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Branded Content Trends 2023


Well, there goes 2022. Not quite the year we were all expecting, but life in the UK returning to some sort of normality after two years of a global pandemic was most certainly welcome!

So, as is traditional at this juncture, time to look ahead to the new year with a prediction of 2023’s branded content trends. The one thing the past couple of years has defiantly shown us is how quickly brands can adapt – from setting up D2C channels in a flash when shops were shuttered, to ecommerce brands like Gymshark opening a flagship physical store post-pandemic.

With that in mind, here’s 5 things to keep a beady eye on this coming year, starting with something very timely given I’m writing this during London’s first snow, which unhappily coincides with an energy and cost-of-living crisis…

1. Useful content is now expected – not just a ‘nice to have’

Consumers are increasingly becoming more used to brands as trusted sources of information – particularly given the many challenges they currently face. They expect energy saving advice from their energy company, tips on how to save money on their food shop from their supermarket and guidance on staying safe online from their bank. Remember, content is what drives brand awareness and creates demand.

2. Above and below the line combine

The days of big brands treating online as just a performance channel seem to be over - omnichannel advertising strategies are increasingly prevalent. Sainsbury’s OOH, print and TV advertising has recently focused on cohesive money saving tips. This has been mirrored across social, online branded sponsored content and even experiential marketing such as Sainsfreeze – a pop up designed to show consumers how they can save money by making more use of their freezer.

Research by Analytic Partners found a 35% increase in ROI when 5 channels are used compared to just one, so it’s no wonder brands are increasingly using multiple channels combining on and offline.


3. Online supporting offline

During the pandemic there was a rush online. Retailers who were predominantly bricks and mortar moved online as their doors were shuttered; brands who usually only sold through third parties set up D2C offerings. The incredible growth of ecommerce (46% growth in 2022) has now slowed to around 4% a year, as consumers return to physical stores.

We’re currently working with a major retailer to drive footfall to their Hight Street stores. Expect to see more branded content showing what you’ve been missing instore, particularly as brands transform their retail space into more of an experience. Is experiential retail the future?

4. Post-cookie targeting (again)

The death of the cookie has had more lives than an average cat but Google’s Sandbox looks like it may well be implemented in 2023. In a nutshell, each website you visit on Chrome will be assigned one of around 350 topics (e.g., Food), and advertisers will be able to target based on the top 5 most visited sites. It’s not without its problems - for example, not being cross-platform or cross-browser. If contextual or first party data is not part of your strategy now, it most certainly should be!

5. The death of short-termism

Performance marketing has been in vogue for some time now. Driven by cheap money and a locked-down population, the temptation was to focus most of your marketing spend at the bottom of the funnel online and turbo charge it by offering promotions too good to miss, often regardless of profitability. Expect to see far less of this in 2023 as the VC cash dries up and the pressure to grow without losing money mounts.

The tide is most certainly turning as brands such as Airbnb and ASOS sink money into brand and content. As I wrote in a recent blog post, performance / activation is obviously still extremely important as a tactic, but brand-building is vital for a company’s long-term health. The IPA recommended a 55% / 45% spit between brand and activation back in 1998-2000 but this has risen to 76% / 24% in favour of brand (2004-2016). Essentially, as digital has grown, getting our attention and remaining front of mind has become ever more important. Brand (on or offline) is back baby!