Many forward-thinking businesses have learned that being part of the buyer's journey--as an informational source--dramatically increases brand affinity. It also increases the likelihood that any purchase will go to their business, not that of the competition.

The idea of content marketing was born from this goal, and it has resulted in the development of various forms of content marketing. However, brand marketers are always working to understand which content marketing channels are best for maximizing returns.

So what is the most effective content marketing channel to increase brand affinity and product awareness and usher prospects through the buyer journey?

Content Types

These questions were addressed in a recent Nielsen study, which analyzed the effectiveness of these three major content types:

  • Branded Content--Owned content that exists on brand websites
  • Expert Content--Earned media that includes reviews and articles from relevant third-party websites and blogs
  • User Reviews--Content from the reviews portion of major online retailers or online forums

As part of the study, the following key measures were chosen to measure content effectiveness:

  • Stage 1: Familiarity with a new product
  • Stage 2: Affinity toward a brand or product
  • Stage 3: Purchase consideration of a brand or product

Findings

In general, the study revealed consumers have a higher degree of trust in content produced from credible, third-party experts. This consumer trust pays off, as expert content was, on average, the most effective content type for all three stages of the buyer journey.

According to the study, expert content assets "lifted familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews." The study also revealed that expert content lifted affinity 50 percent more than branded content and 20 percent more than user reviews. When it came to purchase consideration, it lifted purchase consideration 38 percent more than branded content and 83 percent more than user reviews.

Branded content is best used for technology products that are ruled by product specs, such as cameras, automobiles, and smartphones.

User reviews were found to be most successful in categories in which users already have a high degree of product expertise. This applies to products such as video games, for which knowledgeable users are very active on online forums. Still, expert content was most effective in creating initial product awareness or familiarity.

Though each content type demonstrates effectiveness at increasing product familiarity, brand affinity, and purchase intent, content written by credible third-party resources performs the best overall. The business that invests in a content marketing strategy that takes this into account should definitely gain an edge in its industry.