The article is “10 Things You Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed About.” And in typical BuzzFeed style, it uses images and GIFs to outline ten habits we’re all guilty of doing. From singing in the shower to awkwardly dancing in public to using Wikipedia as a reliable source of information (hey—it’s gained some credibility over the years), the piece concludes: “You know what else you shouldn’t be embarrassed about? Your bum!” Along with that statement is an embedded video clip of how Cottonelle wants you to chat about cleaning it.
Wow, talk about things escalating quickly.
Sponsored content or native advertising isn’t a new concept. But BuzzFeed has taken an interesting and arguably effective turn.
We give credit to the popular site for learning and fine-tuning its ability to wear many masks; the king of procrastination tools; the serious news source; the content-producing machine for brands looking for a quick viral hit. On BuzzFeed, branded articles are labeled with a “Featured Partner” tagline and a shaded yellow box to distinguish them from unpaid content. The practice has been going on for a year now and it’s becoming increasingly popular among B2C brands; it’s even inspired well-reputed news sources to follow suit in its business model. Sponsored content has been used to promote a variety of products and services, such as food (McDonalds), technology (AT&T), and movies (The Fifth Estate). It’s even been used to raise awareness of personal hygiene habits (Cottonelle).
However, while some efforts appear to be effective, others seem completely off the mark. It’s great that brands are trying to find voices in the content marketing world, but is it working?
McDonalds, in an effort to promote its new product Mighty Wings, recently produced content laced with the mighty theme, such as “Mighty Spirited Cheer Stunts” and “22 Game Day GIFs That Will Pump You Up for Anything.” While the tone of these listicles conjure up content produced by Red Bull Media House, the shared stats fall short of other content on the site. As of today, Cheer Stunts received 103 Facebook shares and only seven re-tweets. An article about brilliant group Halloween costumes, however, received over 2,000 Facebook shares and 254 re-tweets.
And then there’s featured sponsor The Goldbergs, one of the latest sitcoms to join the ABC channel lineup. After looking at their posts, one can’t help but notice the obvious disconnect between the show and sponsored articles about The Little Mermaid and Sixteen Candles. I can only imagine how difficult it’d be for the average reader who isn’t looking for a connection.
Marketers will always be concerned about readers seeing right through native advertising, especially when the theme of an article connects to the brand by a thread. BuzzFeed may be a good way for brands to get started with content, but it’s only going to scratch the surface.
Even though BuzzFeed has started to generate news-focused content, including political posts, many brands choose to embrace the lighthearted tone for which the site is most well known.
Your consumer will only be as good as the content you produce. If you create something to evoke a laugh and a quick superficial connection with the audience, chances are consumers will read your post, laugh, maybe notice your brand logo, and quickly disengage as they jump to another article.
Becoming a Featured Partner can be a great way to increase brand or product awareness. But it can’t be the only way.
If longevity and building loyal leads is the goal, then set a course for rich, smart content that goes beyond the quirky, GIF-friendly listicle to engage, retain and expand your loyal customer base.