A blog. A twitter post. An interactive video. While these forms of online communication seem quite different, they all have something in common—they are forms of content. Good content is the thing that keeps people engaged with a brand and coming back for more. And its role in a company or product’s online marketing strategy is getting bigger. In fact, the importance of appealing content is gaining so much traction that a new form of advertising called content marketing, or native advertising, is emerging.
So what exactly is content marketing?
To put it simply, content marketing is the creation of editorial content by advertisers. It takes the form of the medium that it appears in, which makes these kinds of ads less intrusive for the user and more of a part of the overall experience. For instance, a “sponsored story” in Facebook appears in your newsfeed and is almost indistinguishable from posts that come from close friends. This is in contrast to traditional online advertising, such as banners, that typically appear separately from the main body of content.
Why is content marketing so attractive to advertisers?
If you’re like most people, you have come to ignore traditional online ads such as banner ads, pop-ups, and prerolls. The proof is in the numbers. In the year 2000, banner ad click-through rates were at an all-time high of 9%. Today, however, they hover around .2%. That’s right, a measly .2%! As a result, advertisers have been turning to in-stream content ads, which are far harder to overlook. In a recent Facebook study, the average click-through rate for a “sponsored story” was 53% greater than that of display ads.
Who is jumping on the content marketing bandwagon?
Besides Facebook, other companies are joining the content marketing movement. Twitter has “promoted tweets” while StumbleUpon has “paid discovery.” And it’s just not social media companies who are getting in on the act. Online publishers such as the Atlantic and Gawker Media have developed units for sponsored content intended to pique the interests of their users. Perhaps the best example of a company using content marketing is Red Bull.
Red Bull seems to have become as much a publisher as a company that sells energy drinks. If you visit RedBull.com, you’ll find videos and articles on extreme sports such as surfing and snowboarding. The company even publishes a print magazine with similar material. You may be wondering why a beverage company is so heavily involved in producing original content. Well, most importantly, it gets people to interact with the brand. In a recent publicity stunt where a person jumped from the edge of space to earth, 8 million people tuned into Red Bull’s live YouTube feed to watch. And at the end of the day, fans of this type of content associate an energy drink with being active, which is probably a good thing.
Is there a downside to content marketing?
Despite all its apparent advantages, many question whether content marketing is ethical. After all, advertisers are passing along promotional pieces that could be confused with real journalism. It actually got the Atlantic in trouble earlier this year. The publisher created an online article on the Church of Scientology that was paid for by the church. It looked like a true editorial piece except for the small “sponsor content” disclaimer. Journalists from all over questioned whether a reputable publication such as the Atlantic should be going the way of content marketing. As a result of the controversy, the magazine pulled the article, saying that it made a mistake and that it needed to reevaluate its policies in light of new forms of advertising.
What does the future hold for content marketing and where does pharma fit in?
You’re bound to hear much more about content marketing in 2013 and beyond. It’s expected that spending on this type of advertising is going to grow nearly 13% this year alone. That’s a big increase considering that companies are extremely careful where they spend their advertising dollars these days.
Despite the growth in content marketing, pharmaceutical brands appear to be on the sidelines. This is probably no surprise given the industry’s tendency to be slow adopters of the latest digital trends, which of course is due in large part to concerns over regulation. Although pharmaceutical brands do face much more scrutiny than products in other industries, there may be real opportunities for content marketing in the world of pharma. In a future post, we’ll be discussing how content marketing could be used for pharmaceutical products. Stay tuned!
What’s your opinion of content marketing? Let us know what you think by replying in the comments section below.
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