. The digital realm is no different. Macalindong says brands have learned what type of content works for the different digital touch points, especially through innovations in data collection and analytics.

Companies produce their own content for many reasons: to achieve SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) objectives, to enhance company image, to establish authority in the space, to drive demand, and to open up channels for future engagement.

Job-matching platform Kalibrr has a team of in-house content producers, but has also employed freelancers to complement their efforts. For Daniel Olivan, content-marketing manager at the Philippine-based start-up, content is a good way to reach audiences without being direct about it.

He says, “Your content has to bring your leads closer to becoming customers, consumers, or closed deals, if it’s going to be effective at all as a marketing strategy.”

With regard to distribution, should brands share content on their social-media channels or partner with an established media outlet to publish it?

Macalindong says having content on your own social-media channels and having one published through a media outlet should go hand in hand and complement the brand's campaign and overall objective.

For Olivan, “Getting content published in credible and well-read media outlets will, first of all, boost your brand's visibility…Even when the content is published in print, the media outlet's credibility will still create an impact on the readers of the content.”

He adds that specifically for digital publications, another benefit is that getting a link to your website from a popular media outlet will likewise boost your website's search-engine rankings in the long run.

Whatever channel you choose, here are four elements that your branded content article must have:


1. Quality

“One of the most important things to remember about content creation is that quality is paramount,” Olivan says. He cites how the popular U.S.-based news and entertainment site Buzzfeed creates effective content. “To put it simply, good (and even viral) content must be able to: touch an emotional chord; provide some form of practical utility; encourage the reader to achieve something; and let the reader relate to the content easily,” he adds.

Another crucial element is that “it sits snugly along the customer journey.” Olivan says, “Never imagine that the piece of content is an entity of its own. Every article or graphic you create is part of getting your customer closer to availing of your product or service.”  


2. Authenticity

Kearney says content has to be genuine, which is the reason why they employ journalists to create content because their mindset is “to tell the truth, to get things right, and not just fall for a hard sell.”

He adds that the first thing to remember when producing content is “don’t sell.” Avoid making it a piece of promotional content. Instead of talking about the company, discuss the benefits of the product or an interesting fact relating to it. For Singapore-based Click2View, being real would mean getting their client’s customers to do a testimonial in their own words, for instance.


3. Personality

Content should represent what the brand is all about. Kearney says a brand’s content must be delivered with a unique personality, which captures the company’s voice and culture. He says that what brands should essentially be doing is taking real-life conversations in business and bringing them into the digital sphere.


4. The right language

“The most effective branded content articles are those that pique the interest of your target market,” Macalindong says. But before brands are able to do that, they need to understand the language of their target market. She adds that only then can brands be able to find a niche in their lives and ensure that they are in the “space where your target market will be or wants to be.”

“Once you get them hooked, and once you're in the right places for your target market, knowing their language is key when it comes to writing effective branded content articles. You have to learn how to tell them your brand's message or campaign message in a language they understand,” she says.

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