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Content marketing is now acknowledged as a mainstream discipline and is expected to keep growing.

It isn’t uncommon to hear people say that in the future every company will be a media company. This is in large part due to the rise of branded content and the fact that increasingly brands are turning away from traditional advertising formats and focusing on creating their content that will engage consumers.

New research suggests that content marketing operates on a “pull-logic” that is distinct from the “push-logic” that defines traditional forms of advertising. A recent report from the Branded Content Marketing Association, explains that under pull-logic, audiences choose to engage with a brand and its branded content because of its entertainment, information, and educational value, not because it is forced on them by a TV network or a publisher.

Traditional advertising operated on push-logic, the idea that brands could push messages onto consumers through media that consumers were consuming. This often resulted in an interruption of experience, a TV ad during your favorite show, a magazine advertisement breaking up a feature article, or a banner ad on a website.

In contrast, the research explains, branded content is based on the idea of “non-interruptive pull logic” meaning consumers can choose to engage or not engage with the material. It puts more pressure on the content to be good and to be something that consumers will enjoy on its merit and doesn’t rely on paid distribution (though the branded content does use paid distribution strategies).

With the rise of ad blocking and all forms of advertisement skipping (like fast-forwarding TV ads or skipping pre-roll video ads), consumers have increasingly shown they are dissatisfied with the current ad experience. In fact, user experience was cited by a recent survey as a top concern for marketers and advertisers.

Native content, a central pillar of branded content is advertising that mirrors its surroundings. In an online publication, it looks just like any other post (with some disclaimer). On a social media platform, it is just another status update in your feed. It doesn’t intrude; it tries to engage. And it seems to be working. A new report from Business Insider predicts that by 2021, native display advertising will make up 74 percent of total US display ad revenue, up from 56 percent in 2016.

The research from the Branded Content Marketing Association can help marketers, and advertisers better understand how to use content marketing and branded content.

For example, one person surveyed for the research explained, “I wouldn’t class TV spots as branded content I would class them as advertising. I would say content should have more of a value for the viewer than for the advertiser by creating topical or valuable content that the audience is going to genuinely want to watch and maybe even share as opposed to something that’s just a marketing message.”

That is the key takeaway for marketers; branded content must first and foremost be content, content that people want to engage with and share with their networks. The branding (and advertising) must be secondary to the content. It involved developing an audience and creating proprietary media or having an agency build it. Brands must become their own media companies and treat consumers like a valued, sought-after audience and not a metric to be broadcast to or purchased.

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