Trend Watch: Native Advertising
Two of the biggest trends to shape technology marketing in the past 3 years are the advent of Content Marketing and the ever-growing notion of Brands as Publishers. In many ways, marketing has become synonymous with content and the brands that publish the most effective content have a distinctive edge in today’s competitive marketplace. There is no clearer convergence of these two powerful trends than Native Advertising, a burgeoning trend in and of itself that is increasing in value and utility for technology marketers.
Here are three things you need to know about Native Advertising:
1. Break down traditional barriers
Native Advertising is by no means a new concept. In print publications, everybody recognizes the fine print around sponsored content which has been traditionally labeled as “Advertorial”. Physically separated from both advertising and editorial and branded with its own Scarlet Letter, this label could very well have read “Don’t read me”. Well, fast forward to 2014 and times have changed. The fundamental difference between advertorial and Native Advertising is not as much in the execution as much as it is about buyer reception.
As the technology buy cycle becomes shorter and shorter, buyers are looking to content from all sources to fuel the decision-making process. In the past, technology buyers would often compartmentalize their consumption of content across the buy cycle, gravitating toward third-party independent content earlier in the cycle, then transitioning to vendor content as they move through the consideration and decision stages. Recently, we have observed a significant shift in the way technology buyers consume content with traditional lines being blurred in the name of value. If content is valuable to buyers, they will consume it – regardless of source. And yes, even if its is “sponsored” by vendors.
2. Success dictated by context and utility
Just because buyers may be open to hearing from vendors in the form of sponsored content, that does not guarantee that your Native Advertising efforts will be successful. You must first make sure you are working with publishers to create highly contextual opportunities that fully integrate with a users research environment. You certainly don’t want to mislead users into thinking it is unbiased editorial so it must be clearly labeled, but you want to make absolutely sure that this content is presented to buyers as a viable choice in the natural course of their research. To see an example of how sponsored content can be integrated within editorial, click here.
Secondly, the content that you are presenting must be useful. That means no megaphone, no soapbox, and absolutely no pitching product. There are plenty of opportunities to pitch your products through traditional means, but Native Advertising is not the place. Your goals when it comes to Native Advertising are brand engagement and an exchange of knowledge and ideas. If you provide useful tips, information, and perspective, buyers will engage with your content and, as a result, will engage with your brand. More often than not, buyers will want to take the next step with you if you do this. Native Advertising is a simply a conversation starter. A very effective conversation starter – but a starting point nonetheless. Jump the gun and you risk irreparable damage to your brand.
3. Extend your brand halo
So much of brand effectiveness and recognizability (yes, I just made up a word) used to be tied up in the look and feel of a brand. Visual execution often plays a critical role in brand effectiveness, but what a brand has to say, or brand perspective, is equally as important in this era of content marketing. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes it is just easier to tell buyers where you are coming from. Native Advertising gives brands a platform and a unique opportunity to share their perspective and extend their brand halo through content with a built-in audience.
Hopefully this perspective on Native Advertising is useful for technology marketers as they look for ways to create more engagement with prospects and buyers. I am interested to hearing your thoughts on this topic – please feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.