‘Brand content doesn’t have to suck’
The headline is a quote from David Carr, The New York Times’ late media critic, according to Tara Fuller, content strategist, T Brand Studio, the branded content team in the newspaper’s advertising department.
Ms. Fuller spoke last week in New York City at the Conductor C3 event, a conference focused on organic marketing and web presence management. Her topic focused on the best ways for brands to mine "meaningful stories" consumers will find authentic and engaging.
While brands often ask for a "big splash" or something that’s "never been seen before," the efforts often develop into confusing ads or blatant advertisements.
Offering the famed quote by advertising legend Howard Gossage, "Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad," Ms. Fuller said her team pushes brands to "dive far beneath the surface" to find something meaningful.
Her five components for developing strong brand content:
- Turning complexity into clarity
- Compelling storytelling
- Leaving a lasting impression
Source: The New York Times – “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work”
Mr. Carr’s comment related to the relevancy created by a promotion around Netflix’s "Orange is the New Black" series. The campaign featured actual women in prison discussing their regrets and anxieties, including many who had to leave their children in the care of others.
Ms. Fuller said relevancy means letting the reader not only "know what’s going on" but become "part of the conversation."
Turning complexity into clarity involves making the message easy to understand. Simple incidents are often more readily compelling than one involving numerous facets. She added, "If it isn’t a story, don’t tell it."
A compelling story invokes emotion and fully immerses the reader. As an example, she showed a Cole Hahn short supporting a new ballet shoe that featured professional ballerinas discussing their fears and exhilaration around show time.
Finally, leaving a lasting impression involves changing perspectives and perceptions, ultimately inspiring or teaching something new. As an example, she offered a Holiday Inn short that told the story of a mother with cancer who dies in the middle of a year-long quest to travel the world with her husband and two young daughters. While tear-jerking, the story also spoke about perseverance and the wonders of discovery.
Ms. Fuller’s key takeaways included listening to as many people and experts to vet potential meaningful stories. Brands should be ready to "get your hands dirty," or get personally involved to maximize the story search. Finally, brands should be set "to pivot" or change the whole storyline if a better one arrives. Ms. Fuller said, "Let the story be the story."
- Women Inmates – Separate But Not Equal – NY Times, paid post
- Grit & Grace – NY Times, paid post
- "Journey to Extraordinary: The Creekmores" – NY Times, paid post
Why is online brand content often lackluster? What advice would you offer to brands around creating compelling content?