As a small business owner, you understand the value of branding in raising your company’s profile and increasing sales. You, on the other hand, do not have a sizable advertising budget to invest in traditional (i.e. costly) branding strategies.
The answer to your dilemma is branding content – a low-cost (yet highly effective) strategy that can assist in developing your business’s online brand and ultimately generate more leads, prospects, and customers.
We’ll begin by defining branding content and then discuss six different ways you can use it to expand your business’s reach.
1. Parody to Strengthen the Brand
In the context of branded content, a parody is when a company takes a popular television show, film, or current event and creates a humorous tribute to it while also incorporating their own brand.
One excellent example is GE’s podcast The Message, which is a science fiction homage following the efforts of a top team of cryptologists to decipher, decode, and comprehend a (fictitious) message from outer space received 70 years ago. It lasted eight episodes and amassed a sizable following – there was no message to buy, it was simply a fun story.
In the United States, a sandwich chain called Quiznos created a much-lauded mashup of Star Wars and a popular television show called Entourage for a television commercial – as improbable as that may sound!
Parodies are easily created using a perennially popular film series (such as Star Wars), a television show, or anything else that is currently ‘trending.’ Naturally, you must exercise extreme caution to avoid violating copyright, which means you cannot use clips or dialogue directly without express permission.
You could connect a new film, television program, or event to your line of business by gently weaving in the brand name or product – I’m thinking paintbrushes with light sabres. And, judging by the examples above, it’s probably a lot of fun.
2. Newsletters for Content Marketing
Major brands (such as Lush) frequently publish their own newsletters that provide information about their products in an entertaining manner. Examples range from product-focused news to opinion pieces, and whether you print or email these to existing customers is entirely dependent on your customers’ preferred method of content consumption and the resources available to you. Print can feel more personal, but comes at a cost.
Consider Microsoft Stories to see how the big boys do this online – there are all sorts of treats in this “digital pub,” from staff discussing feminism to lots of interesting detail about futuristic projects (and even a conversation with the executive producer of Halo).
If this option is too costly or time-consuming, consider writing opinion pieces for local newspapers to increase your visibility. To make this work, you’ll need to establish yourself as a thought leader in a field relevant to your business (for example, a company making pollution filters could write about the environment).
Yes, advertising is an expensive option, but if you have the budget, you should maximize it!
There are some fantastic examples of inventive advertising out there. Utilizing humour and a compelling storyline can help an advertisement stand out. Additionally, there are some fantastic still advertisements that convey branding subtly. The message is to write rather than “use our service,” so emphasizing the utility of your product rather than the product itself may be effective.
Blogging is an excellent vehicle for introducing branded content, whether on your own website or through guest posts on industry-related blogs.
Blogs are an excellent way to communicate with customers – every small business possesses a reservoir of specialist knowledge and expertise that can be mined for information and opinions.
5. Quizzes and Games
A straightforward example of this would be the question, ‘what type of (my product) user are you?’ You can make this serious or humorous: a humorous quiz might use images of well-known people (if they are public domain) or animal species to indicate a particular buyer type.
This is a simple introduction to ‘gamified content,’ an increasingly popular strategy for increasing your profile. It’s a strategy that can work extremely well in today’s game-obsessed society because it keeps your brand identity in front of your potential consumer for much longer than the typical time spent viewing an advertisement.