Bridge to the future

As social media and mobile become an everyday fabric of life,
the need for a better mix of data, technology, and creative content is high on
the list of most brands. 

This is because digital marketing is morphing into something
more than marketing. Smart brands are looking to channels such as Facebook,
YouTube, and Google as a means to provide product-based services that people
actually want and need – above and beyond all of their pure promotional
communications. They’re making a profound transition to becoming media
companies in the first instance but ultimately providers of brand services.

We’re in the process of completing some research into this
trend among the world’s top 30 brands. Our research, which is still in progress,
shows that 33% of top brands have already created a separate content/media
publishing hub for their communications – and for 20% of this sample, that hub
has become their primary corporate domain.

While Red Bull is the poster child for a brand as a media
company, other notable ‘brands as publishers’ include American Express with its
Open Forum, plus consumer favorites such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola with their
Pepsi Pulse and Coca-Cola journey destinations.

I suspect that any brand that has made
the move to become a publisher will tell you that the challenge isn’t in the
idea or in the creation of the property. 
The hard part is execution — defining a content strategy and developing
a creative red thread that’s valuable for the brand and meaningful for consumers.

Many of the brands we talk to recognize that creating a
brand content strategy isn’t easy. That is because it falls in the gaps between
advertising, marketing, social, and communications production models.  It’s also an alien (but well defined) product
that’s never before been part of the corporate mix: The New York Times has 150 years of experience as a true publisher,
Pepsi doesn’t.

While brands are taking baby steps in this direction – building
skills, teams, and processes to support the vision – I see research and data as
the bridge to the future.

The genesis of a content strategy lies at the overlap of the
messages a brand cares about and the topics that people are already interested
in. Data can unearth these “whitespaces” and this is where I encourage every
brand to begin.

By analyzing existing brand content that is performing well
across earned media and owned channels and then mining online conversations, it’s
possible to find the nuggets of truth that support three core criteria for
brand publishers: Is the topic a hot topic rising in volume and with high
engagement? Does the topic play well to the core brand values? Is it the best
lens through which to tell the brand story?

One of the many interesting aspects of Buzzfeed and its
success is how it uses data to predict the potential success of story. Brands can
apply the same principles to building its audience.

The challenge with taking this approach is that it requires
the brand to mash up data from many different sources: Google analytics,
Facebook insights, Radian6 for social data, SEOmoz for SEO data, Factiva or Cision
for traditional media data, to name a few.

The good news is that by analyzing these different data sets,
a clear brand content strategy soon starts to emerge.

I’d like to celebrate
the way that brands are striving to deliver more value to consumers in their
marketing.  It has to happen.  When people invite brands into their Facebook
stream, they are letting them into their lives in a very personal way. The only
way a brand will be allowed in on an ongoing basis is if it can genuinely add
value to people’s lives through the content, products, and services it creates.
Data holds the key to brand communications evolving beyond the hit-and-miss viral
video, the cheap one-time promo, and the bland and trivial conversational
exchanges that we see today.

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