We must evolve to a ‘value first’ model where content sits at the heart of a brands communication strategy - combining both the conception of ideas and how, where and when they are best experienced.
Branded content is growing up. 85% of brands are currently using it some form and it’s become an accepted part of their marketing repertoire. And yet despite a few notable exceptions, most brands have done a pretty poor job of creating content that captures attention and builds audiences. Why? Primarily because they’ve only flirted with the concept, treating it as a way of offsetting the diminishing returns of paid media, an extension of the advertising idea or just another ‘channel’ on the media plan. Their focus is still on creating ‘better’ advertising campaigns to put in between or around established content.
We know that people have more choice and control than ever over what they give their time to. Our attention spans are only likely to continue to decline in future. It’s in this context I believe we are putting too much of a demand on people – asking them to watch, read or god forbid ‘participate’ with brand messages they have no real interest in. Our communication strategy has to change focus – to helping brands create more value for people in order to inspire their behavior in exchange for their precious attention.
That means thinking content first – delivering value by creating good old-fashioned entertainment, rallying people to a cause or providing utility. We have to do things and create stuff that people want to read, watch, talk about and share. Paid advertising and media needs to play an essential role in signposting and distributing that content, but it can no longer be the sole focus. It’s not necessary for every brand to become a publisher, but by putting content thinking at the heart of their communication strategy they can create better relationships and greater long-term value.
So what does a strategy model that puts content first look like?
Putting peoples interests first
It sounds obvious but the best brands first identify what their audience are interested in and then work back to their brand. This creates content that people want to share, rather than self-serving advertising that gets forgotten. Sharing is really all about communicating our identity - it tells others a story about who we are, expressing our personality in the same way our choice of clothes do. So if we want people to share our content, we need to consider what they might want to use it for, not only how informative or entertaining it is. That’s why at Drum we focus on identifying the sub-cultures that make people who they are, then cluster our ideas around tribes of ‘interest’– gamers, star wars nerds, entrepreneurs or foodies.
Creating experience not media plans
In the future creative, context, user experience and distribution channels will have to blend together to create a new type of media plan – one that plots a content ecosystem not media channels. People won’t just find your content however ‘good’ it is (there’s a million to one chance of someone stumbling across your video on YouTube). So to avoid oblivion you have to give it a paid kick-start - whether seeding, partnerships or advertising. And once you’ve worked out how people will find it, you then have to consider how people will experience it. When planning HP’s entertainment format The Fox Problem, DRUM and m2m designed the entire experience of how the content would be discovered, interacted with and shared.
Creating platforms not campaigns
As Les Binet & Peter Fields work in the Long & Short Of It has shown - sustainable value for brands is created over the long not the short term - which demands creating and sustaining long-term memory structures. That means creating big, long-term content platforms with an inspiring vision and editorial purpose. Once the platform is set however, you have to constantly evolve your content in order to keep creating the most value - analyzing the data, scrapping what doesn’t work and pushing forward fast with what does. BuzzFeed, who know a thing or two about creating spreadable content, have described their editorial direction as “Whatever the data tells us is going to go bonkers on the social web.” It’s a lesson brands can learn a lot from.
The model isn’t yet in peril but we must evolve otherwise we will spend our time managing the decline of brands desperately trying to capture people’s attention.
CMI: Content Marketing in the UK 2015 Report; Pew Internet Report 2012; Wistia; YouTube; The Long and the Short of it, Les Binet & Peter Field 2013
James Larman, Head of Strategy, DRUM
Tel: 020 7446 7200