Time To Focus On Native’s Bottom Line
Interesting content that is a thinly veiled sales pitch is not going to fly.
Marketers and brands have been having a moment with native content, which has evolved into more elaborate stunts and experiences.
This race for consumer engagement, taken to its logical extreme, results in brands like Red Bull literally sending a man into near-space for a death-defying stunt. These types of stunts (and ambitious online native efforts) can be very effective in terms of raising visibility.
Mass-market brands such as Red Bull or Bud Light go to great lengths and expense to model out the contribution of this “content” to the bottom line. This can create an aspirational desire for all brands to march down this content path. Before jumping in, it is important to establish those bottom-line correlations. This will increase the chances of success for the marketer as well as renewal for the publisher.
Unfortunately, in place of those tight models, most native content efforts are typically measured using KPIs that don’t link directly to the bottom line—page views and engagement being some of the most frequent. Again, while these metrics can be loosely related to the bottom line, the link isn’t typically clear enough to justify the five- or six-figure prices some major publishers charge for a single piece of sponsored content. The CMO might buy in, but does the CFO?
Simply attracting a large audience to a piece of content is not enough to guarantee bottom-line results. The pursuit of large audiences can often result in content so far afield from anything to do with the sponsor, it leaves you scratching your head. Large audiences are great, but not without the results to justify the expense.
So why not just get it over with and go ahead and sell with your content? Go ahead, deliver the pitch. Share the case studies, show the results, be clear, be proud, offer the detail and the story. Stop working so hard not to do this. The FTC’s labeling guidelines make clear they want publishers and marketers to stop doing the other stuff. Interesting content that is a thinly veiled sales pitch is not going to fly. Take the veil off and sell .
Consumers understand the purpose of native content—it really can’t be meaningfully obscured at this point—so the content should be just as oriented toward driving a conversion as it is toward engaging and delighting prospective customers.
While some major brands can afford to go all in and pay exorbitant prices simply for brand awareness that pays dividends in the long run, most can’t. For most, a native content approach should be more direct and judged no differently from any other digital buy—with a measureable return on the original investment. The best way to accomplish this is by paying a close eye to down-funnel metrics as consumers engage with content, not just engagement and reach. This will give an immediate idea as to whether or not content is converting in a way that makes it a useful alternative to digital display.
Ultimately, measuring native content results via traffic, engagement, and social sharing will end with serious questions about the investment. It’s time to reorient native content efforts toward the bottom line and start looking at audiences with regard to quality and likelihood to convert, rather than just sheer volume.