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Content Curators – The Big Debate!

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

There has been much debate lately about who is best placed to deliver effective content (from a brand’s voice to a customer base), and also what comprises good content. What I will say about this is – content should be well considered (strategically led), well crafted (experts in that field) and effectively executed (via the right media channels). How it works for one brand or sector over another will vary.

Consumers are now being hit by a wide range of content (not simply delivered from a brand). It is being delivered from both free and paid sources, and from highly authoritative and expert curators or publishers as well as social and anecdotal commentators and individuals. It is one great big melting pot out there – more so in the online and mobile world.

In this pot, commercial (sales-led) content can jostle alongside credible or specialist and highly authoritative and creative sources. Possibly the worst thing a brand could do is blur any one of these boundaries, or distinctions, or simply cut corners. Great content is indeed well curated, well balanced and well considered, but fundamentally it also values the importance of our individual needs, and right of access and refusal to participate.

Let the content battle commence! So, what comes after a tectonic, techno-media shift? A battle for the middle ground. By middle ground, I mean the zone firmly wedged between above-the-line advertising campaigns, and through-the-line promotional activity – it’s that lovely “sweet spot” that branded content occupies – or does it? I’m sure there will be debate around this.

This critical middle ground is becoming the big battle zone for marketers (and agencies, for that matter). It’s a zone, or space, that customers feel really ok with engaging in. Why is this? Because, in that zone, you get a whole lot of great stuff going on – including branded content. 

It’s all about WIFM! 
I will always argue that the success of branded content relies squarely on the concept of WIFM – What’s In it For Me? If a brand is willing to give me something and it’s something I can benefit from, enjoy or share, then I am more than receptive to it. Of course, the assumption is that whatever the product is (magazine, site, app, for example), it is a product that has value, expertise and authority and is meaningfully aligned or connected to the brand (giving it to me). I’ll leave the debate on authority and authenticity for another day.

One important ground rule to highlight, however, is that customers are made clear about the commercial context of any branded content – that the selling is well defined, and the informative or entertainment value is well meaning and makes sense when coming from that brand (or its association). Sometimes the commercial and entertainment value combine seamlessly, like an exciting architectural fusion, but mostly they better exist in distinction.

So, what is the secret to creating the best content or, even better, where to start when considering your content strategy? Well, now, that would be telling. But if you do want to speak to an expert, give me a shout @AgencyBelle. I will be more than happy to help out ;) 

In the meantime, here are few starting points.

1. Know your customers.

2. Think about the kind of content you would meaningfully align or want associated to your brand.

3. Think about how you want your customers to interact with your content.

* Be educated or informed

* Be entertained

* Play with it

* Share it

* Be inspired by it


4. Consider the content mix:

* Magazines

* Advertorials

* Videos

* Blogs

* Pod & Vodcasts

* Guides

* Case studies

* eBooks

* Interactive games

* Mobile content & apps

* Microsites

* Webinars

* Social content

* Research and surveys

* Infographics

* White papers

* Newsletters (electronic and print)

5. And check out my blog – Does your brand need a content MOT here:

6. This is also a great blog on 3 key pillars to successful content:
ABx

iPad apps take flight

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

There has been so much talk about the impact of the iPad – this week I was particularly impressed by the story about United Airlines and Apple deploying 11,000 iPads for its United & Continental pilots. From Wired.com

“The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying,” said Captain Fred Abbott, United’s senior vice president of flight operations, in a press release.

Another impressive app story?

PROJECT magazine, created by leading content agency, Seven,  in partnership with Virgin.

If you have not yet downloaded a copy, go and check any one of the 10 issues out here:

What is so impressive about this app?

PROJECT magazine for the iPad – was the first international native iPad magazine.  It was created by London-based agency, Seven in partnership with Virgin and was launched by Sir Richard Branson himself in New York on 30 November 2010.

Some stats about PROJECT:

  • Within two days of launch, the ground-breaking magazine was No.1 in the App Store globally.
  • At the launch of the iPad 2 in San Francisco, PROJECT was spotted pre-loaded on to all of Apple’s new devices to showcase their capability.
  • The app titled PROJECT is now downloaded in 18 countries and has been voted one of the best iPad apps, including Apple themselves with numerous featured lisitngs in the App store.
  • Creating a global impact, in the previous 10 months PROJECT has won over much praise from Apple, industry experts, bloggers, fans and top advertisers worldwide.
  • For the 1st issue of Project, Seven secured advertising with brands including: Ford, Amex, Lexus, Kronenbourg 1664 and Panasonic.
  • PROJECT magazine has already scored a 14/15 rating and is in the top 1% of apps in iMonitor’s Best Publication Apps evaluation, on a par with major publications the Sunday Times and USA Today.
  • The McPheters & Company’s iMonitor service provides a detailed evaluation and global tracking of 1,600-plus media-related iPad apps from more than 50 countries. The list represents the best of breed, featuring apps that score in the top 2% of all apps that have been evaluated by iMonitor in the past year.*
  • Issue 5 of PROJECT, saw the launch of the world’s first ever gyroscope iPad magazine coverusing the latest gyro hardware to control HTML5 canvas objects. The result was a magazine front-cover packed full of the latest movie characters that readers can explore by moving their iPad
    around them.
  • Issue 6 saw three publishing world exclusives with the first ever 3D gesture-controlled magazine art gallery that took inspiration from the Snow Stack CSS visual effects demo. The unique gallery used WebKit’s 3D CSS transforms to render a wall that changes perspective as you move
    along it.
  • Issue 6 also innovatively featured an entire album’s worth of music in a retro boombox. Created using HTML5 audio tags, the interactive music player works using a drag and drop JavaScript functionality.
  • The fashion pages featured an incredible 360-degree view of this summer’s outfits on a revolving clothes stand, which takes magazine fashion pages to a new level, created using a video shot of the rotating clothes stand, converted into multiple images and resulting in a 360-degree view when swiping.
  • Seven produced a revolutionary design and navigation refresh for issue 7.If you are excited about iPads like me, and want to know more about how the platform might drive improvements to your current content or communications strategy – get in contact with me via seven.co.uk  or @AgencyBelle

Media fragmentation, owned and earned, what’s it all about Mrs?

June 7, 2011 2 comments

I’m totally immersed in this topic right now.  But what prompted me to get on my ‘Blog box’ today was a recent conversation I had with a very capable and aspiring account executive at our agency.  She was asking some great questions, so I thought I would share these with you.

Perhaps she had taken some good advice from a blog on “how to climb the corporate ladder in 2.2 seconds”. You know, the type of advice: Make sure you always carry paper around; be the best tea-maker (I read that somewhere lately); ask regular, strategic and intelligent questions; offer to buy me lunch – OK, just kidding on that one.

She said to me: Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? And what is media fragmentation? She didn’t stop there! And tell me, why do brands need a content strategy?  And finally what is the difference between a publishing and content agency?

Wow! The questions, they were good ones, so she marks highly on strategic this week

Let’s work through a couple of these.  But what would be great, and much more ‘PPM’ (post, post modern), is for me to open it out to you all.  But I am happy to kick off with a couple of responses.

Q1 Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? 

Owned media: As I understand it, owned media is simply media that a brand owns. It is usually a website, a customer magazine, an app, a TV channel, social media pages etc.

Earned media: Is simple too, and refers to the publicity gained through editorial influence. Earned media might include mass media channels such as TV, but more regularly: press (including newspapers and magazines), radio and, of course,  the web, including community forums, social media etc. It includes, generally, any commentary about a brand, such as editorial commentary, and things like letters to an editor, features that include the brand as a case study and even extend to inclusions in polls, for example.

Bought Is simply media channels that a brand pays to be in – again TV, news press, magazines, the web, outdoor, experiential and again can include social.

Why is it becoming such a hot topic? Well, there are several reasons for this, but mostly I would say this due is to the rapid growth in new media channels and TV fragmentation. Marketeers now need to get to grips with how to communicate over so many more channels, and this can be costly. The other main reason is more brands are becoming serious media owners in their own right – a couple of examples include: Net a Porter’s iPad app, P&G’s supersavvyme.co.uk and Virgin’s Project magazine.  Owned can also include brand-managed Facebook pages, You Tube sites as well as TV channels, for instance Audi TV  and long-standing brands on TV: Thomas Cook and Visit Britain.

Q2 What is media fragmentation?
Now this is where it starts to become more interesting. How do I explain this one?  To me, this is the hot topic right now.

So I started with “back in the olden days”(suddenly I could see account executive’s eyes glaze over).  OK, well, before social media, (eyes came back into focus) brands had a fairly simple approach to pushing out their messages to us as consumers. Brands engaged a DM agency, an advertising agency, a PR agency and, most significantly, gave their media agency larges sums of funds to book media – and over very few marketing channels.  Media was bought on a brand’s behalf, and creative was essentially delivered from a brand outwards.  Nowadays, the media landscape is far more complex and often described as ”fragmented”. All this means is: more channels, more routes to a consumer, more choices for a consumer and essentially less critical mass.

Fragmentation has not escaped the agency world either – specialist agencies have now popped up and include disciplines like digital agencies (a plethora of varieties in this category), social media agencies (such as social media monitoring, content and engagement and also optimizers and, of course, pure consultants).

I also told account executive that the most interesting thing in all of this is how consumers now have the power to control how marketing messages are sent and to where. As consumers (enabled by technology) we are being far more particular about how we want to be communicated to, and are seeking more personalised content, and products for that matter.

We want brands to know what we like to know about and not be bothered by irrelevant information.  We expect to be spoken to as individuals, not en masse.  I had to then stop myself going into a parallel discussion about the increase in product customization.  (Did you know that Fiat is marketing their new Fiat 500 in 500,000 customizable options?) Sorry, but I just love those little cars.

We also gather information via search engines, which “optimize content for us”.  Online, as well as by word of mouth (WOM), we choose and recommend great restaurants, offers, travel destinations etc  to others (“right,” she says). So as consumers we now have a great deal of influencing power.  Brands want to get engaged with this influence.

Technology has definitely created this media fragmentation “revolution”, specifically technologies like Sky+  and, soon to be launched in the UK, Virgin’s Tevo, which gives us the freedom to watch what we like when we like. This is just one example of TV’s media fragmentation (notwithstanding the increase in channels alone).  And then there is the world of Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, and it just gets bigger and bigger.

All this presents a significant challenge in terms of how a brand find its customers on a mass scale and then transmits a message for the benefit of the brand.

Q3 Why do brands need a content strategy?
This is what we do. Hence the question. The answer is simple.

OK, so we have already spoken about how brands are becoming media owners – with this inevitably comes investment in content. In order to best maximise a brand’s content, it needs strategic content  strategy. This will ensure a brand has a planned and sustained approach to the commissioning, 
creation, distribution and management of content across multiple platforms, (including paid, 
owned and earned media channels), and  that it fundamentally links up with the brand’s core marketing and business objectives.  What a content strategy will also do is ensure consistently high editorial and creative quality, which fundamentally drives a coherent consumer experience.

Q4 What is the difference between a publishing and content agency?

A content agency is most importantly media neutral and should have editorial excellence at the core of its very being – that, coupled with strategic insights, provides the winning formula, and a core distinction from simply an agency that publishes magazines and builds websites.

AB:)

For more on this topic see:

All Broken Up About Media Fragmentation? http://onforb.es/r2675F

Explain the term ‘media fragmentation’ and discuss the implications for a new Product trying to enter the market. http://bit.ly/pCwrWG

1 in 5 men read their iPad on the loo!

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

We recently conducted a huge survey of over 1000 iPad users (the most comprehensive to date), and came up with some great data. Some confirmation of what we had suspected all along and some suprising finds. You can find our highlights of our iPad research here but here are some of the finds that I think are important.

The first story picked up by brand republic revealed that 1 in 5 men read their iPad on the loo. The twitter response was “what? Only 1 in 5?”

Delve deeper into the data and you’ll found some real gems. So a large proportion of iPad owners (55%) are over 45, but a correspondingly large majority of iPads (62%) are used by entire households including, spouses, flat mates and children with the average iPad being used by over 2 people. Delivering a significantly larger audience than mere sales stats reveal.

So maybe this doesn’t strike you as a huge proportion of the population. Bearing in mind that this device, indeed this entire CATEGORY of device is only a year old this is pretty remarkable. Look again at the data and we find that 39 % of iPad owners are using their laptops less, 35% are using their desktop less and are watching 10% less television.

It’s conclusive, the iPad is a properly disruptive piece of technology. Owners are abandoning old forms of media (including so-called ‘new media’ like fixed line Internet) for this young, touchy feely, upstart that is the tablet computer. The data shows that the iPad is ‘kind of mobile’ but with most usage at home. 98% use it at home as opposed to 47% travelling or 19% commuting.

As publishers of iPad only magazine PROJECT, we have collated vast amounts of data about what works, what doesn’t in engaging audiences on the device but until you really know who your readers are it’s difficult to really draw conclusion about the future of this platform and it’s real potential for marketing and entertaining the a mainstream audience. The data has gone some way to completing the circle for us.

Change is a good thing.

March 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Can anyone remember when Nokia was the only real handset of choice? The time (I think, the late 90’s) when they had huge market share? I seem to have Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” ringing in my ear and memories of customizing my Nokia 8210.

I am also pretty sure it was the time when Apple was starting to break through, after a decade of a lot of developments, including, like Nokia now, an alliance with Microsoft (with the addition of Internet Explorer browser to every copy of the MacOS). As a student in a creative field, I was only ever going to be a die-hard Apple fan.

Remember the funky iMac? Back then it was fastest selling PC in history (August 15th, 1998) http://www.theapplemuseum.com/index.php?id=57

So what’s happened to Nokia then? Enter the iPhone and Google, mix it up with a lot of business R&D complacency and a resistance to change. Who would have ever predicted it? A sort of Apple v Nokia reverse of fortune?

On the topic of Nokia, did anyone see the news about the allegedly leaked memo from Stephen Elop, (CEO of Nokia, and formerly of Microsoft). A roughly 1300-word memo, addressing the company’s employees, and in this, suggesting that the company is “standing on a burning platform”. I loved that analogy. So basically, they either need to jump off and risk drowning, or stay and burn. Burn, I say! I love my iPhone, way too much! :)

But seriously, what would you choose for a giant like Nokia? Well Elop knew what the outcome was, and he was clearly warming his subjects! But most importantly for me, this memo was about selling in change that they need to embrace a whole new way of thinking, and a reality that things have changed (and of course it’s time to pick their socks up!).

I’m all for change, and it’s something that drives the business I work in, without question. I work in a Customer Engagement Agency, (what the hell is that you say?) It’s an agency that creates content for magazines, websites, emails, and tablets like iPad. We create all the lovely stuff people actually like! Well OK, we might sprinkle a bit of product in there too.

For those who do work in agency world, whether it be advertising or digital agencies or through the line – new ideas are like bread and butter, and what we create every day. Creating ideas, new thinking, it may sound clichéd, but it keeps us in business. But from my experience, in our business, many marketers (across many sectors) and companies at large, really struggle with the concept of breaking old thinking – which was obviously the real issue with Nokia.

I don’t profess to be an expert on Nokia, or mobiles (but i have lots of friends, access to reports, and Google, to help me out!). I am however, a consumer, and a passionate marketeer, as well as a strong believer that knowledge, and a sense of priority for always embracing change should be an essential ingredient in any business.

On the topic of innovation, for our business it’s all about integration, working across whatever medium our clients customers are engaged with. We don’t put boundaries up. We are working on what I would only describe (and to use a lovely term I have just heard) as an “accelerated time line”. The world is speeding up, and it’s all about being prepared to keep up with its pace and continually rethinking things.

We are now getting more involved in creating content for brands on iPad too. What I don’t understand though, is that there seems to be so a lot of cynicism about the iPad. We’ve really embraced this shift in our industry, but not all of our competitors have. Some publishers think that the iPad magazine is just another gimmick, a sort of ‘bubble’ surely about to bust at some point. “it’s too early, “yadda, yadda”. I wholeheartedly disagree, and to me this thinking seems incredibly old-fashioned. Great brands invest in tomorrows technology, today. They get a march and they maintain it.

The iPad is a very clever little platform, and one that will provide a brand with a great deal of creative and commercial opportunities, particular having great potential within branded content. And I think we are only at the tip of the iceberg of what power this little device is going to hold in our worlds, (well for now). And the potential for content to be loaded up on this surely is going to be endless. Have you seen Virgin’s Project magazine yet?

I’ve also read several articles saying that Apple iPad sales is forecast to reach 34m units in 2011, (a quick Google will pick that up). What can we compare this too? And moreover, according to eMarketer, the electronics brand will make up 78 per cent of the global tablet market in 2011

As the iPad increases its infiltration into the average Jo’s home, and across several regions. I can’t help but feel excited about it how will transform marketing communications, and in particular branded content directed at us as consumers. Furthermore, how these conversations can be so much more efficient and engaging.

I also picked up a lovely little stat this week from the Retail Week conference from Accenture: 1/3 of China’s 420M population now shop online. So it’s not all about the UK right? What about the emerging markets tapping into our retail brands online?

Someone who does understand the potential of forward thinking is Carl McPhail, CEO, New Look. At his recent address at the UK Retail Week conference he said “invest in the future, be bold, get excited about e-commerce, and most importantly listen to your customers and engage with them”.

It’s now time to start jumping off the proverbial “burning platform”.

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