good practices and mistakes to avoid

Daniel Bo, CEO of QualiQuanti

Drawing on his experience in advertising, where he worked for players such as Saatchi, Lintas and Equateur, Daniel Bô founded the QualiQuanti research institute in 1990. For over 25 years he has evaluated several hundred content and conducted research on television sponsorship, product placement or digital advertising. He also published several books on brand content, before launching the Brand Content Institute in August 2016. In 2018 he participated in the creation of the All for Content show and the Brand Content Managers Club.

Why is developing a brand content strategy essential for brands today?

Previously confined to the advertising genre, brands transcend their commercial function and take over the functions of author and publisher. Until now, the brand was an advertiser: it spoke with a predominantly commercial mode of expression. Through an advertisement, he conveyed a message about his product and his brand. This was conveyed by an external media, which could impose strong constraints: in terms of duration, content, advertising genre, etc.

With the emergence of brand content, the brand takes on two new functions: as an author, it produces its own content; as a publisher, he chooses or creates his own media. In terms of forms, he can therefore navigate in all editorial genres (blogs, clips, web-series, reportages, podcasts, etc.).

What is the ultimate goal of a brand content strategy?

The functions of the brand content can be classified into 4 categories:

  1. It represents a means to enrich the productto educate the consumer on the use and to move the point of sale.
  2. It constitutes a vector of meaning which leads to the reinvention of the relationship with customers, but also with all audiences, including future employees. In particular, it helps the company to be a pole of attraction in its field of expertise and motivates the interior.
  3. It embodies a lever to increase turnover. It increases brand visibility and can lead to the recruitment and conversion of new consumers. It can become a source of innovation and also of diversification.
  4. Companies get the status of cultural agents : they occupy public space, carry out missions of general interest, strengthen their credibility and protect themselves from external attacks.

What best practices would you recommend for creating an effective brand content strategy for a brand?

The choice of editorial positioning is a crucial topic. Brands need to take into account their deep cultural identity and their environment. The content of the brand corresponds to what the brand mobilizes from its culture, in its publishing activity. The cultural universe of a brand constitutes the ground from which the contents it releases are born.

Different approaches are possible and combinable to define a branded publishing territory. Here is a non-exhaustive inventory of identifiable approaches:

  • Develop complete worlds around the brand,
  • Starting from its thematic universe or its historical specificities,
  • Explore the practices and associated functions of audience content,
  • Mobilize personalities linked to the brand,
  • They express their point of view on the world,
  • Tap into popular culture or high-potential universes.

One of the challenges of the brand territory is whether the brand should talk about its field of business or not. Talking about it directly could lead to self-promotion or improved competition. On the contrary, she would risk being too far from her universe or not being legitimate if she didn’t mention it.

The definition of the editorial territory is played between two potentially antagonistic needs:

  • Interest in the brandor the ability of the content to feed it and benefit from it in terms of image and sales,
  • The spontaneous interest of the content for different target audiences.

The editorial lines can thus be defined according to two logics that can coexist, that is, on the one hand, the contents linked to the brand and which are directly associated with the offer of products and services, and on the other, the contents further away from the offer but appropriate the interests of the target audience.

To go further, you can watch this video to learn how to define an effective and sustainable brand editorial strategy:

What are the mistakes to avoid?

The main risks of brand content are the production of generic, superficial, poorly associated with the brand, dispersed and self-promotional content.

Here are 9 pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Content development without a clear functionwhose interest the public does not immediately understand.
  2. Offer poor quality content related to the brandthat damage its image in the eyes of the consumer.
  3. You offer too much self-promotional contentwhich would be perceived as advertising and not as content in itself interesting, due to an excessive emphasis on the promotion of products and services, an advertising dimension presented from the beginning of the content or even a too promotional dosage compared to the content transmitted.
  4. Instrumentalizing content to attract consumers to the brand : the content is produced independently and is used for strictly commercial purposes.
  5. Create content that is too unbrandedwhere he tackles a theme in general, without tying it to his mood, his philosophy, his values ​​or his products, with contents that would be anonymous, impersonal, masked, floating in the media space due to the lack of a transmitter, and interchangeable by one brand to another.
  6. Integrate offline brand ads of its sector, its state of mind and its philosophy, which has the effect of weakening the universe of the brand itself.
  7. Try to mimic traditional media by mixing general themes : the content of the brand must always start from the brand, its values ​​and its products. Unlike the media, which have the obligation to mass produce to fill grids or columns, the brand must favor originality and, why not, adopt an experimental approach.
  8. Play content from existing brands : Brands need to find a way to differentiate themselves. Even when a theme is already covered, it is possible to develop more original, more powerful and more visible content.
  9. doing nothing : since the content is a source of learning, there is a real risk of not producing it. If you want to take advantage of the experience curve, you need to start as early as possible, but only if you start well.

What channels can a brand use to disseminate their brand content strategy?

At a time when content is proliferating, giving priority to quality and targeting are necessary conditions, but they remain insufficient: it is necessary to move from sites dedicated to the construction of a real media ecosystem, and to increase its diffusion.

The controversial article Content Shock by Mark Schaefer warns against the risks of content inflation in relation to the time available:

  • The free offer grows exponentially,
  • The consumption capacity is limited.

Companies must therefore redouble their efforts to attract interest. If the cost is free for the reader, it is increasing for the broadcaster. A substantial budget is required to bring out the content.

Additionally, each brand has a number of specific content delivery contexts: packaging, newsletters, consumer magazines, brand applications, sites, stores, etc. These are means that the brand controls, but which are only frequented by an informed public.

Finally, private (proprietary) media allow direct exchanges with the public. Value creation is sustainable and costs are lower. They are consulted upon request or transmitted spontaneously by the brand (gift or gesture of the brand).

Among the various existing channels we can therefore mention:

  • The packagingwhich is a privileged space for hosting contents (recipes, advice, DVDs attached in a box).
  • Consumer magazines, which are sent by post or which are available in stores. They are often a first benefit of loyalty card membership.
  • Targeted newsletters by area of ​​interest.
  • The media offered or sold by the brand : such as books, DVDs, CDs, etc.
  • Branded websites : generic sites, thematic pages, a blog, a webTV, a web radio, etc.
  • Social media accounts : Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
  • Applications for smartphones and tablets, chatbotor embedded digital content in connected objects.
  • And the point of sale, which is also a content distribution space. The commercial space allows the construction of complete sensory experiences, which showcase the brand and give it meaning.

Note that the point of sale sometimes belongs to the brand, sometimes to the distributor who allocates space to the brand. To convey in-store content, we can rely on different locations such as the window or the shop to host exhibitions or contents, emblematic places (flagship, corner) to live the brand experience and create events, the radius, to disseminate information relating to offers (files, demonstration space, explanatory video), but also sellers because nothing replaces human contact.

What are the main indicators to follow to evaluate the results of your brand content strategy?

The question of the profitability of brand content is legitimate. After considering its media effectiveness and its impact in terms of image, it is a question of measuring whether the strategic content of the brand goes far beyond a communication or marketing operation. Its evaluation passes through a series of key performance indicators (KPIs), but also through a certain open-mindedness.

Advertisers regret that data is limited to time spent and sharing. They require finer use assessment tools:

  • A more detailed approach to reactions consumers collected,
  • The creation of fine indicatorsable to synthesize social activity,
  • Precise route tracking : rebound, transformation into a visit to the institutional site, in line with what has already been done for e-commerce,
  • The definition of criteria on the correlation between content and comment / sharing : are there points in common between the most shared contents on a brand (length, tone, period, format, etc.)?
  • Industry data which are based on the comparison of data collected for competing brands.

The experience economy and the gift economy invite us to reconsider the criteria for the effectiveness of branded content. What if the brand’s strategic content were a form of gardening, where the brand doesn’t know in advance what risks and opportunities will bring the seeds it sows to life?

A brand content strategy is gradually being developed. We have to accept the uncertainty part of long-term development. This is the price to pay for branded content to produce powerful leverage.

If you want to know more about brand content, Daniel Bô will host the opening conference entitled “New Illustrated Brand Content Trends”, at the All for Content trade show, which will be held on 17 and 18 May in Paris (15). It will be an opportunity to trace an overview of industry trends accompanied by numerous revealing and innovative examples (relevant uses of QR codes in retail, print or display, scales and indicators to help consumers orient themselves, pioneering uses of digital screens, means of maximizing the educational value of content, non-bullshit CSR content, etc.). Daniel Bô will also host together with Pascal Somarriba a conference on the strategic contents of the brand on 17/05 at the end of the day.

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