It has been well documented that great brands do not necessarily contract spending in an economic downturn and that the brands which seize the opportunity and continue to invest tend to ride through unscathed. As a result of this they create an ever-more powerful brand (one that is turned to in troubled times) and which is valued even more when the economy bounces back.
Where will marketers choose to spend their marketing budgets in 2012 and beyond?
With the squeeze well and truly upon UK and European businesses and even the most esteemed economists unable to predict our economic fate in 2012, how will this influence marketing spend? Overlay this with a real shift in investment from paid to own and earned media properties and 2012 could be caught in a crossfire of step-change in marketing investment, in which the strong and brave rise triumphantly (potentially Coca-Cola and Unilever brands) and the weak and fearful fall apart.
Will investment in CONTENT shine through in 2012?
My burning question is: Will marketers finally soften financial controllers who demand hard ROI metrics against all marketing activity? In my opinion, the true value of investment in content (or content curation) within the marketing mix cannot be understated, but it is still a tricky investment in terms of clear definable metrics.
Connecting with a time-poor, on-the-move consumer
Consumers are flooded or, in most cases, bamboozled (I love that word) with stuff (advice, information, gimmicks, offers, etc) and it is all competing for our time and attention (of which we have increasingly less of). Juggling this alongside life’s challenges is tough going – and who has the time to wade though it all these days?
Relationships will matter
Brands that are able to provide us with a solution (and not simply a product), a positive desired experience, to filter out the clutter and complexities in our world, and provide us with solutions to any one of life’s problems (whether it be “what on earth am l going to cook tonight” or “what can I do to entertain myself?”) will be welcomed into our busy lives – delivering a deeper connection and in doing this will achieve a greater sense of ‘social capital’ for that brand. (Social capital is a central idea that “social networks are a valuable asset” and interaction enables people to build communities, to commit themselves to each other – see http://www.infed.org/biblio/social_capital.htm)
Content Curation and Customer Experience will reign supreme
The best example to highlight here is Coca-Cola’s marketing mission statement, Content 2020, developed by Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence. Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 strategy clearly demonstrates this leading global brand’s marketing future rests on the ideals of content marketing. A lovely strap – Moving from Creative Excellence to Content Excellence.
This investment is linked to three key drivers:
1- The need to double the size of the business
2- Accepting the wider distribution of creativity (crowd-sourcing creativity)
3- Understanding the distribution of technology – the on-demand society and forging important relationships with tech companies (such as Google).
Most importantly, it recognises the power of storytelling.
I urge every marketer to watch both of their videos:
Coca-Cola’s strategic vision
Coca-Cola’s definition of content
Marketing magazine Agency of the Year award, 2011.
Marketing magazine gives Seven the thumbs up-and boy are we proud of our achievements this year. Written by Nicola Clark, 13 December, 2011.
BEST OF THE REST
…The agency’s thriving consultancy business is credit to the depth of thinking delivered by chief executive Sean King and the team.
The judges picked out Seven’s focus on bringing quality content to digital channels. They detected a palpable excitement about the way in which digital and multimedia are transforming the industry to help Seven push the boundaries with its clients.
There is no doubt that, while some competitors have struggled to integrate digital into their offering, Seven is leading the field in migrating to earned-media platforms. The agency has also established itself as a hub of thought leadership in the industry; digital development director Mike Burgess regularly speaks at events.
Seven also scored highly on effectiveness, both in terms of generating direct sales and ‘return on engagement’. The judges heaped praise on Seven’s cross-platform work for Sainsbury’s, CIMA and New Look, among others, and the quality of its management and editorial teams.
The agency found time to scoop some important new-business wins, too, including McDonald’s, restaurant operator D&D London and Virgin Atlantic’s social travel site, V-travelled.
Brands, as we all know, rely on the effective and creative delivery of messages. And clever, creative messages can indeed create real value, and furthermore, truly elevate and distinguish a brand. Clever messaging can also deepen a brands connection with its customers and, in return, deliver big financial rewards – beyond short-term sales.
So how is messaging and delivery changing?
We should all be aware of the debate surrounding the death of push marketing. This debate is also interlinked with “media creep”, or what I view as the new media zeitgeist – a shift from paid, to owned and earned. This new marketing world order highly prizes the influence of the consumer, and furthermore recognises the power of the individual. This “post-push” era is firmly upon us – how it evolves remains to be seen, but social media platforms are truly empowering the individual. What is present now, however, is how business-critical it is for brands to learn to play ball within this context, more specifically how a brand can effectively (and creatively deliver) messages to a customer to truly delight and cause a rewarding reaction.
What are brands competing for?
Brands, I believe, are now competing for a much bigger, and arguably more intrinsic prize, when it comes to a return on their marketing investments – it’s more than recall, it’s more than an individual campaign’s hard ROI (i.e. real pounds and pennies) – it’s in the value of real customer engagement. Successful brands (like global giant Vodafone, for example) are taking note of highly prized soft measurables (and what are often referred to as “nice to have” measures), such as the Net Promoter Score (how likely are you to recommend us?). These qualitative values (a measure of warmth and receptiveness to a brand) are now becoming critical short, medium and long-term signposts and, in many cases, are valued as much as or more than unachievable large-scale mass broadcasting deliverables.
Delivering engagement via content.
Going beyond the debate over the death of the so-called advertising model and percolating up to a boiling point, is now the subject of content. Brands are now recognising content has a strategic place within the marketing mix. Why is this? Because content (via magazines, blogs, apps, online or gaming, for instance) has the power to leverage consumers, to create an emotive and physical action and ultimately (ideally) make them feel good about a brand.
Happy customers deliver good deeds.
Content is a means to customer engagement and customer engagement unquestionably drives a brand’s market position. We all know that engaged customers are happy customers, and happy customers spend (more than unhappy ones), it’s simple logic. Furthermore, a certain tier of really happy customers will go on to spread good cheer – they bring other customers to you and, if you are lucky, even eulogise your brand. Happy customers thereby help grow your business.
Brands who reap rewards from content
Not surprisingly, as a result of the shifting balance from bought, owned, earned media landscape and the importance of “tickling” customers to “delight” them, the agency world is now becoming obsessed by content. Fueling this fever pitch, or scrum frenzy, is indeed the result of marketers reassessing spend and redirecting it to such areas as social media and content strategies. Brands (like ASOS) are critically gearing themselves to excite, motivate and “woo” customers – ultimately, to spend more with them than with their competitors. But lets not forget there is an exciting bi-product of such an investment – a lucrative own media channel.
Let the battle commence!
PR, publishing agencies, newsstand publishers, digital agencies and big advertising agencies are redefining themselves to deliver content, because it now represents the emerging critical mass (in terms of briefs). Whether the value is there (in monetary terms) remains to be seen.
But who are the experts to deliver great content?
Well there is no simple answer to that question and to an extent it will depend on the brief, brand, sector and appropriate channels. But as a large-scale, multi-platform content specialist, I will always say it is agencies like us (the agency finely tuned and resourced to deliver it), an agency that also has that editorial and marketing excellence as its core offer, but is platform-neutral.
So my point about all of this is – great content enables a brand to really get in with its customers. Having championed the value of content for more than 10 years in agency world, it is very pleasing to be working not as the poor cousin of agencies, but as a critical partner. We create content that customers want, value, enjoy and use. It is also very pleasing to witness an industry-wide recognition of content and as a key segment of the marketing mix. If planned well, content can prove incredibly powerful and influential to a brand.
Follow me @AgencyBelle
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:
* Pod & Vodcasts
* Case studies
* Interactive games
* Mobile content & apps
* Social content
* Research and surveys
* 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:
I was involved in a pitch very recently, in fact I get involved in them a lot – it’s part of my job. I have the often, unenviable role of New Business, but i do love it.
We have recently been doing a lot of soul-searching as an agency. By this I mean, we have been trying to get to the bottom of how we can win more business. It’s tough out there. We are a great agency, no questions there and we have an enviable track-record. However, we have been asking ourselves some important, strategic questions like: How do we ensure we maintain our new business conversion rates? We had a great year last year, but times are tough, and the creative battleground is intense.
Lots of people talk about the importance of chemistry in a pitch situation. Lots of big agencies produce great tombs on what they think is the secret formula to winning new business. I’ve read several of them lately. Many talk about the importance of the team, the emotional connection you need to establish with your client, the importance of gaining power leading up to the pitch, the story-telling and so on. These are agencies who know their stuff – they land big expensive briefs.
So, after much review and introspection, we have adopted a new formula to winning new business. It’s in its early days, but it seems to be a good approach. Mind you we have only trialed it once.
So, what is the secret of this new formula? Well it’s not a radical one. Sure there are some really practical things we have implemented, much of which is taken from books already written, so it’s not ground-breaking stuff. For me the secret is all about the team.
On this point, I was reading a lovely blog by MSCO today. Here is an extract from it:
“One of the great paradoxes of life is that one gains enormous strength, security and independence by learning to be alone. If you need no one, then you are free to carefully and meticulously select those you want to surround yourself with. What’s more, you will hug but never cling.
On the other hand, if we are fortunate enough to be part of a human unit, a collaboration, that is greater than the sum of its parts, we can generate the kind of intellectual and creative combustion that is often the by-product of two or more dissimilar people seeking to achieve something far bigger than themselves.
In the end, whichever route we take, the goal is — in one way or another– to turn on the world. It is and always has been, the true signature of greatness.”
Read the full blog here
The last pitch we did (and we won it I must add), it was just last month, we had some awesome ‘intellectual and creative combustion’ going on. Why? Because, we really joined up as a team. We also had no ego’s in the room. Well, we did, but they were always parked at the door (and when we met) we all joined up as one big ego. We also established a great team chemistry (from the outset), and importantly discussed and shared our immediate sense of victory (from the outset), we also rallied one another to get the best end result. We regularly challenged things, in a constructive way and we respected each others input.
As a result, we came up with an awesome idea for this global giant. This idea actually knocked their socks off – we even got a round of applause at the end of our pitch presentation. I’ve been doing this for many years, and to this day, I have never had a client clap, let alone 7 of them!
What this experience told me is that we are certainly more powerful as a joined up entity, and one that is respectful and collaborative, and even nurturing of the other. Pitches that are formed and created by a team of individuals jostling for the limelight do not perform well. I have seen this in action.
If I could bottle that magical chemistry next time round, I know we’d be a guaranteed front-runner, and every time!