When it comes to branded content, tout your organization sparingly for the best results.
A recent Pressboard study of branded content revealed that although transparency is important, content marketers and copywriters shouldn’t cross the line into overt promotion.
After evaluating more than 300 pieces of brand content, Pressboard reported that articles in which the organization sponsoring it was mentioned in the first 100 words carried an average reading time of 56.2 seconds. That’s considerably less than the average reading time of 68.1 seconds—the benchmark for articles where the organization was mentioned after the first 300 words.
Though delaying a brand mention can increase engagement, don’t wait too long. The study showed that articles in which the organization was mentioned after the 600-word mark saw an average reading time of 66.3 seconds, proving that readership decreased with less transparency.
Proper placement for your brand mention also affects how much of the article readers will scroll through.
Pressboard reported that on average, a reader will scroll through 72 percent of an article that mentions the sponsor organization within the first 100 words. When content marketers place a brand mention 300 to 600 words in, however, the reader scrolls through an average of 80.5 percent of the article.
Scrolling behavior increases the later your organization is mentioned—sponsored content in which a brand mentioned occurred late in the article saw an average reader scrolling behavior of 81.5 percent of the text—but active reader time will still decrease.
To maximize the amount of time people spend scrolling through and reading your branded content, aim to mention your organization around 300 to 600 words into the article.
You might not be surprised that mentioning your organization’s name multiple times within sponsored content decreases engagement—but don’t skip a mention altogether. Sponsored content that carried brand mentions sparingly and strategically achieved more reading time than articles that didn’t name the organization behind it.
Content that didn’t mention a sponsoring organization grabbed an average reading time of 63.5 seconds—higher than the time readers spend on sponsored content with more than three brand mentions (57.3 seconds) and more than five brand mentions (55.5 seconds).
However, articles in which the sponsoring organization was mentioned only once garnered an average of 69.6 seconds of read time—more than six seconds more than skipping a brand mention altogether.
“This is consistent with most marketers’ expectations,” Pressboard wrote. “If a reader feels that the focus of the article is more on your brand than on the story you’re telling, they’re less likely to engage with it.”
Scrolling behavior is also dependent on the number of times a brand is mentioned. In branded articles with only one mention of the organization, readers scrolled an average of 80 percent through the text.
That percentage decreases as more brand mentions appear: Readers scrolled through an average of 76.8 percent of articles with two mentions, 76.4 percent of an article with three or four mentions, and only 74 percent of an article with more than five mentions of the sponsoring organization.
For content marketers, the takeaway from this study is simple: Be transparent, but don’t sell your readers.
Joe Lazauskas, head of content strategy for Contently, said:
… Consumers really want brands to clearly disclose their sponsorship of sponsored content, featuring both their name, logo, and a clear labeling like “advertisement” or “sponsored”, but they don’t want to be sold to. Self-promotion in branded content kills trust—by 27%. Tell stories people crave. Don’t try to dress up a display ad in sheep’s clothing.
Jesper Laursen, Native Advertising Institute’s chief executive, agreed. Speaking of the study’s results, he said:
… We always urge brands, publishers and agencies to be completely clear about who is behind a piece of sponsored content. For legal reasons, for moral reasons, but also because we truly believe that if you publish relevant, valuable and engaging content, the audience is perfectly fine with listening to a brand – as long as you do not overdo it.