The publishing world has been transformed. The old business model, highly dependent on page advertising, is simply not working that well any longer. To help them stay afloat, publishers have developed several new marketing products to supplement the income once derived from traditional advertising.
One product that has been receiving much attention is what is referred to as branded articles, branded advertising, or native advertising. These are articles designed to look very much like other articles in a publication except they have labels (often in tiny letters) indicating their origin: “Sponsored Content,” “Sponsored Article,” “Native advertising,” or “Advertisement.”
We’ve all seen this. Virtually every major publication in the country now has some form of branded advertising program.
Many B2B organizations like placing branded articles. They see many benefits to this type of marketing:
- The B2B advertiser is able to say whatever they want to say. Although the advertiser must adhere to parameters and guidelines set by the publication, for the most part, they can discuss whatever they want.
- In many cases, the publication will write the article for them. The publication does charge for this service, but it makes the entire process of placing a branded article much easier.
- Typically, the images used in a branded article are more substantial and bolder than traditional images used, to highlight the advertiser’s products and services.
- Some publications will take the next step and, using digital marketing techniques, spread the article around the Internet on relevant social media sites.
Those are the pluses. But here are two things B2B organizations should know about branded articles:
- They can be very expensive. As much as I want to see trade publications stay healthy, the reality is branded article placement can be costly.
- Of foremost concern, studies indicate that they do not have the credibility of traditional articles placed in a trade publication.
A traditional article is either written by the publication or is earned media. Earned media is when a communications professional like myself “pitches” an article idea to an editor. If the editor accepts the idea and publishes the article, that is referred to as earned media. No one pays for the article placement
Typically, these articles are not promotional the way branded articles can be. Instead, they are designed to be educational and present someone as a “thought leader” in their industry. Becoming a thought leader builds trust, interest in the thought leader’s company and services, and ultimately, leads to sales.
According to a study by the Institute of Public Relations published in July 2019, (link to the study) when 1,500 consumers were asked to view articles written by journalists, earned media articles, newspaper advertisements, and branded articles, this is what was revealed:
- The greatest percentage of participants indicated that they found the earned media content to be the most credible among the different channels.
- The participants sought out and paid attention to cues looking to see if the article was branded or if it was a paid placement.
- Nearly half of participants considered branded articles as the least credible source of information.
- Participants described the branded articles as “sneaky,” “tricky,” and “disingenuous.”
- Participants said that earned media and endorsements from people with sound credentials enhance credibility of an article.
Given the lack of credibility attached to branded articles, the benefits of such ads would seem to be greatly diminished. B2B advertisers are encouraged to crunch the numbers before investing in this form of marketing. They may find more success with earned media article placements.
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