Bridging the Gap Between Organic and Branded Content

The trophy from the Cannes Lions advertising festival. Winners are often given this prize for being able to deftly bridge the gap between organic and branded content.

Bridging the Gap Between Organic and Branded Content

By Christine Oakes, for

If you haven’t yet noticed, Cannes Lions just took place last week in the South of France. It’s a week-long festival that celebrates creativity within the communications industry. Receiving a Cannes Lions award is essentially the equivalent of winning an Oscar for advertising creatives. While the world is undeniably a better place when it’s filled with artists and rule-breakers, it’s important to remember, we’re not here to pat ourselves on the shoulder for creating something obscure and beautiful…but to create something that resonates with our market. If you manage to fulfill both of those tasks, then you’ve truly mastered advertising. We’re working in a time when advertisers have to put themselves on the same page as consumers, or they will be fast-forwarded, ignored, or just unseen. To allude to David Shing’s (Digital Prophet at AOL) sentiment in a recent story for AdWeek, no more us vs. them.

Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, Carolyn Everson, speaking about branded and organic content at Cannes Lions in 2011
Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, Carolyn Everson, speaking at Cannes Lions

To do this, we have to acknowledge that consumers ultimately have a lot of control over what they will and won’t see. First, we need to go where the eyes are. They have been moving away from TV screens for a long time…but let’s step into their shoes and look at what social networks they’re using. Do they prefer video, long-form, visual content? What devices are they using? You need to be there. The entire industry is constantly and reliably experiencing huge power shifts with new forms of social media (if you’re not on Snapchat, get on it immediately!). Change is undeniably inconvenient, but those who don’t adjust will be forgotten. We may be the ones spending the money and buying the media, but here’s the inconvenient truth: We do not dictate the way our business moves, the market does.

Marketing guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, on his enthusiasm for the newest giant in social media: Snapchat.

Our job as marketers is to innovate, and to know when to break the rules in favor of growth. When something new arrives in the industry, you should aim to know everything about it. Be the first one there, be the consumer, and then give the other consumers something valuable. Embrace the major changes happening in the industry, even if it makes your job more difficult.

It’s not enough to sit behind a screen and research. If you have the capability, go out and meet your market. Figure out what they like, one-on-one. Data can get you pretty far, but it’s important to remember we’re selling ourselves to other humans. True conversation is valuable. Marketing is no longer push to pull, we need to have two-way communication with our market in order to succeed.

Create Content!

The whole world is made out of content. It’s the comedies, romances, dramas we watch, it’s the songs we listen to, the photos and paintings we view, the stories we read. There is only so much time; how do we compete with all of the wonderful things people can spend their time doing? To quote David Shing again, “Attention is the new economy.”

Our challenge is to create content that is entertaining, relatable, and useful. The internet is transforming from an informational platform to a social sphere. Web surfers rely on their social followings to tell them what is noteworthy, but more honestly, what is “cool.” Your digital content should be socially actionable, not only to make it easy to share, but to build community and participation within your audience.

Stories are powerful. Not only are they easier for us to recall than data, but if you think about it, our lives are just a series of living and hearing stories. Stories teach us lessons, make us laugh, make us cry, frighten us, and give us a standard by which to live. Your content is a brand’s story. Your content creation goal is to inspire people to want to live in that story.

Social media icons grouped together: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, Google Plus, and Snapchat

Social media has made it simple for brands to communicate with their consumers and encourage them to actively engage. User-generated content has value that is two-fold. Not only is it an inexpensive and easy way to promote your brand, but if you are able to create a community of people who love what you stand for, they will want to be a part of it with any chance they get. It’s not about the hard-sell, it’s about getting people to identify with your brand and willingly participate in your community.

As marketers, our new task is to break down the barrier between organic and branded content. Your branded content should not aim to sell, but aim to be socially and emotionally relevant. This is such an incredible time to be a creative working in advertising, because our goal is to make our content as good as the stuff you see in the movies. We all know good content when we see it, and we’ll seek it out and share it regardless of whether it’s branded or organic.

Christine Oakes

Christine Oakes

Christine Oakes is an Account Manager at Cooperatize, a content marketing platform that connects brands and influencers to create sponsored stories. She is a graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications. She also works as a freelance wedding photographer for couples eloping in New York City. Check out her LinkedIn for more.
Christine Oakes

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