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.
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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:
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
- 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
- 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
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.
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.