AF_Audio branded content

By Neil Bennett

With ‘content’ on every marketer’s lips, we get asked about it a lot. Done well, and for the right reasons, branded content can be an effective way to reach consumers.

Just the words ‘branded content’ takes you automatically to video content, (YouTube viral anyone?) - or ‘always on’ social posts. But few people think about the potential of another medium – audio. This is strange, because there has been no better time for brands to embrace it.

Let’s go back a couple of years...

It was only in the early Noughties, that the only real audio outlet was radio – unless I totally missed the time when brands were doing mini-discs. Then something happened... Apple launched iTunes and the podcast boom happened. Remember when every digital creative response to a brief had a podcast idea in it?

The podcast sparked the idea that anyone, brands included, could create their own radio show (without being dubbed a pirate), make music mixes, and tell stories through audio. As internet bandwidth grew, this notion found itself at the heart of today’s biggest open audio streaming platforms Mixcloud and Soundcloud, and a whole host of independent digital radio stations played through iTunes and other services.

However, unlike the podcast delivery system, these two main streaming platforms have socialised audio content. Both Mixcloud and Soundcloud let you embed players across the web - they have a whole host of social sharing functionality and you can build your own audience amongst these audio loving communities.

Over the past 12 months AnalogFolk have been partnering with Mixcloud to create MALIBU ‘Play’ – an ongoing fun mix series created by a global pool of DJ talent, intended to help MALIBU drinkers get their party started. The platform has been hugely successful. We discovered that it is truly cost effective to create mixes, and engagement is unrivalled versus other media. With no media spend we’ve generated over 200k listens and engagement averaging at close to 30 minutes. We’ve also built our own audience of 15,000 ‘tuned in’ listeners.

Whilst audio content might not be right for every brief or every brand, it is still an untapped outlet. When you’re fighting so much for people’s visual attention, audio could be the way to go to truly deliver your brand’s story.

To get you on your way, here are few tips:

1 - A regular and repeatable idea

Look for an idea that is regular and repeatable rather than one-off. Production costs are lower than for video, so think about an ‘audio’ series. Good weekly or monthly content releases will also allow you to build an audience.

2 - More than just music

Audio doesn’t have to be music-led, naturally music isn’t right for every brand. But you can use audio for a magazine style show, a debate, interviews or even spoken word stories. Soundcloud and Mixcloud are already home to plenty of non-music focused content.

3 - Jingles and authentic brand messages

If it’s brand-led content, understandably there needs to be a kickback for your brand. Fortunately a short branded sting every 15 minutes at various points of the show can be pretty forgiving, as long as the content is entertaining and of true value for the listener. But anything deeper, like conversations around brand topics, need to be done with care and authenticity and should never be about selling products. However, don’t be afraid to point people to other brand activity – if you have a branded event coming up of note, use the audio to promote it.

4 - Always entertain

It may sound obvious, but entertainment needs be at the heart of the content to sustain engagement. If your audio idea is music-led that helps. But other format ideas still needs entertainment it its heart. If it's a magazine-led show, think about a presenter with a natural flair for entertaining listeners and script it.

5 - Think beyond audio

Since mainstream radio shifted digital it has thrived to become a visual medium too. Radio One has webcams into DJ’s, pictures in social media – and they even countdown the UK top 10 through music videos on their website.

Consider how your show could be broadened. For example, if you are creating a magazine format where you are, say, interviewing the next big popstar, then record part of the interview for YouTube, take pictures for Instagram and even publish the written interview in social. In fact, if you take this thought forward, you may already be creating experiences and content, which, with the right approach, could be adapted for audio. It’s about integrating one idea rather finding new ones.

6 - Interaction and engagement

YouTubers are great at building a dialogue with their audience. A good YouTuber always asks them to leave comments, ask questions or make other forms of contact either through the YouTube comments section or other social channels. Use ‘audio’ to do the same. Invite contribution and then feature and hero those contributions in the content.

7 - Break out edits

With production costs so low, it’s possible to support multiple edits from content. Take a magazine-led show made up of multiple features. You could break up and publish these features as extended or shorter edits. They could be used to promote the main show, or extend the show for listeners.

8 - Publish and promote

Find out what is the best time and day to publish content and ensure it is tagged properly, then promote the content in owned channels, outreach the content to relevant communities and use paid channels to bring people into the content.