Digital branding company Fullscreen has taken a stab at answering the question everyone working with influencers wants to know: does branded content actually lead to more sales? While most companies are aware of the importance of creating content that can compete for the attention of this digital-first generation—and generally build a stronger and more robust brand—it has previously been difficult to prove that branded content impacts the bottom line.
In a recent eMarketer study asking what issues were keeping chief marketing officers and brand managers up at night, 97% said return on investment was their biggest concern, while 88% said it was creating relevant and engaging advertising content and storytelling.
Through a partnership with social media data company Shareablee and market research firm IRI (which tracks consumer, shopper and retailer market insights for the consumer-packaged goods industry), Fullscreen was able to create a new product that identifies the link between social branded content and sales. The new tool combines Shareablee’s social media exposure with IRI’s offline consumer-packaged goods (CPG) sales data from more than 500 million shopper program loyalty cards.
This meant Fullscreen was able to measure the sales impact of campaigns executed for three CPG advertisers across new product launches in the beauty, beverage and food industries. The company will offer the Shareable-IRI tool as part of its measurement strategy for CPG clients and is exploring similar social lift solutions for categories outside of CPG.
“We wanted to be a part of helping brands understand that yes there are long-term benefits to doing content marketing the right way and to owning your audience and building your brand communities, even if you’re not a direct-to-consumer brand,” says Maureen Polo, the GM of Fullscreen’s Brand Studio. “But it’s not just the long-term health and wellness of your business, this is the type of work that does impact the bottom line.”
To prove this, the companies tracked the offline purchases of consumers who had viewed Fullscreen’s influencer posts and applied a test vs control method. It showed that consumers exposed to the branded posts bought the advertised product at a 1.5 – 5.2% higher rate than control audiences. And, the group of people that had not only seen the posts but also engaged with them (liked, commented, shared, etc.) bought the advertised product at a 58% higher rate than those who were exposed but didn’t engage.
While Fullscreen already knew that this was likely happening, doing the research and creating this tool was all about getting credible, outside measurements and proof, says Polo.
“When marketers see this from credible partners they tend to believe it, more than even their own data sometimes,” says Polo. “We really wanted to be able to focus on this specific type of programming and prove that it’s actually moving the needle for them and it’s not getting lost in all of their other marketing they’re doing.”
Fullscreen declined to share which brands it worked with for this initial research or which posts drove the most engagement, but did say that one is very established in the CPG space and still saw a lift in sales.
“When you have a brand that’s been around for so many years and you see a percentage lift like that, it really does make a significant impact on their bottom line,” says Polo. “That was really exciting for us because it’s easier to move the needle oftentimes when it’s a newer brand and you’re promising new innovation, and that wasn’t the case.”
Now that the digital company has created this new tech it’s going to be able to apply it to other clients that it works with, including Mattel. For its part, the US toyco has been working on tracking the connection between sales and content to find out which videos kids want to watch, and will drive toy sales.
Mattel’s branded online content—which spans YouTube channels for its different IPs like Barbie, Hot Wheels (pictured) and American Girl—is usually made with the hope of bringing in a loyal audience, but it is always trying to drive sales, says Ricardo Briceno, the head of brand marketing for Hot Wheels.
“I think that we have the great benefit that toy-related content is entertaining while at the same time driving demand,” Briceno says. “That’s the holy grail and that’s what we strive to do all of the time. Sometimes more successfully than others.”
Mattel’s sweet spot when it comes to entertaining while also getting people to buy tends to be content that tells a story and reenacts what happens in kids’ minds when they’re playing, says Briceno. He does point out, though, that companies hoping only to drive sales with content marketing will likely come up short. Something like a toyco, especially, needs to brand-build or the conversion rates will suffer.
To build up not only the brand but also engagement, in turn driving sales (according to the new research) Fullscreen recommends: utilizing a top-tier influencer with a sizable, engaged and passionate fan base; broadening reach by leveraging influencers with different audiences, passions and tones; using both organic distribution and paid media; pushing a specific call to action; and identifying unexploited spaces where a brand can break through the clutter.
All of this was created and researched before Instagram even rolled out its new shoppable feature, which allows users to click on a photo and see where someone bought that item, then click on a tag and be taken (within the app) to buy it. The ease of buying something directly in the app will almost definitely drive an increase in sales, according to Polo.
The next step is widening this research, and Fullscreen is working with a major retailer (that it declined to name) to drill down into location-based stats and find out which retailers are driving the highest impact and where content resonates more broadly. Polo says she wants to show people content has the power to drive sales, not just eyeballs.