Facial coding can help crack content marketing – Study

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63pc of respondents said content-led marketing is an innovative way for advertisers to reach audiences, brand engagement and perception heightened by transparency, integration and a premium environment

BBC StoryWorks, the content marketing arm of BBC Advertising, is pioneering new ways of understanding the emotional impact of content-led marketing by measuring consumers’ subconscious reaction to campaigns on BBC.com. In a study titled “The Science of Engagement”, its in-house insight team, in partnership with facial coding experts CrowdEmotion, combined traditional research metrics with facial coding to understand how brands can use content-led marketing to effectively engage with consumers. BBC Advertising plans to offer this insight to premium clients as part of its campaign reporting to ensure they understand the full impact content-led marketing can have on consumers and the value of it to their brands.

According to the research – the first of its kind by a publisher – well executed and clearly labelled content-led marketing is considered trusted and persuasive in quality environments, and has a powerful emotional impact for the brands involved. Exposure to content-led marketing can significantly improve consumers’ positivity towards the advertising brands (with a +77pc increase in explicit positivity between pre and post exposure). In addition, the study measured the second-by-second facial movements of people as they experienced the content to measure true engagement and the respondents’ implicit reaction.  The results showed that exposure can also lead to a 14pc increase in subconscious positivity.

Richard Pattinson, SVP Content, BBC Advertising and Head of BBC StoryWorks, said: “In a time when advertisers’ are increasing their spending on content-led marketing, it is important that they also feel confident in its effectiveness, and understand the significant positive impact this kind of content has on their brand. We believe that this study will enhance advertisers’ understanding and confidence in these campaigns, and in the value of high quality content-marketing delivered in premium environments.”

Other findings

Transparency and quality were revealed to be the most important factors in engaging the audience. 64pc were happy to read content-led marketing so long as it is clear which brand it is presented by and 64pc were happy to read as long as it is clearly labelled. Among those who already have a high awareness of the medium, this increases to 82pc and 83pc respectively. From that group, 80pc agreed they would share it and 80pc think it plays a complementary role to editorial content.

In the facial coding study, rejection for fully labelled brand-presented content was 7pc below the average benchmark, while rejection for non-labelled content was 18pc above the average. 63pc of respondents were happy to see the content as long as it mirrored the quality of the provider’s editorial content. In addition, 59pc found the content informative, 55pc found it interesting and 57pc said they would share it.

Consumers are 30pc more likely to believe content-led marketing on premium news providers will be more informative and accurate than on non-premium news providers. Content-led marketing enhances brand perceptions, with a +10pc uplift for familiarity and a +14pc uplift in average brand image between test and control. It also drives brand amplification, with a +14pc increase in recommendation and a +16pc lift in consideration.  Integrating the brand drives a greater emotional response and referencing the brand within the content narrative works harder for the advertiser. Integrated content drives a +109pc increase in explicit and a +32pc uplift in implicit brand positivity. Integrated content also increases key call to action measures of recommendation (+21pc) and consideration (+20pc).

The month-long study was conducted in October 2015, following the insight that while traditional performance metrics offered a partial story of campaign success, combining them with the measurement of both conscious and subconscious consumer reaction to branded content offered a more rounded view of the effectiveness of content-led marketing campaigns.

On the decision to explore emotional recognition techniques, Pattinson commented: “BBC StoryWorks has used the innovative facial coding methods to prove that when made transparent and properly executed, brands can use content-marketing to heighten emotional engagement and enhance brand perceptions.”

The key findings from the BBC StoryWorks study have shown five general principles when it comes to content marketing: Be transparent and educate your users; match the editorial quality; be clear what your content is trying to achieve and how emotional engagement can support that; integrating the brand within the narrative will work harder for the brand; and that placing in a premium environment will give your content credibility and allow it to flourish.

To understand why they were experiencing those emotions, a panel of 20 media experts from executives from media agencies, key global advertisers and academia from around the world helped provide context to the facial coding results. The experts viewed the content tested in the research and rated them for the presence of a number of key factors – such as fun and easy going, thought provoking, cerebral etc. Results were merged with the emotional response to help understand why consumers responded in a certain way.

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