Branded content is a term that gets thrown around a lot in marketing circles, but many people struggle to understand what it actually means.
You’ve probably come across and engaged with a lot of branded content before without even realizing it, whether as a consumer or in a professional context.
In the travel industry, in particular, branded content is frequently used as a way to appeal to certain customer demographics that prioritize brand integrity and values over the specifics of their offering.
Branded content can take a variety of forms and styles, which means it can be difficult to figure out the best way to make the strategy work for you.
Here the struggle ends.
What is branded content?
Simply put, branded content is any piece of content that builds brand awareness by associating the company with the values it conveys.
To truly understand where this approach comes from, you need to understand the context from which it arose.
In essence, traditional advertising aims to sell a product or an experience. Whatever method is used to do this, it is often obvious enough for the customer to realize that they are being actively sold.
Many of the techniques used in traditional marketing are very effective, but the consumer landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade or so.
Potential customers are wise to the classic tactics used to capture their attention and subtly manipulate their behaviour, distrusting brands that use obvious advertising methods to explicitly push what they sell.
Moreover, what modern consumers want from the brands they support has also changed in recent years.
In fact, 83% Millennials, in particular, like to spend their money on products or experiences from companies whose values align with their own, and they actively look for companies with missions or goals that they also support.
This is particularly important in the travel industry because it aligns with many customers’ concerns about the social or environmental impact of their vacations.
Instead of looking for the cheapest deals, many consumers are now prioritizing booking flights with brands that share their priorities when it comes to travel.
Branded content is the product of these major changes in the marketing landscape.
To appeal to this new generation of consumers, and to avoid the mistrust that comes with obvious methods of advertising, branded content focuses on creating all kinds of content that potential customers will enjoy and that illustrates the company’s values, rather than displaying them.
They can be videos, blog posts, publications, and podcasts produced by a brand but not directly related to its product or service.
Branded content taps into topics that potential customers are interested in to grab their attention and then builds affinity by regularly sharing other engaging content so that the brand becomes synonymous with some positive value or idea.
The benefits of this approach are clear: Branded content strengthens your brand image, helping you stand out from your competitors, improves recall, and increases the number of potential customers who hear about your brand.
Targeting potential customers whose values align with your brand also means that conversion rates are higher and you are more likely to gain customer loyalty in the long run.
Branded content is an inbound marketing strategy; Attracts new customers by focusing on creating an attractive brand image.
There is a lot of overlap with other marketing techniques and formats, which makes it easy to incorporate this approach into your existing marketing plan.
It should be noted that the term “branded content” is now also used to denote a type of collaborative marketing approach on social media platforms such as Instagram, where the creator indicates that the post has been sponsored or inspired by a business partner.
Influencer marketing can include types of branded content, but in this article, we’re using the term to refer to the broader style of content creation.
How to make branded content work for your travel business
Now that you understand what is meant by the term branded content and can see the benefits of adopting a brand approach to travel, you may be left wondering how to put those ideas into action.
1. Define your values
Company values are an essential part of creating a unique brand image. It’s more than just your business goals and culture.
It dictates the types of travel experiences you offer, the way you approach your marketing content, the way you use your earnings, and the types of consumers who support you.
The core of any branded content campaign should be what your company stands for and the impact you want to have in the world of travel and beyond.
The whole point of this marketing approach is to highlight brand values that the audience will respond to, so you need to make that clear before you go any further.
If you already have a clear set of company values, that’s great. Decide on the things you think your audience will relate to the most, and go from there.
If you feel your values are lacking, think about issues or trends in the travel and tourism industry that you are interested in or feel you could make a difference to.
View the grid more broadly and think about any social issues you think your work can support or influence, and consider if there is a way to fit in your values as well.
2. Determine the interests of the audience
Understanding the audience you are marketing to is the backbone of any successful marketing scheme. Branded content is no different.
However, rather than simply tapping into what your audience wants from a travel company, you need to dig deeper and research the interests and values of each demographic in your customer base.
Branded content works by getting the attention of potential customers who want what your business has to offer, and building a relationship of trust with them through the content you share.
In order to capture that interest in the first place, you need to have a clear idea of what your target audience is interested in.
This goes way beyond simply understanding what kind of vacations they enjoy and what travel experiences they seek to get, although this is still very helpful.
You need to know what other interests intersect or align with their identity as a consumer.
- What kind of hobbies do they enjoy?
- What other brands do they support?
- What are their values?
- What social issues are they interested in?
- What topics do they enjoy reading about in their spare time?
Complete this research for each of the different groups that make up your target audience, the more segmented the audience the better.
Then, identify areas and topics that overlap some with your brand, and start looking for branded content inspiration here.
For example, let’s say you’re a travel brand that specializes in recreational getaways to tropical destinations.
Your target audience might have general interests in things like healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness, and also be interested in their environmental impact on the planet, for example.
As a travel brand, it doesn’t make sense for you to share content that offers health or nutrition advice, but you can create content that discusses sustainability in travel or the benefits of activities like yoga or meditation for mental health.
There doesn’t have to be an explicit focus of travel on the branded content you create. As long as it aligns with your overall business values and benefits your brand image, it will attract the right types of customers.
3. Choose popular formats
A key part of ensuring success when it comes to branded content is choosing a format that your target audience will engage with.
There’s no point in spending a large portion of your budget on an elaborate video marketing campaign if your target audience would actually rather read the content than watch it.
Alternately, if the majority of your clients enjoy social media content above all other formats, creating a print publication will get you nowhere.
Branded content makes a big impact because it engages and excites the people who view it, driving them to share the content and expand its reach.
If you are not using a platform or format your audience is familiar with or want to share content on, you will not get the desired impact.
Another advantage of branded content is that it tends to respond to popular trends.
There’s no point trying to create something relevant if your audience has already lost interest in the format you’re using. If you’re going to be inspired by what’s popular, you need to make sure you act quickly.
This is one of the simplest branded content marketing tips, but it’s an essential part of making the approach work for your travel brand.
Do your research to make sure you’re creating something potential clients will want to do business with, and then start brainstorming.
4. Create immersive content
Branded content strives to grab people’s attention and make an impact, even if they’ve never interacted with your brand before.
Tapping into consumers’ emotions is one of the best ways to do this, which is why creating branded immersive content is such an effective tactic.
Video and audio formats are particularly successful for travel brands, as they can instantly transport a potential customer to a new destination or experience.
You should not use this tactic to promote your brand offering (or at least not in this approach to marketing), but instead, focus on crafting an experience that is so engaging, that it will stick in the mind of the consumer afterwards.
The worlds of virtual reality and augmented reality open up more possibilities than ever when it comes to immersive content, but even if you don’t have enough budget for such formats, you can still effectively engage your audience in an instant.
Consider audio content that speaks directly to the listener, visually heavy social media posts that inspire instant wandering, and description-rich written content that the reader can’t help but get lost in.
5. Be unique
There are plenty of instances in marketing strategy where it pays to play it safe.
Branded content is not one of those.
This is definitely the time to do something quirky and creative that will get more attention on your brand and your content engagement.
Partnering with an unexpected brand in a series of social media posts? Reply to a hot topic that clearly states your position on the topic? A project in an unusual format, such as producing a music video?
The best examples of branded content are those that have gone viral, usually because of their unique or unexpected nature.
Communicating your values is important, but you need to get consumers’ attention first so they actually listen to what you have to say.
If ever there was a time to take a risk and try something new, now is the time.
It’s possible that your travel business has already dipped into the waters of branded content, or you’ve been aiming for similar results with your marketing efforts without knowing the technical term for what you’re doing.
You may also be a complete newcomer to this approach, in which case this article should give you a good idea of the best ways to make branded content work for you in the travel sector.
The nature of branded content is likely to change over the coming years in response to fluctuating consumer interests and priorities, as well as the introduction of new marketing techniques.
But what is not likely to change is the positive impact of promoting your brand by finding common ground with your target audience, resulting in high levels of customer engagement, trust and loyalty.
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