By connecting with your audience and providing value to their lives, your brand is more likely to stand out, build a loyal following and ultimately drive sales
Advertising often directs potential customers to buy specific products or services, but it should also aim to connect brands with their potential customers on a more emotional level.
Psychological studies of consumer behaviors show that emotions drive purchase decisions, and they also drive consumers’ brand preferences.
Could you emotionally connect with a potential customer through a traditional ad? Maybe, but native advertising, or branded content, is a way to use longer-form storytelling to build better, stronger relationships that can stand the test of time.
“A brand is nothing more than a mental representation of a product in the consumer’s mind. If the representation consists only of the product’s attributes, features, and other information, there are no emotional links to influence consumer preference and action,” according to Psychology Today. “The richer the emotional content of a brand’s mental representation, the more likely the consumer will be a loyal user.”
Forming connections through good content
By sharing and teaching potential customers about something they find interesting or relevant, you’re providing value to their lives. The key here is making sure the content is truly interesting.
“Interesting” is somewhat subjective, of course, but let’s think about it in the same way journalists are trained to determine a particular subject’s newsworthiness. They consider factors such as timeliness, significance, human interest, public impact and more.
“A good story does more than inform and amplify. It adds value to the topic,” according to The American Press Institute.
Consider a local tire shop. As a consumer, would you feel particularly connected to content about the shop’s ownership, number of years in business and the perks found in its waiting room (free coffee and wifi!)?
This type of content doesn’t help people relate to the business. It’s not relevant to their needs or interests. But what about an article explaining how to choose the right seasonal tires a month before winter — wouldn’t that provide more value to the average reader? The content is relevant and helps them learn about solutions to a common issue.
When trying to think of story ideas to help you form emotional connections with your audience, here are some factors to consider:
- What kind of knowledge or advice could your brand provide to add value to someone’s life?
- How is this story or topic relevant to the audience? Does it address a need or help them solve a problem?
- Is this topic something that feels authentic and in line with your brand’s personality?
- Does the topic have a broad appeal? Does it feel “newsworthy?”
Authentic storytelling leads to positive perceptions
As the owner of the local tire shop, you’d be using native content to promote your business indirectly by sharing genuine advice and expertise about something you specialize in. This is going to build trust with your audience, which eventually leads to loyalty and brand affinity.
We’re not talking about content that’s deceiving or pandering — consumers see right through dishonest marketing tactics. You need to be genuine with your native advertising content if you want to build a positive connection with your audience.
“We are genetically wired to love and respond to stories, and a memorable brand story is exactly what people need to feel connected to your business, have a lasting positive impression of who you are and what you stand for, and become loyal clients,” according to a Forbes piece about brand storytelling as the future of marketing.
Where your content is published also matters
When an audience enjoys content, it also tends to view the integrated brands more favorably, according to a Nielsen report. Where the content is published also matters.
“Marketers that distributed their branded content in partnership with a publisher saw a higher brand lift – 50% higher, on average – than those who published content on their own,” the report says. “Partnering with publishers gives brands access to pre-existing formats, known personalities and loyal audiences where trust has already been established.”
It’s essential to choose a publisher that can connect you with your intended audience. And make sure your content will feel native to that publication’s reading or viewing experience.
By following these general guidelines, you’ll be on your way to building lasting, meaningful relationships with people who will eventually become loyal customers.