Visual Content Branding for Businesses Without Billions

When is a promoted post not a promoted post? When it's a promoted visual.  That's no joke, but it is a growing trend among marketers trying to find the sweet spot for their online ad spend. Demonstrating two trends in one, in fact, three quarters of brand marketers surveyed in a study by IZEA chose to use some form of sponsored image. With paid Pinterest pins showing a significant uptick, the expectation is rising for other highly visual platforms that introduced branded content and advertising in 2014, like Instagram and Snapchat, and perhaps even new live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope. Most importantly, the expectation on businesses big and small is that ads shouldn't just sell but also inform or entertain their viewers. Dove 'Selfie' campaign

From Online Ads to Original Content

What this and other recent statistics show is not only the surge in popularity of marketing that relies on visuals, but also the need to communicate brand value by integrating with content rather than interrupting it. The term ‘native advertising’ gained a lot of prominence last year, alongside content marketing and a growing focus on brands becoming publishers. This might not seem like a reality for small business owners, but the unprecedented reach that we now have into the more personal spaces of customers - from news feed to inbox, audio to visual on mobile devices that consumers carry everywhere - brings with it the necessity for any communication to engage the viewer. Without that quality, content sends no signals to social platforms that it's popular and reach on social media can quickly stagnate. All of these ideas coalesce into the desire to line up alongside the content being consumed with more subtle, associative advertising, not ram the message home in a disruptive manner. Then there are the brands that connected with other events to create their own viral visual content, with Oreo being the most famous example with its tweet/ad at Superbowl XVIII. Visual, contextual content that can still sell, albeit beneath other layers of value, has set the stage for brands big and small to take marketing and ad creation to new levels as new content platforms emerge. Red Bull TV app While many focus on the need to associate with quality content, the biggest brands are taking matters into their own hands. Red Bull exemplifies this concept with its Red Bull TV and live event initiatives. The cost for high-quality is clearly prohibitive for most organizations, leaving paid advertising reach, memorable marketing tools, and good old creativity to bridge the gap. By producing original content, or at least content unique to the business that also entertains potential customers, a company has both the control and deeper connection that many brands seek with their target mark. Elsewhere in the world of big brands, Coca Cola sees such value in the creation of content to increase awareness that it has dedicated an entire section of its strategy to liquid content. The lesson for smaller brands here is that placing the emphasis on customer stories and the user-generated content that this can provide is another winning idea. Provide something that those interested in your company’s values will find attractive, then deliver it under the banner of your brand. Brands are evolving into full fledged content marketing machines, with social media at the heart of the engine to spread their work and drive greater brand awareness. By taking what's best about your company and telling the story using affordable marketing tools and platforms, you can set the same course for your small business.

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