Branded Content Content Marketing

The content arms race: why brands are screwed

By Andrew Grinaker, Associate Director of Content Strategy

March 4, 2016 | 4 min read

We keep hearing about Red Bull, GE, American Express, Intel, Adobe and others who have supposedly mastered content marketing, creating efficient content production engines that are driving results.

Those brands are considered the top one per cent, but not the top one per cent you are thinking.

The top one per cent of brands have a proven content strategy, sufficient resources and budget, appropriate goals and, above all else, can point towards consistent and measurable success.

Don’t fool yourself, this one per cent still faces challenges. They have gotten a head start in a race – a content arms race – which is becoming increasingly more difficult for brands. Here are five reasons why I believe brands need to pay closer attention to their plans for branded content and the expected outcome of their efforts.

  • The consumer has choices

According to DOMO research, 277,000 tweets, 2.4 million Facebook posts, and 216,000 Instagram photos are shared every minute of every day. The consumer has an infinite amount of content choices at their disposal.

Whether through traditional media (TV, radio, etc.) methods, social feed discovery or a referral from a friend, consumers have quality and relevant content items to choose from and consume. Unless they are interrupted or disrupted by a brand’s content piece they will rarely choose a branded piece of content over the other options presented to them.

  • Production is exceeding consumption

One common solution to this problem is to create more content. More content will surely provide more results for brands. Wrong. The content consumption capabilities of consumers are going to flat line over time while the production of content will continue to rise at a rapid rate. Simply put, consumers won’t have enough time to consume the amount of content produced. This helps generate a quality-over-quantity argument when determining increasing the volume of content.

  • Publishers have a stronger position to capitalize

One of the most prevalent competitors to brand in the content space are publishers vying for audience attention as well. Think of Vice, Complex Media, Fast Company and other publishers that create content at a rapid rate to help support their business models. These publishers are better positioned to capture attention with their dedicated staff, formalized process to production and loyal social audiences to help amplify the content.

  • Content creators are removing subject matter expertise

As niche content creators continue to emerge, think unboxing a tech product or doing makeup tutorials on YouTube, brands begin to get squeezed out of their industry or subject matter expertise. If a content creator has developed a loyal audience without the burden of driving sales or business results, it will be difficult for a brand to add certain topics or point of view to their list of content targets. The consumer is more likely to seek out an individual with authentic content in comparison to product focused branded content.

This reduces content opportunities and increases the importance of understating what topics brands can product around and the conversations they can have with their audience.

  • Brands aren’t equipped or prepared to win

With all of this competition, brands are forced to invest (media budget, resources, tools/platforms etc.) to compete. Some of the brands listed above have done that effectively. However, most still lake the documented strategy needed, the production resources, the company buy-in, the process to combine media and content together, and the appropriate data and measurement plan needed.

Yes, brands will face an uphill battle when it comes to being successful at branded content. They will need to be aware of their own specific challenges, the state of their industry and what their audience inherently wants to consume. It won’t be easy, but if a brand can research, plan and invest in a long term plan, they will be moving in the right direction.

Andrew Grinaker is associate director of content strategy at Possible, Seattle

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