[DAY FOUR] Permission-based Marketing & Branded Content and why you should care

Mother, may I have two scoops of raisins in Kellog’s raisin bran? 

I’m fired up about a new buzz word that I feel is truly buzz worthy – permission-based marketing and an old buzz word that I feel is fundamentally misunderstood – branded content.

I had a coffee meeting with a woman I met on LinkedIn yesterday. She is doing amazing things for culture, women, BIPOC and marginalized communities in the face of the pandemic. 

Since losing her job last year, she has spent her time creating an event series that is designed to specifically shine a light on the things we never used to talk about – like accessibility in the digital space, pregnancy loss, the real wage gap, financial abuse of women and so many more conversations worthy of being had. 

Then she asked me what I’ve been doing with my company and I explained how I’m (re)building my company with a mission to help women step into their Stories and, with Story Studio Network, to amplify Stories in a permission-based model through branded content. 

Permission-based. Branded Content.

When I first began my solo career, I was deeply entrenched in the world of influencer marketing. Suffice to say it took me about 12 months of living and breathing that space to know it wasn’t aligned with my mission. 

Influencer marketing only works if the person doing the influencing is as committed to knowing and understanding the person they are trying to influence as they are to the message they are trying to share. 

And when Sally Joe Instagram is out there shilling lipsticks and cleaning products and the latest online banking app, with a smile plastered on her face and a scripted-not-scripted obviously vetted caption full of branded words she’d never use – I see right through it. 

I just couldn’t perpetuate that cycle of dishonesty anymore. 

And you know when the big influencers start getting comments about how many #sponsored things they have in their content, that the shark has been jumped. 

The audience and target market stops giving their permission to be constantly, and obviously, sold to. Not only does the content start to be inauthentic, but the emotional connection of the influencer to his or her audience starts to degrade. 

And it’s funny because when I suggested to my new friend that I could help her find an aligned sponsor for her events, her physical body recoiled. 

She immediately felt like having a sponsor would hogtie her message and give the sponsor all the power in the room. 

She tiptoed around saying corporate sponsors couldn’t be trusted to let the real conversations flow in a real and natural way. 

In effect, she hasn’t had a corporate sponsor for her event because she’s worried they will do to her very important work what has been done to influencer marketing … dress it up, vet a fake caption and send it into the world like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

Like a classic bait and switch. 

Popular belief is the branded content is just ‘bigger’ influencer marketing content, dripping with inauthentic, carefully crafted and borderline manipulated messaging.

And I get why this belief exists! I have worked with MANY large brands who talk a talk and do not walk the walk and as a creative with a voice and a personal brand, it’s infuriating. 

So we’re back to what the heck is Permission Based Marketing and Branded Content and why do I think it’s the future? 

Well, it’s a nuanced concept, but in effect, to be permission-based means the people who are your target market are receiving messages from you that they have opted to hear or see. 

They have FOLLOWED you – by subscribing to a podcast and downloading your episodes, by requesting a connection on LinkedIn, by offering their email address to you for a newsletter.

The audience is saying ‘Yes. Please TELL me about MORE’.

And the stats back all this up. (Shameless plug, but this is why I know Story Studio Network is a crazy good model before we’ve even hit launch on our first network production). 

Because new data from the Edison Infinite Dial Report shows, for podcasting in particular, that podcast listeners not only tolerate host read ads in shows… they LOVE them and are more likely to listen to the entire ad than any other form of digital media. 

They are consenting to hear the message and they are actually listening. 

They, by virtue of their actions, have asked to hear your thoughts and your branded content. 

Okay, so there’s that next word because the data shows that in-podcast ads, basically like the traditional radio ad breaks, absolutely work and have a huge effect on listener conversions. 

But the type of permission based marketing that is even more effective is branded content.

Notice I didn’t say ‘brand’ content. Nope. I said brandED. 

Brand content is where your brain likely goes… things like tv commercials and traditional radio ads, billboards and even traditional corporate event sponsorships – like banners, swag bags, and all that fun stuff. 

Branded content, however, is content that aligns with your brand’s values that you actively seek to insert your brand into and/or uphold through sponsorship or amplification. 

Branded content is based on aligning VALUES. 

So this looks like RBC tacking their name onto a conversation about women entrepreneurship and NOT interfering with the actual content itself. Letting the conversation unfold and simply ‘standing in the room’ with the conversation. 

Their brand gets recognition on a values level simply by being in that room next to that powerful conversation. 

It looks like Land Rover offering up a sweet ride to podcast hosts who are going to trek across Canada to tell the stories of the land and document the effects of climate change on northern populations without having them stop to talk about the heated seats, panoramic sunroof or the fancy pants GPS.

Land Rover simply trusts that they are part of a conversation they feel is worthy and lets that conversation lead. 

There is no bait and switch. 

And if you think I’m being too airy fairy about this – I will tell you that the data also backs up the effectiveness of this type of marketing, especially when it comes to podcasts. 

Because nearly half of podcast listeners listen to the entire episode they download. And more than half of podcast listeners are women. And when you layer that over the fact that podcast listeners LOVE hearing what brands and companies the hosts align with? 

You have a perfect storm for your brand. You shift from pushing your message onto a target market… “OMG, so I know you’ve all been asking about my bed sheets and where I got them! (Said no one ever)” 

… to putting your brand at a table, entrenched in a conversation about something that matters to the audience. 

In effect,  your brand stops acting like a billboard and starts acting like a HUMAN… and when you do that? 

They remember you.


The Rest of the Story is a project of love and commitment to showing up on this site every day for 90 days; sharing honest opinions, thoughts and observations. Comments are welcome.

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