Study reveals branded content budgets at a new high

Media publishers benefit the most from the rise in branded content budgets.

Every year, for the past 14 years, the Custom Content Council (CCC) holds a survey that draws a fairly accurate picture of the current state of content marketing and branded content.

This year, one key finding was clear: Content marketing is viewed, more than ever, as more effective than traditional methods.

To be even more precise:

  • 73% of respondents said branded content is better than magazine ads
  • 63% said branded content was superior to TV advertising
  • 62% favored branded content to direct mail
  • 59% said it trumps public relations

As a branded content agency, we at Toast couldn’t be happier to read these figures of course, and it is the exact reason I recommend you spend a couple minutes to read both the linked article below (over at AdWeek) and the CCC post you’ll find linked in it.

The numbers above reflect what we have been saying for some time now but do not answer the million-dollar question we get so often: How to measure the exact impact of content on the brand, its sales or overall change in consumer behaviour.

This is something we put a lot of thought into, trying to link channels and data to validate as much as possible the efforts and budgets brands put in branded content.

One such channel and key actor in the content arena is media publishers. They have the capabilities for content production AND content distribution. This is the reason they are the actor who is getting the biggest share share of the pie in branded content (36%).

This is a good time for branded content and content marketing. All this being said, we will be sharing our findings here, that’s for sure.

In the meantime, enjoy AdWeek’s article.


Creative Approaches to Video Storytelling for Brands

On how to make boring brands and content interesting with video.

Video versus text, long-form versus short-form, the questions are multiple when dealing with content to publish and distribute to your audience.

Engagement with video content is on the rise and the fact that the cost can be very decent (depending on the strategy and approach) makes the overall value of distributing your content using video often an excellent solution to your content format questions.

Recently, a panel at the ReelSEO Video Marketing Summit took on the various creative approaches on how to bring storytelling to brands, using just that, video.

The entire panel is available online and it is the link I am sharing with you this week, over at ReelSEO’s blog.

Although you can get most of the interesting content by reading the blog post, if you have the time to watch the entire 46-minutes of the panel, why not try to watch it.

Here are some of the takeaways :

  • How do you get the best ROI…we try to look for relevance. Context with the content. Find a way to get people talking about the product without overly mentioning the product. What kind of problems are keeping your audience awake at night, and does your product solve that problem?
  • It’s all about story, and as soon as we get to that point where we find that emotional connection, then we know we’re getting there.
  • Don’t be boring. We deal with a lot of stiff business types and we’ll pitch them an idea and they’ll be like, “Are you out of your mind?” and we say, “Yeah, that’s the point.”

These are all essential elements to consider when bringing content to video. And they are elements that we’ve applied to our own work creating video content that integrates storytelling for clients here at Toast.

So I’ll leave you with either 5 or 46 minutes of content this week, you have the choice: short-form of long-form. Enjoy!


The entire panel

Implications and Benefits of Co-Design

Co-design is a philosophy which states that if every individual has different ideals and perspectives, then any design process must acknowledge this.

But how does that fit in our approach, here at Toast? One point that matters far more than any other is the client’s involvement and what he can (and must) must bring to a project when he works with us.

And it’s not a matter of simply giving out the project executive’s cell phone and ask for their opinion once in while. It goes beyond that.

From letting our clients share knowledge of their industry, the market in which they thrive and their objectives with our team, to having them take an active part in developing the strategies and tactics that will be deployed, we never position ourselves as being more important in the solution input process.

Customer co-design contributes and enhances the client’s potential input. Benefits include:

  • 50% of possible innovations can stem from your client
  • Improved customer experience by some type of direct involvement towards the client’s ideals (but be warned, that doesn’t mean that everything the client says will be done down to a T!)
  • direct access to the client’s background and priorities
  • Lower risks and costs by improving the agency<->client communication channel

I firmly believe in the importance of client input, especially in a context where we want to solve business issues. At Toast, our clients are not all from the same line of business. Therefore, we turn to them to validate an approach, a strategy or choice of tactic based on their market. Being on the outside looking in, we can have a more objective POV on what we’re told, but in the end, our clients are the ones who know their market and their line of business.

I have told my clients for the past 10 years:

“We are not experts in your specific market, you are. We won’t set business targets for you, you know much better than us how to do that.

We are experts in developing communication and marketing tools that integrate the context of your market and business goals.”

Aside from client input, we ask ourselves what one or many outside specialists might say on the subject. We do not claim to know everything on the internal side. We can’t always be on the cutting edge of every last development in such and such field. That’s why we regularly welcome to our team external experts that maximise our efforts by bringing specific and targeted input. These contributors are the ones who bring that magic touch to certains projects.

If you’d like to learn more about our co-design approach, just let me know.

In conclusion, I couldn’t resist including this clip, from Thinkpublic, which demonstrates what co-design is:

Other relevant reads:

Bigger Budget = More Innovation and Creativity? Not so fast…

Michael Schrage of the Harvard Business Review on the Connection between budget and innovation.

When advising project teams frustrated by their seeming inability to deliver promised innovation or creativity to key customers, one provocative recommendation almost always produces positive results: Cut whatever’s left of the budget by 15%. Innovate with that.

This seems to contradict all our preconceived notions. One might argue that the more funds you inject in R&D, the more innovation and creativity you will channel, but as Schrage adds:

Despite an embarrassing wealth of anecdotal data and econometric surveys, little positive correlation exists between R&D spend and successful innovation outcomes. That’s why I can’t help but laugh when mainstream business media whine that companies in this sector-and-that “don’t spend enough on R&D.”

Innovation and creativity are based far more on mental than bugetary efforts.

The point and purpose of the 15% provocation is to remind people that human capital always matters more than financial capital. Call it “disruptive innovation for disruptive innovation.”

A team which can achieve better results with limited means (limited without becoming insufficient, far from it) will have a lot more chances to find forward-thinking solutions to existing issues.