“Branded content” is officially the biggest drain on marketers’ resources, but brand’s videos, blogs, social media posts and infographics are all showing more value this year than last. In this Content & Coffee, I want to discuss new research on the result-deadly qualities of “branded content.”

The CMI released two studies this month – the State of B2B and State of B2C reports. In both cases, the data says branded content doesn’t pull its weight among the up to 13 formats marketers use on average. 46% of B2C brands and 42% of B2B brands use “branded content tools” but NEITHER group cited it as an effective format. So less than half of the marketers who use branded content tools get value from this approach.

Branded Content Effectiveness Pic 2

But what IS this approach? A spokesperson for the Cannes Lions – which offers an award for branded content – struggles to define it. He said “We want to leave it open. It’s the brand and audience coming together.” But no one has ever actually won this award category, and our friend Joe Pulizzi at the CMI thinks it’s clear why no one wins at branded content.

Joe defines it much more simply: “Content that aims to get the product out there in some way” or “advertising.” This may be through some guise of entertainment, with no real effort to build audience relationships.”

The B2C Content Report found that marketers’ top goal is sales, but the most effective B2C marketers prioritize traffic over sales , and they rate customer renewals as more important than their peers. This shows us putting audience needs and customer engagement ahead of products can drive your success. Don’t try to go viral with an entertaining clip that has product placement: If the intention of a piece is to sell, then be transparent, about that, and remember content as a sales tool is just one way content fits into your marketing funnel.

To avoid pitfalls of branded content, ask yourself:

  • Is this useful?
  • What question, or idea does it address for my audience?
  • Does my company provide something new to the conversation?
  • Might someone have been willing to pay for this – eBook, infographic, tip, whatever – and I’m giving it to them for free?

4 Quality CHecksMake sure your content is the best it can be with this 4 step quality content checklist.