How to sell branded content: Peter Lamb’s tour through Happy Meals, TLC and making riches from niches


By Julia Campbell and Peter Lamb • The Branded Content Project

How do you sell branded content?

It’s not an easy question to answer. Even the basic definition can cause confusion with sales teams and advertisers, and many reps struggle to discover the best ways to present and position branded content to their clients.

The Branded Content Project has been searching for solutions to this problem. One of the best answers to the question of how to sell comes from an expert in branded content, Peter Lamb, president of Lamb Consulting, and a leader in the space of sponsorship and selling unique content marketing partnerships.

As part of the Branded Content Project’s sales training curriculum, we asked Lamb for some advice on the benefits of branded content  — both for advertisers and local media organizations. In this Q&A, we discovered some colorful, and flavorful, ways to effectively position and sell branded content.

Peter, tell us about the importance of TLC when talking with clients.

This is not tender loving care. The TLC stands for Think Like the Customer. When I look at the organizations that have had successful branded content initiatives, this is really the foundation. They start by thinking like the customer, putting themselves in the customer’s shoes, understanding a very deep understanding of what the need is, what the pain is, and what the message is they want to convey.

They’re asking the tough, thought-provoking questions. For example, if you think of a company like Amazon, what they’re known for is thinking like the customer first and moving backward. That’s the start of all successful branded content initiatives: making sure we understand the customer’s mindset really, really well.

Why is crossing the line between “church and state” so effective?

When you think about your typical news organization, you have two pillars of strength. You have a great editorial side of the business and you have a great advertising side of the business, and never the two shall meet. The beauty of branded content is they work together. That is what gives branded content power. That is, in my opinion, what gives us a competitive advantage. Somebody told me the best-kept secret of branded content is we have collaboration between storytelling and the advertising side of the business. So we look at what gives us the power to really get the kind of dollars we’re looking for in the market, and it’s the fact that we have the two best of the best parts of the organization working together.

How do we find new revenue with branded content?

I’m going to make two really important points.

One would be, if you’ve never heard the saying making riches from niches, this is the initiative of the branded content that allows you access to types of categories you might not normally get. Banking and insurance, financial education … it gives you access to niches that you don’t normally have access to and that’s No. 1.

No. 2 that I learned from one of our esteemed colleagues in the Branded Content Project: rather than just go to the advertising budget, now you have access to the PR budget, and you also have access to the cause-marketing budget. So the point here is, do not assume that certain companies are not interested in getting involved with you. Think outside the box because there is a lot of money out there.

How can we package and present branded content?

I always slow down and tell my clients to explain to your customer and ask him, “What does the Happy Meal entail?”

They’ll tell you.

Do you know the thought process behind it?

Well McDonald’s made a decision a very very long time ago they were going to focus on a niche called kids and so they designed a Happy Meal – hamburger, french fries, a drink, some apple slices, and a toy for a simple price. If you bought them in a different order, the pricing would be different.

The advertiser would say “yep, I understand. I have kids.” So I ask Mr. Advertiser, let me explain to you that I have talked to my team of experts back at the company, and we have two Happy Meal options for you in terms of your branded content initiative.

Happy Meal No. 1 would be a certain amount of full pages, a certain amount of impressions, it’s a 6-month to a 12-month agreement. Let’s talk about how many articles you’re going to have in that Happy Meal.

Happy Meal No. 2, you have different assets that you list, and probably one of the assets you put in Happy Meal 2 is also an event. Okay those are my two options, the client understands, and what they’ll always remember is the Happy Meal and which one to take.

How can you prepare to sell branded content?

My challenge to you, No. 1, is to do your homework upfront. Do the heavy lifting upfront, ask the tough questions, make sure that you are absolutely in the mindset of what the customer wants to communicate. Who do they want to educate? What are they going to inform? Who do they want to convince? What exactly is the expectation from your branded content?

No. 2, really work hard internally. Internally work hard in that culture. Get the editorial folks and the advertising folks to work better and closer together

No. 3, when you get to the Happy Meal portion, go big. Remember we have a competitive advantage nobody else can offer. We combine church and state (editorial and advertising) in offering the kind of programs we do.

No. 4, have some fun. As somebody on the advertising side of the business, I don’t get to work with a lot of editorial folks. Have some fun with this program and enjoy the ride. There’s a lot of money out there.

Looking for more advice from Peter? Watch the full interview below.