When it comes to making branded global content for the big hitters of the publication world, Graham McDonnell knows a thing or two about a thing or two.
As the Global Head of Brand & Creative at Time Magazine, Graham's career has been nothing short of inspirational to any up-and-coming marketers, but it hasn’t been without error. His talk at this year's Web Summit, titled ‘How To Make Terrible Branded Content’, was an insight into mistakes he sees made by so many, himself included.
One of Graham's points that he spoke about was the disruption a stereotypical “ad” can cause. One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is interrupting what their target audience is interested in. Disrupting the flow of a person's feed or use of downtime is a great way to deter possible clientele.
Brands often forget that marketing is telling a story, and to get your story across you have to hide it in something your targets like. Graham phrased it perfectly, when creating your marketing campaign think of it as a smoothie. The veg inside is the advert, what you are really looking for and know is good for you, but can be hard to stomach. Whereas things like strawberries, peanut butter or banana are the way you have marketed your promotion, the parts that make it look yummy and taste nice. Voila! The perfect smoothie.
People go to social media to relax, decompress and interact with their favourite parts of the digital world. Graham's big tip was to stop interrupting what your audience is interested in and focus on becoming what they are interested in. Hiding your promotion in a trending TikTok dance or a vlog on Instagram Reels is a key way to avoid disrupting the social media status quo.
Another common mistake Graham spoke about was companies making themselves the hero of the story. All successful marketing campaigns should come back to the importance of a good story.
Now don’t get us, or Graham for that matter, wrong, a little bit of self-praise or celebration of achievements is a pillar of marketing. But when you are selling your story, one of the biggest mistakes Graham spoke about was positioning the brand to be the protagonist in the story, that role should be dutifully taken by your target audience.
When you are creating your narrative, it's important to focus less on ‘our product can save your life’ and focus more on ‘let us help make X easier so you can focus on Y’. You don't want to make your audience feel less than for being without your help, you want to show them that what you offer is there to help them become more than. The best way to sell your product or promote your brand is to be the reason your audience succeeds.