The state of marketing
Branding, no matter how evolved, will be around as long as there are products and services to sell. Because of that marketers, business owners and strategists alike are constantly developing sometimes aggressive and sometimes subtle yet effective methods to capture the attention of consumers.
The newest method is known as branded content, which are stories that take a journalistic tone with underlying commercial intent. Simply put, brands are attempting to trick consumers into spending their money by disguising the commercial message in articles we would typically read as news.
We trick, you buy
This type of marketing, also known as “native marketing” is the norm now, but it hasn’t always been. Back in the 90s brands depended on blatant advertising to appeal to consumers. Over time, like any trend or fad, consumers became satiated and eventually tired of such aggressive advertising. Brands responded by scaling back, and adopting more subtle tactics.
Fast forward to today and brands have disguised these subtle tactics into editorials that are strikingly similar to the editorials we already consume on a regular basis. Branded content is so subtle, it’s nearly undetectable, even among the most experienced marketers. So does that mean it works and consumers are actually opening their wallets? Yes and no.
Short term vs. longevity
Any long term growth by way of branded content will eventually and inevitably be stunted by the fact that branded content is completely misleading.
Consumers may not realize it at first, but ultimately will discover the rich content they used to enjoy has sacrificed content quality for commercial gain.
Not only will they be disappointed in the brands involved, but also the publications that perpetuate this method.
With aggressive advertising being too overbearing and passive advertising being too misleading, where is the middle ground?
Some brands have begun searching for that middle ground, and have landed on “debranding”, a minimalist approach that focuses on the quality of the product or service instead of the advertising frills.
How companies choose to debrand varies by business. One company may debrand by getting rid of all packaging. Another may eliminate any fluff words in product description and focus only on the hard facts. Regardless of the method, the point is to eliminate the extras, give consumers the real deal, and focus financial attention on quality product developments.
Proceed with caution
Large brands, because of their brand loyalty and uniqueness, can afford to debrand and still be recognized. Nike, for example, can depend solely on their swoosh without the tagline “Just Do It”, and still be identified in a millisecond.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, may have a hard time remaining distinguishable with debranding. We don’t advise small businesses to strip themselves of brand identity in an effort to debrand. This doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t use minimal design, however.
If you are a smaller company, evaluate and eliminate any frills. Downsize on the non-essentials. Focus instead on providing useful services and products; consumers (and their purchasing power), will notice.