Data is key to branded content success

By Cathy Colliver

Courier-Journal Media, USA Today Network

Louisville, Kentucky, USA


Branded content holds big possibilities for increasing ad revenue at media companies. Stellar branded content evokes an emotional experience because of how well it entertains, informs, or inspires.

News media companies are uniquely positioned to provide a trusted platform for branded content campaigns. However, as with any form of marketing or advertising, there are pros, cons, and things to keep in mind along the way.

Research offers necessary audience insights that help shape appropriate branded content.
Research offers necessary audience insights that help shape appropriate branded content.

You probably know

Branded content is increasingly becoming a popular choice for brands that want to stand out amidst a cluttered media and ad environment.

When implemented skillfully, branded content can be an outstanding fit for brands across a myriad of industry segments, from grocery to utility companies and everything in between. Benefits include increased brand awareness and positive brand association tied to both quality of content and peripheral trust provided by quality publisher platforms like news media Web sites.

You might not know

Data can provide incredible insights for much more powerful branded content campaigns, including:

  • Applying customer data and insights on the front end to identify the best audience targeting to meet a brand’s goals.
  • Understanding a target audience’s content interests and media habits.
  • Selecting the most appropriate formats based on the content and target audience.
  • Campaign optimisation with A/B testing headlines, creative, ad formats, and more.

How USA Today Network is applying data

USA Today Network’s branded content studio, GET Creative, was recently profiled by AdWeek for its application of data toward branded content innovations and custom initiatives, all informed by customer insights and first-party content data.

“Our developers look at data to tell us which stories will perform best depending on the industry, vertical, and market,” said Kelly Andresen, vice president of branded content at GET Creative. “We’ve been building the infrastructure for this for years and can use these tools to produce content for markets across the country.”

Customer insights can even inform creative direction regarding what types of content will be most engaging to the target audience.

Things to keep in mind

  1. Know what you want to impact. Branded content is most successful when the campaign has a clear goal driven by business needs. Understand there may be unexpected ways to influence your end goal. It’s all about discovering the right lever to influence a desired action. Aftenposten recently employed a wonderful example of identifying the right lever by applying a boosted content and audience targeting strategy on Facebook, which resulted in increased subscription revenue.
  2. Measure against the right metrics. Know what metrics make the most sense to effectively measure the impact of branded content campaigns. Increasing awareness and consideration may be proven through the video completion rate, for example, while traditional click-throughs may be either less important or not even applicable to a specific campaign or goal.
  3. Monitor and optimise for success. Optimisation is key for avoiding campaign stagnation. Branded content is all about engaging through quality content that is interesting or useful. If content is not creating engagement, campaign adjustments are likely needed.

Above all else, ensure you are focused on a clear goal so your branded content campaigns can work toward positive brand engagement.

About Cathy Colliver

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