If you think you're yet to see examples of native advertising, chances are that you are seeing them right now on the other tab of your desktop screen. These days, differentiating between native advertising and branded content is becoming harder for a layman's eye, and marketers are capitalising on this ignorance to their full advantage. With the rise of content marketing platforms such as The Atlantic, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed that popularised the model, sponsored content or native advertising has fallen into the radar of digital marketing companies.
This practice of disguising ads as editorial content attracted a lot of attention in 2013 when FTC’s “Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements” was unveiled to monitor the headway of sponsored content that look like editorial, primarily designed to trick customers into buying the idea. On the other hand, branded content enjoys the liberty to connect with their target audience. This not only positively builds brand’s image, but it also contributes in organic conversions in the long run.
As quoted by Mike Clear of DigitasLBi, “People don’t like being sold to. It’s a discomforting experience, so the challenge for content marketers is to make sure the entertainment value of the content outweighs the discomfort.” This is where the distinction between branded content and native advertising seeps in. While native advertising is more focused on lead-generation and sales, branded content is all about storytelling – in short, giving customers the information and insights that they want to look through before making their purchasing decision.
In a recent study by Contently, a content-strategy and publishing firm based in New York, it was concluded that about 52 percent of 509 consumers did not trust sponsored content. They also thought that such content simply diminishes the credibility of the news website.
With the same interaction, it can also be concluded that branded content has more chances of going viral as the idea of sharing ideas and relevant information on social media platforms is very appealing to people. Branded content is any content that can be associated with a brand in the eye of the brand's target group.
Native advertising is nothing but a directly paid opportunity where the company or the brand pays the publisher to create and market its product disguised as editorial content. Native ads often tend to have a pushy and sales-y tone. This often fails to work for the brand as readers are becoming smart and wary of being marketed to.
In native ads, brands pay for the placement of content. Even though the content is useful and highly targeted, it is designed to promote the company’s products and USPs. This is why many people confuse this practice for content marketing. The truth is that in native advertising, you are using someone else’s property to display your brand’s advertisement, except that the focus is to make the content look similar to the publisher’s website.
Most consumers interpret native ads as articles, not ads, as suggested by the study conducted by Contently.
Compared to native advertising, branded content is relatively simple. The goal is to build trust over time by providing useful information. Even though the ultimate goal is to generate sales in the long run, sales are not solely expected as the ROI of the piece.
The content is not only produced in relevance with the customer's interest but also strategically placed at the brand’s own properties. The content could be anything ranging from social media feeds, blog stories, website material, banners and social media interactions. The idea is to provide customers with as much information to build the brand’s credibility in their eyes.
In short, branded content is evolving as a marketing technique for distributing valuable, informative, consistent and true content to acquire the target audience while driving profitable consumer behaviour.
Marketing and advertising are ongoing processes for any business. With the rise of ad blocking, marketers and publishers often find themselves looking for desperate ways to market their products and USPs. This is not something that we are unaware of, but what marketers need to know is how to practise the right strategies to blend both types of marketing to create content that is not just sellable, but also espouses data and deeper insights.