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A few years ago, brands relied heavily only on vanilla advertising and advertorials to reach out to their target audiences through print. Brands had limited choice because newspapers weren’t flexible to allow too many innovations. But the landscape has changed drastically in the last few years as both papers and brands have realised that traditional advertising can deliver only limited result and content marketing, riding on the credibility of print, can actually kick start purchase journey of consumers by making them aware about what the brand stands for.

Now, branded content in print doesn’t only mean advertorials but also include on-ground activation by print players along with editorial support. Under this, the newspaper that’s the carrier of information takes the brand to the ground level, creates an event around it by involving the local community and gives it an editorial platform in the paper as well.

Brand integration in newspaper stories, which are of larger public interest, is also eventually being allowed by papers. This is letting brands to make readers understand the features of the cause and their products, which is not fully possible through ads.

A lot of brands are taking the medium beyond advertorials with innovative content solutions being offered by publishers. Bishwajeet Samal, Head Marketing, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, feels that there is a huge scope of content marketing in the print medium.

He said, “Print is seen as a medium that is very authentic in terms of news it carries. Beyond advertorials, print has been communicating to the audience, talking about what the future of the brand is, what the brand wants to say and any message that the brands want to convey to the readers. I see print having a clear potential beyond advertorials and it can be utilised for a brand’s content needs, more than just advertorials. The nature of the medium itself is based on freedom of expression and editorially led. People tend to believe it much more.”

Printer and personal-computer giant HP India is using the brand integration route very intelligently. The company spends almost 40% of its total budget of print, which includes both ads and content marketing. 

“The 40% for print is spent on the combination of advertorials and advertising. If I’m launching a new product or feature, then advertising does not help. You need a lot of information about the feature where advertising fails to do the job,” said Neelima Burra, Country Marketing Director, HP India.

Some publishers are doing it pretty well and using the power of local communities by bringing them together in creating groups, events, activities and then making content around it to publish in the newspaper by subtly merging brands into them.

FMCG and Media entertainment brands are conversing directly with their audiences through Dainik Jagran’s local women club members (Sangini club). ‘Sanginis’ are the influencers in their cities/towns and they become local brand evangelists. Through these social events, a localised content is created and published in the newspaper.

For one of the GEC players, &TV, Dainik Jagran utilised the strength of its Sangini Club to promote the channel’s shows. The newspaper organised an event in Kanpur, which was attended by the lead actress of the channel’s show ‘Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain?’ and activities were created around it. The event was editorially promoted in the newspaper before and after the activity took place.

“The publishers are trying to weave in content and create platforms where the brands can come on board and it is reported like the brand believes in this particular stream of event or activity,” Volkswagen’s Samal explained further.

How brands should craft their content marketing initiatives

While making content means more than just advertorials, brands miss out on a few things to be kept in mind. Like at times, they don’t understand how much of it is necessary, what the readers want and do not plan the editorial calendar well. Kumar Deb Sinha, Country Head, Dentsu, Storylab, explained, “Brands should be careful while doing content on the medium. No one would want to read 3-4 pages of content around a brand in a newspaper. Therefore, brands must make sure that they should be true to the tonality of the publication and generate content that the audience of the publication wants to read. The brands should also do content throughout the year than just doing one advertorial around the campaign.”

While advertorials still remain at top of mind for most marketers when designing a communication plan for print, Madhavi Irani, Chief Content Officer, Nykaa, in an earlier conversation with  BuzzInContent.com, had explained how brands can utilise the power of print.

“Every marketer who is in the business to make sales and ad revenue considers himself or herself as a content marketer. What they are really doing is advertorials. Marketers want instant results and that is why they are doing advertorials and pumping in a lot of money and calling it content, but it’s not content,” she had said.

Rajasekar KS, GM, Marketing at Matrimony.com, believes that brands are still not realising the potential that print has to offer in terms of content marketing. He feels that the medium can deliver unparalleled results because of the kind of credibility it holds.  

“There are plenty of opportunities beyond advertorials. When there’s a perfect fit between the brand’s offering and the medium’s core value for a particular section or supplement (and the TG), there’s a lot to leverage with creative content,” he said.  

BharatMatrimony has earlier utilised content marketing in print by publishing success stories of the matrimony platform’s couples in the form of relationship features in magazines like Women’s Era and Femina.