What is “native content” and how do you do it? (an example from M&Ms)

Advertising doesn’t work that well anymore. People resent it. Or, maybe that’s not exactly true, but let’s say conversion is down. For many businesses, advertising doesn’t work as well as it used to. People want truer, more authentic experiences. So the best way to reach customers is to put a piece of content into the platforms they’re already using, without trying to make it into promotional copy or advertising. Just something fun and cool – something that fits in and belongs on that platform. A piece of content that “gets it” and knows the rules, so it doesn’t seem like a dad just trying to be hip.

At the movie theater tonight I saw a pretty good example from M&Ms.

Ok, it’s not exactly native content but I think it’s still a good example.

There were a bunch of advertisements and movie premieres, but there was also that video they play to remind you to turn off your mobile phone.

Only that whole video was made by M&Ms. And it was actually an entertaining little script, with those M&M characters. It was a story. The story ended with a reminder to turn off your cell phone. It was an expected, normal part of the movie going experience. Totally within the rules. If it wasn’t M&M, something much lamer would have been there. But it was also providing value (retelling the boring rules in a fresh way and making it interesting). Of course it was covered in branding, the whole thing was a big ad, but it wasn’t selling or suggesting you go buy some.

Instead it increases brand trust and loyalty, and makes people think good things about the company. They might think of M&Ms when they want to have a fun, family party. Because they associate M&Ms with color, entertainment, happiness. M&Ms could have just taken out an ad. I don’t know how much they had to pay to get featured like that (maybe nothing? The movie theater has to play something there. If M&Ms provides a really cool clip that movie goers enjoy, why not play it? M&Ms created something useful and essential, that theaters could actually use. Maybe they distributed it for free and are getting free advertising out of it. I don’t know).

You should be looking for things like that. Things that are out there, being done, necessary, common, but boring… redo them. Make them better. For example, sometimes when I see a blogger I follow say something cool or post a great manifesto, I’ll turn it into an image quote or infographic. They’ll share the shit out of it, and usually credit me. All I’m doing is making them look good. Win win. If someone is looking for a logo or header or seal or something, maybe I can spend 10 minutes and make something. Maybe they’ll use it and link back to me in the credits. My point is, don’t make advertising, make value. 

Make lots of value for people with big platforms, or something that will be liked, enjoyed, shared. Give value to make your brand stronger and get people aware of who you are and what you do. It works better than advertising (in some cases… advertising has a role too and can be very successful. Advertising belongs where advertising is… but native content, cool stuff that doesn’t look like advertising, can often reach far more people on a much smaller budget.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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