10 Tips for Branded Content that Hooks a Goldfish

Posted by Kelly Braun on May 31, 2018 at 9:43 AM     Content
10 Tips for Branded Content that Hooks a Goldfish

Attention is harder to capture in today’s online world. That’s no surprise. In fact, you’re probably a goldfish just like everyone else ...

How many times have you checked Facebook while watching Mad Men on Netflix, then quickly clicked into your email before responding to a text? All while still watching Mad Men, of course.

I mean, come on, research shows we have attention spans shorter than goldfish nowadays.

For a brand, the struggle is real. It’s difficult to get noticed in the saturated online world and even more difficult to get your audience to stop scrolling and spend even :30 seconds with you. (go ahead, throw your hands up in the air)

Yet, that same audience will spend an entire Saturday binge-watching Mad Men Season 3 on Netflix. (yes, throw your hands up again and this time add a facepalm)

How to Create Online Branded Content that Captures Attention

“We don’t get attention just for creating content,” best selling author and keynote speaker Andrew Davis pointed out during the 2018 Content Marketing Conference (CMC) in Boston. “Stop blaming the consumer! It’s time to face our content.”

He’s right.

As a digital marketing agency that produces online content for brands and continuously monitors the online world, we don’t need more content thrown out there. We need better content.

We need content that engages, educates and entertains. We must focus on earning the attention of our consumers.

Consumers willingly admit they are online all the time. That’s how they seek and want information. That’s how they are entertained. That’s how they engage. So, let’s give that to them.

Here are 10 valuable tips from the experts at CMC that I feel all brands should pay attention to today.

10 Expert Tips on Brand Messaging that Connects and Engages

  1. Embrace the curiosity gap and need for closure. That’s part of what makes entertainment entertaining. Something piques your interest and you keep watching because you have to see what happens. Yet, for many brands, the very first thing they want to do is tell us how wonderful they are and how their product features solve all the problems of the world. Step back from your marketing content and think more about how it can be intriguing, even humorous. Entertain first.
  1. Don’t be afraid of long content. However, if someone says the “content is too long,” edit based on entertainment or education. How can you build suspense and ambiguity? Is every piece informative and relevant to what your audience is seeking? If not, delete.
  1. “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all. It feels like a friend talking to you,” said David NiHill, founder of the writer’s platform FunnyBizz. It’s how you have the conversation. Would you talk to a friend like that email you just sent out?
  1. What’s the pre-ride experience? If you have a product or service that that has a longer sales cycle, what is the “waiting line” experience for your audience? What experiences are you providing them on your website, through your social channels, etc., while they are pondering a decision? This is where a content strategy comes into play. Put a content marketing strategy in place that allows your audience to become engaged and invested before they ever make the decision.


Related: Learn to find the strengths and weakness in your digital marketing strategy.


  1. “Be a writer first. Be a marketer second,” digital marketing pioneer author and speaker Ann Handley advises. Start your content strategy with: “Our audience needs X” versus starting with “we need a piece of content for product X.”
  1.  Write to 1 person. Don’t think about the brand. When you write, think about 1 person, 1 goal. Who is your audience of 1? Who are you trying to help? Have that conversation in your message.
  1. Embrace pace. It’s important to note that the right content isn’t always more content. Don’t fall into a habit of tossing out email after email with the hopes of trying to capture an additional click-thru. Margot Bloomstein, a brand and content strategist, advises brands to be very intentional about the content they produce and how it’s delivered. There is nothing wrong with slowing down the content experience. “When experiences take longer to acquire, I tend to retain them more and tend to enjoy them more,” she says. Invest in developing content that encourages exploration and discovery, such as deep dive educational content and comparison tools. Education drives empowerment and empowerment builds trust.
  1. Do not do bait and click headlines and links. That’s a waste of your audience’s time. They will see right through it. The pay must be proportional to the suspense you build.
  1. Do the 5 second test. Close the email, web page or landing page you just created. Open it back up and take a 5 second look, then close it again. What did you get? Does your content use messaging and design in a way that is simple and easy to understand within 5 seconds? Would your audience be able to answer why they should pay attention to this piece of content? If not, don’t move on to create more content -- this is an opportunity to make it better. This ability for continuous improvement is part of the beauty of the digital world and is called Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

  2. All you need is less. Several speakers at CMC reiterated the message: The internet doesn’t need more content; it needs better content. Take your digital marketing program to the next level by making it focused on exceptional content that educates, entertains, engages and connects. Produce content for your audience, not your brand.

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