What’s the key to content marketing? In my opinion there’s one core element that is often overlooked: trust. Trust is what drives people to listen to advice, share recommendations and rely on and return to a brand.
This is all the more important as the traditional marketing model has been flipped on its head with the explosion of digital publishers, platforms and services and subsequent new consumer behaviours and marketing opportunities.
From the rise of the sharing economy with the likes of Airbnb, the proliferation of price-comparison sites, the surge of mobile over desktop and an increasingly tech-savvy consumer who no longer takes our advertising messages at face value, brand trust is vital in this disrupted world.
As Marc Benioff, chief executive of cloud computing company Salesforce, once said: "The social revolution really is a trust revolution."
Knowing your your place
One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is understanding the balance of your financial value against the value you bring to your customers and wider society.
Only then can you really understand the role of your brand within the new digital space, where control has been lost and authenticity and trust matter.
And it is trust that is the biggest driver of brand advocacy, as evidenced by research findings from Envero this year.
57% of consumers who had viewed a native advertisement on a key social network said they found it misleading
According to an October 2012 Harris Interactive poll, 57% of consumers who had viewed a native advertisement on a key social network said they found it misleading.
Key to building trust is openness and transparency, which is why, to many, native advertising implies a hoodwinking of the audience into thinking commercial messaging is in fact independent editorial. Clear labelling of commercial versus editorially independent content is therefore critical.
What started out as a conversation about "push" versus "pull" media has evolved into a more complex question of a "closed" versus an "open" brand model.
My belief is that only by opening up your brand to consumers, inviting them to contribute to and participate in your brand, can you build a genuine conversation and relationship.
Branded content can no longer be ring-fenced within paid and owned channels, but should be actively distributed and shared across digital platforms, encouraging interaction, driving earned media and therefore social influence and advocacy.
A final word as to authenticity. Branded content truly resonates when a brand has a meaningful story to tell or a genuine value to bring to the world.
A brand must have the right to play in a space, whether it be music, culture or food. By remaining true to the brand values and purpose, authenticity will out and trust will follow. This is as true in the digital world as it was when advertising was born.