BuzzFeed Tasty’s Tips on Creating Successful Branded Content: Insights from Millennial 20/20

BuzzFeed Tasty has been working with brands to let them in on the online food video boom—and we heard about some of their most successful sponsored content at Millennial 20/20…

Last week, we spent two days at the Millennial 20/20 London event, where brands big and small shared their insights on successfully reaching young consumers, the future of e-commerce, marketing, and more. At the conference, the General Manager of BuzzFeed Tasty UK, Ashley McCollum, talked about how one of the biggest trends in online entertainment, food videos, is giving brands a marketing boost and connecting them to Millennials.

Ypulse research has found that 33% of 13-34-year-olds are watching online videos about food/recipes often/very often—and that trend has made BuzzFeed’s food-focused brand Tasty a massive phenomenon in a short amount of time. Last year, Digiday reported that in just 15 months, Tasty not only became the driving force behind BuzzFeed video, but one of the top three publishing brands on Facebook. McCollum confirmed that they’re one of the fastest growing Facebook brands, and quipped that by the end of Q3 2017, Tasty will be the biggest page on Facebook – bigger than the official Facebook page. Though they “didn’t set out to build a global initiative,” because “the videos work no matter what language you speak” the brand is growing massively worldwide—with the UK’s Proper Tasty being the fastest growing division. Their food videos are reaching millions and millions of viewers, so of course brands have wanted in on their success, and branded content has become a regular part of Tasty’s repertoire.

McCollum explained, “We’ve never spent a penny on paid media to grow these pages. As an advertiser it brings you efficiency, but also the loyalty that we’ve built with the audience, which gives your brand a boost as well.” While food and beverage brands are of course a natural fit to work with Tasty, the brand’s fastest growing categories are actually outside of the food and drink category. They report that automotive brands are their biggest growing vertical, and finance and retail are growing categories. Because “Tasty isn’t just recipes, it’s food culture,” they’re finding opportunities to work with a range of brands—their partnership with auto brands have played off of tailgating the idea that consumers are always eating in their cars, resulting in “Tasty to Go” content.

Tasty’s branded work has resulted in some major learnings about sponsored content, and we’re passing on some of the biggest lessons we learned:

Branded content should be just as good as editorial.

McCollum stressed that sponsored content has to match the standards of Tasty’s other editorial: “We could run brand ads that feel nothing like the content—but we made a strategic choice that we want branded work to look like our editorial work, because what is the point of all this scale and learning if we can’t apply that learning to the brands that we work with?” She cited Bailey’s French toast video as one example of the approach paying off for brands. The content plays like a regular Tasty video, without heavy branding, and received over 15 million views and 275K shares. The brand also reportedly saw about 500K clicks to e-commerce. Because “making [good] branded content is not as easy as buying banner ads in terms of the work that goes into it,” Tasty often works with brands to apply one video across markets.

Shares are the real sign of success.

According to McCollum, “Shares are the metric we care most about because it’s the best indicator of the success of content.” Food content is all over Facebook, and there are many Tasty copycats, but views can be misleading. Tasty warns brands: “You can buy a view but you can’t buy a share – you should be very careful of what engagement actually looks like.” Shares are also a key part of measuring organic interest, and the role of the video offline. “You see the video, but what you don’t see is the thousands of comments of people tagging their family, friends and saying 'let’s make this.'" Shares can indicate a more invested interest.

Branded content is leading to sales.

While Tasty says it’s hard to know how many are making the food, their data indicates that 50% of their audience at some point have actually made a Tasty dish at home—which McCollum says means, “they’re actually buying the products, making the dishes.” She commented, “When you see a video that’s getting 3 to 4 million views, you know in your heart that people are buying something because of it.” But of course brands want their ROI data and, “at the end of every success story for Tasty was the question: ‘But does it work as well as traditional TV?’” Tasty will be releasing data on proof of brand lift, and sales lift, in the U.S. soon. But they stress that anecdotally they know it’s happening. Their campaign for Oster Grills received 20M views over a weekend. McCollum says the brand “called and said, 'don’t post the 2nd and 3rd videos, we’re sold out in Target and on Amazon'”—a pretty impressive sign that branded content is leading to sales.  

Data can drive success.  

McCollum warned that data wasn’t the driver of all Tasty content, commenting, “There is this perception that there’s a room full of nerds at a computer saying, ‘Make more meatball videos, meatballs are big right now!’ But really it’s the producers that are looking into it—data shouldn’t drive every decision.” At the same time, Tasty will use data to improve branded campaigns and help guide their brand partners. When Tasty UK partnered with Quaker Oats for a video on overnight oats four ways, the UK creative team went back and looked at the previous U.S. work the brand had done. They “scrolled through every comment, looked at every data point” and found that “when there were just beauty shots, not utility, people dropped off, so they made the UK more utilitarian." According to McCollum, "That campaign performed 20x better than the U.S. campaign.” So while data shouldn’t drive every decision, it can certainly help drive success for brands. 

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.

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The Newsfeed

“There are alleys with street art that I've walked out of my way to take pictures of to share on Snapchat/Facebook.”
—Female, 32, IL

Mattel’s new toy franchise Enchantimals is inspired by Instagram and Snapchat filters. The new line of 14 dolls are all half-animal—think the bunny and deer filters—and each “shares a ritual trait with her animal friend.” Their origin and the YouTube series starring the girls are no doubt a part of Mattel’s “five-pillar strategic plan” to be a more digital brand. Appealing to Millennial parents and their kids has been a tough sell for Mattel, but they’re making moves like changing up Barbie’s body type and asking kids to pick the next big toy on TV to keep up with the next generation. (Kidscreen)

Harry Potter fans, raise your butterbeers up, because this franchise and its fandom will never die. Two more books from the Harry Potter universe are hitting shelves this fall—though they aren’t actually written by J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter: A History of Magic and Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic are instead both written by the British Library, to coincide with an exhibition dedicated to celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the first book. The two new works will include “exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive,” to delight serious fans of the series. (USA Today, New York Times)

Restaurants are being designed with Instagrammability in mind. From unicorn foods to neon signs and tile floors with hidden messages, restaurateurs aren’t just tolerating Instagrammers, they’re intentionally acting as “Instagram bait” to earn some free press. And it doesn’t end at Instagrammable design touches. Many restaurants stress having perfect lighting, and one even provides “Instagram packs” at customer request, consisting of “a portable LED light, multi-device charger, clip-on wide-angle lens, tripod, and a selfie stick.” (The Verge, Grub Street)

Some student loan debt is getting “wiped away” in court because of missing paperwork. Students defaulting on their private loans are getting taken to court by aggressive creditors, but as it turns out, many don’t have the required documents to make them pay up. National Collegiate is at the center of many of these trials—one lawyer in Iowa represented 30 cases brought on by them, and 27 were dismissed because of “critical omissions or flaws” in the paperwork. Some Millennials prioritizing paying back debt might just catch a lucky break. (New York Times)

Millennials want older generations to know why they stand by political correctness. While some may despair the overly PC state of the world, many young consumers see political correctness as protection from prejudice, and a show of respect. What some may view as an over-sensitivity epidemic, many Millennials see as “being morally minded.” Ypulse’s PC Police trend tackled this topic, and found half of 13-33-year-olds would describe political correctness as treating others with respect, and 66% agree that political correctness is one way to make culture kinder and more inclusive. (Business Insider)

 “I’m too lazy to exercise on purpose. Too much work…If I can't get it with my dog, my job, or my nightlife, it ain't happening.”
—Female, 23, CA

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