3 Surprising Things People Want From Branded Content

Here’s something that might surprise you: branded content is now a part of 80 percent of consumers’ lives.

Earlier this year, we surveyed 1,072 Americans about what they want from branded content. Most told us they encounter branded content regularly, but they also revealed preferences that might surprise some marketers—and make them realize they’re missing a big opportunity.

You can dig into the full findings here, but I wanted to highlight three of the most surprising findings.

1. Brands need to up their meme game (and spend more time on simple, visual content in general)

I know what you’re thinking: Joe, what are you doing? Do you really trust brands to make memes?

Right now, not really! But people love simple visual content like memes and still images. In our survey, it was the second-most popular content format, just behind video. Yet, in a separate survey of 530 marketers we conducted recently, less than 10 percent said they were prioritizing this type of visual content this year.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect. My advice for brands: Hire people who inherently love and understand social platforms. If the person running your Twitter doesn’t know how to speak Twitter, they’re unlikely to succeed. But if they are, don’t micro-manage them. Trust their weird Twitter meme ideas. Great things can happen—just see brands like Steak-umm, RGA, and Denny’s and the incredible amount of love they garner by letting their social team get weird.


2. Consumers crave educational courses

I’ve been relentlessly bullish on educational courses as the future of content marketing. The logic here is pretty simple: People value expertise. You want guidance from advisors at a successful bank or the thought leaders at a B2B tech company in your field. There’s no easier way to earn people’s trust than teaching them a new skill that makes their lives better.

Our research bears this out—58 percent of consumers said they were likely to take a free course created by a brand.


If you want to take advantage of this trend, Jordan wrote a must-read about how to do just that in his LinkedIn newsletter this week.

3. Social impact storytelling drives purchase consideration

I wrote about the research behind the power of social impact storytelling in December, and now our own research backs this up. Seventy-four percent of consumers said they were sometimes or always more likely to buy something from a brand after reading about the positive impact it had on the world.


Integrating these stories into your content strategy is a no brainer. Eschew the press release, and focus on stories that illustrate your company’s larger initiatives. One of my favorite examples is Bank of America’s “Bees of One Bryant Park,” which showcased the company’s climate change initiative through the story of the 300,000 (!) honeybees on top of the Bank of America building.

If you found these trends interesting, don’t miss out. Check out the full report.

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