When Facts Fall Short: Why Brands Need a Point of View. The article itself wasn’t all that controversial. It was a fairly standard advertorial, presenting the facts (or “facts”) a brand wants the consumer to know. These examples show a choice between stating facts, driving emotions, or being somewhere in between. Each new personal experience causes an emotional response, and we create “somatic markers” based off of these emotional moments that influence our future decisions. Content marketing has the power to connect with these emotional markers to create real connection. Content marketing should always be created with that in mind. Why then, do some brands still fixate on the facts? If you’re going to invest in native publishing, do more than focus on your products. With the biggest budgets in history going native, it’s time to put more trust in the hands of the publishers who have built their audience and connect with them on an emotional level.
Almost four years ago, The Atlantic published a native ad, sponsored by the Church of Scientology, titled “David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year.” Twelve hours later, the post was removed from the site. 1
Since 2013, the incident has served as an interesting learning experience for content marketers. The article itself wasn’t all that controversial. It was a fairly standard advertorial, presenting the facts (or “facts”) a brand wants the consumer to know. But the response to The Atlantic was overwhelmingly critical. The brand and the publication didn’t fit well together, so the ad just read like a marketing brochure.
That’s the tricky thing when it comes to facts. Being honest and transparent is important in any type of media. But audiences need more than that. There needs to be some emotion for the content to resonate. If you just list facts and achievements, people will see right through the content.
With 76 percent of B2C advertisers investing in content marketing in 2016, and 86 percent of agencies expecting to spend more on native ads this year over 2015, there is immense pressure on internal marketing teams, agencies, and digital publishers to make sponsored content that connects. While content marketing has potential as a bold, direct way to communicate with consumers, advertisers are still struggling to find their voices.
Think about the Scientology article in context of other native ads that take a different approach. Last year, Thrillist partnered with Tabasco on “The Boldest Grilling Guide,” a helpful collection of articles and recipes that emphasize brand benefits in relatable situations. Or, for a funnier angle, check out “Woman Going To Take Quick Break After Filling Out Name, Address On Tax Forms” an Onion article sponsored by H+R Block, in which the product takes a backseat so the content can generate an emotional response.
These examples show a choice between stating facts, driving emotions, or being somewhere in between. Marketers have to balance a brand’s positioning with a publisher’s perspective and a consumer’s interest. Blending these three together isn’t easy, which can intimidate advertisers. Instead of pushing creative boundaries, they fall back on facts. This is how compelling stories turn into late-night infomercials.