Building winning native ad strategies is mostly about knowing what already works.
When it comes to advertising, trying to reinvent the wheel can be costly, especially on native platforms. Fortunately, you don´t have to go through that.
In this post, we´ll share with you proven strategies you can ethically steal and apply to your own business. You´re probably already familiar with some of these, while others are guaranteed to surprise you.
As you´ll notice when reading the article, I´ve separated these winning native ad strategies into the customer journey stages. Awareness, consideration, and conversion. You´ll also find examples of top brands that are succeeding with these strategies on various channels.
That way, it´s easier for you to have the complete picture and apply them to your business.
Now that you understand the structure of the content, let´s dive into it the strategies.
At this stage, your main goal is to generate interest in your brand.
Notice I didn´t say generate interest in your product. That´s going to happen in the consideration stage. A lot of advertisers try to lead brand awareness efforts with the product and it seldomly works.
The biggest brands on the planet know this secret.
They don´t lead brand awareness efforts with their products but with emotions. More often than not, these efforts are turned into rich media, particularly video, which is one of the most powerful mediums in advertising.
Video content is universally popular among consumers as well.
A study revealed that 99% of consumers enjoy branded video content. We´re not talking about any type of brand video content but emotional video content.
Some folks confuse branded content with native advertising. Essentially, they are different things. However, branded content can be used successfully as native ads. Think of it as an amplification of branded content.
GoPro is a company that has clearly mastered branded video content.
I challenge you to try to spot any outright product promotion in this video. By simply telling a story, GoPro is able to emotionally connect with the audience, and in doing so, also build an affinity towards their band.
Instead of a sales pitch, you are drawn to a story that doesn´t seem to have anything to do but in fact, has everything to do with what GoPro offers: reliving unforgettable moments.
Another great example of branded video content is Dove.
Again, notice they´re not really selling soap here. What are they selling then? A story of real women and their natural beauty.
This was different from the traditional promotional supermodel approach and paid off for Dove. The video generated over 50 million views in less than two weeks.
One of the most powerful ways to influence an audience is to give them an “aha-moment” or insight. In other words, communicating a new idea or existing one in a way they haven´t previously thought of.
The easiest way to pull this off is with audiences that are unaware of a problem. It´s because their knowledge gap is bigger compared to someone who is already solution aware.
In his book, Breakthrough Advertising, the copywriting legend, Eugene Schwartz, talks about the 5 levels of customer awareness. This is a solid framework you can use to guide your headline and content strategy.
These are some common native advertising headlines for unaware audiences:
- Are You Making These Mistakes In Stock Investing?
- Do You Recognize The Early Warning Signs Of Depression?
- Lack Of Morning Energy? This Might Be The Answer
Your insight article needs to educate the audience on the problems they might be experiencing. Only then, you are given permission, so to speak, to slide into your product or service.
At this point, your audience will become curious and more receptive to hearing your sales message.
If your audience is not aware or less aware of the problem, your headline should start with the problem. You can even hint at possible solutions in the headline itself, similar to the example from UniCare´s sponsored content on MassLive.
When done right, your readers will have this “oh, didn´t know that” kind of feeling, which sparks curiosity. Now that they´re aware of the problem, thanks to your insight, the next logical step is to start searching for ways to solve it, one of those can be what you have to offer.
The consideration stage is going to be where most of your lead generation efforts take place.
Here, we´re starting to move audiences into discovering how your product might be able to solve their problems.
It is a good idea to still use educational content in the consideration stage. Consumers value brands that produce unique and helpful content to help them discover the best solution.
Most of the articles you´ll find online start with “how to.” This is because it flat-out works.
This strategy is quite popular because it can be applied to almost any industry or business type. It´s also very simple, thus widely used.
For example, in ecommerce, many brands are still not using this type of content or no content at all. TOMS, a footwear brand, understands the power of content marketing, so they use a lot of how-to articles to educate their audiences on fashion.
This headline type is perfect for product-aware folks, who might already use ankle boots.
It´s also a great strategy to slide people into getting more of what they already have, in this case, pairs of boots, maybe in different colors or styles.
A piece of content like this will likely trigger a thought in the consumer´s mind that sounds something like “ah, I´m missing this boot style for this occasion.”
This type of strategy is common amongst B2B native advertisers, for its simplicity and effectiveness. Industry reports are a great way to generate leads from native advertising platforms. In fact, many of the biggest B2B brands use native for lead generation.
When it comes to lead generation, especially with lead forms, you have to strike a balance. A balance between asking too much information and getting low conversion rates, or asking too little and not having any context on the lead and potentially hurt your follow-up efforts.
Most of the marketing community agrees that it is best practice to keep your lead forms field count between 3 and 5. Here´s what it might look like:
- First name
- Email address
- Phone number
- Job title
Keep in mind that more fields typically mean fewer conversions.
As the conversion rate goes down, your cost per lead will swing in the opposite direction. Limit the form fields as much as possible without losing valuable lead information.
Take The Quiz
Quizzes have increased in popularity for a good reason. People are always curious to know facts about themselves and get personalized recommendations.
For marketers, quizzes can be a massive conversion booster.
By simply adding a lead form to a quiz, opt-in rates can go as high as 55%. That is 25 times higher compared to traditional online forms, such as the famous pop-up, at about 1.95%, on average.
Here´s a great example of a creative wellness quiz for lead generation from The Wellness Project. It´s one of the most interesting quiz funnels I´ve seen.
Quizzes are also an opportunity to create empathy with your audience, which builds trust right from the start.
By having tailored questions and answers to their concerns, prospects will be much more receptive to your offers when you do make them, instead of running away like a wild animal.
This can also be called the two-step funnel.
You´ve probably seen these if you´re used to spy on native ads. It´s a popular strategy on native platforms, such as Outbrain and Taboola, often used by coaches, experts, or practitioners.
Here´s an example from Pure Health Research. In this case, the audience is already aware of a problem, high blood sugar levels.
This 2-step funnel approach works very well because it uses a psychological trigger called micro-commitment. With each view, click, and page scroll (micro-commitment), the user is more likely to take the next step and be more open to receiving your sales message.
The first page after clicking on the ad is to expose and magnify the problem. Then, on the next page, the video´s job is to reveal an insight or discovery and present a solution.
In a consumer study, 14% of people over 18 years old said celebrity endorsements affect the way they buy. The best marketers know this from being consumers themselves, so it is a common tactic, though generally not used as often as it should be to influence decisions.
Here, the Decider, a top lifestyle publisher decided (no pun intended) to leverage Drew Barrymore´s influence for a kitchenware article.
The celebrity piggyback is a killer strategy, often used by publishers and affiliate marketers. It´s considering more of a mid-funnel approach but definitely very close to the conversion stage.
It´s still a common practice for advertisers to start at this stage.
Unfortunately, they end up missing a big chunk of potential customers by being so narrow. At any moment, only a small percentage of the market will be ready to purchase your product.
This is why having a full-funnel approach is so important. Your awareness and consideration efforts are key to “prepping the meal” for a conversion.
One of the winning native ad strategies you´ll typically see is the interactive quote. It is often used by insurance advertisers. However, it can be applied to any service business that requires more information from the user.
These quote funnels can feel a bit like a quiz. The only difference is that a quote request typically happens at a stage where people are ready to purchase a product or service.
In the example below, ExpertsInMoney uses the interactive quote strategy to recommend the best auto insurance rates.
These are 3 different landing pages.
You might recall the micro-commitment trigger from the 2-step presentation strategy. It is also used here to keep the users engaged as they try to get the best quote for their particular situation.
Ecommerce brands are notorious for leveraging influencers to boost sales. It goes back to the power of social proof. If someone you follow or trust endorses a product, you´re more likely to consider and buy it.
Ogee, a luxury skincare brand is a master when it comes to influencer marketing.
This is an interview-style article that gently leads to the product line that Joie uses and recommends.
If you´re using native ads for ecommerce, you almost certainly can´t go wrong with this influencer strategy.
Our full-funnel strategy wouldn´t be complete with the good-old customer testimonial or experience video. This is social proof on steroids.
One of my favorite examples of using customer testimonials is from a skincare brand, BOOM!. The page shows 3 women sharing their experiences with the BOOM BRIGHT mascara.
These are essentially product testimonials but with a unique twist, as First Impressions. It is even more powerful, as it gives visitors the idea that a new product has just come out.
You´ll notice BOOM! uses a lot of video content throughout their website. This makes the brand come across as more authentic, transparent, and credible, which ultimately leads to more sales.
Not many ecommerce brands are willing to invest in video content to sell more products at higher prices. This is one of your biggest opportunities.
Winning Native Ad Strategies For Your Business
If you´ve been running native ads for a while, you´ve probably already realized it is a different animal. Succeeding here requires a different approach compared to Facebook ads, for example.
There are all sorts of native advertising mistakes you can make. The biggest one is not having a strategy. Hopefully, this article gave you some great ideas for you to get on the right path. On native platforms, the path isn´t always the smoothest.
Remember that native advertising takes longer to make work. But with a strategy that fits your business, you´ll be better equipped to deal with the bumps on the road.
We´d love to hear from you in the comments. Which of these could you apply today to improve your native advertising efforts?