Magazine article Marketing

The C-Word: Five Rules for the New Content Era

Magazine article Marketing

The C-Word: Five Rules for the New Content Era

Article excerpt

The lean-back, passive model of mass-market media consumption is under attack. But are brands in danger of viewing content as the marketing industry's 'silver bullet', asks Nicola Kemp.

In an age where a mission to the edge of space can be conceived, funded and created by a brand, it is no surprise that content marketing has remained at the top of the marketing agenda for years. Felix Baumgartner's Red Bull Stratos free-fall to Earth has been watched 34m times on YouTube and heralded a new era of content marketing.

Despite this genre-defining triumph, marketers would be forgiven for rolling their eyes at the notion that every brand can have a Stratos moment. Yet even without almost limitless imagination and that all-important independent multimillionaire owner, the opportunities for brands to engage directly with their customers by creating and sharing their own content have never been greater.

However, brands must beware of viewing content as the answer to all their marketing problems. Chris Hirst, chief executive of agency Grey London, believes they must address the myth that all content is created equal and recognise that, in many ways, the success of Red Bull Stratos is problematic for other brands. 'Marketers can't simply do a viral,' he says. 'You don't get something for nothing and it's important to ditch these false expectations when it comes to content.'

The success of products such as Nike+ and FuelBand show the possibilities for brands to create not just content, but products that can also become media platforms in their own right. Matthew Hook, chief strategy officer at media agency Carat, explains: 'The challenge is to re-focus away from the prop of advertising, and back onto the brand's full media footprint. If a brand can get its media right, it could be not only a source of media exposure, but also a revenue line.'

In this brave new world many marketers are falling prey to buying into their own hype. 'The industry is guilty of focusing on content at the expense of everything else,' warns Tom Dunn, digital strategy director at media agency Maxus. 'Marketers should view content less as a 'silver bullet' and more as a string to add to their bow. Publishing has become more democratised, but brands should beware of believing there is a one-size-fits-all solution.'

Many brands also overestimate the degree to which consumers want to engage with them, producing substandard content or, worse, failing to invest in getting anyone to actually read or connect with it.

With this in mind, here are five tips to avoid adding to the wasteland of content produced by brands that ends up languishing forever unseen and unloved.

1. Ditch the myth of 'paid, owned and earned media'

As the media industry has struggled to continue to impose old advertising models on new formats, marketers are at risk of being misled into believing that content marketing as 'earned media' can plug the gaps in their marketing budgets.

Mark Boyd, founder of content marketing agency Gravity Road, says that the language of paid, owned and earned media sounds attractive to clients who believe they can simply replace paid-for media channels with 'earned' channels and thus reduce their budget. 'The industry is still very stuck on promoting an advertising model, when in reality the competition for attention is not a rival brand any more - it's life itself.'

He adds: 'We never use the term 'branded content', as it has helped to sustain content that wouldn't otherwise get made, as it simply isn't good enough. We have entered the third wave of content marketing now and marketers need to embrace bigger ideas.'

These big ideas need cold, hard cash to sustain them, and this is where the notion of 'earned media' is holding brands back. Jeremy Pounder, head of media agency Mindshare's research department, warns that marketers must break free of the idea that consumers will flock to any content they build. …

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