There’s a big shift towards brands becoming content creators and publishers, but given how the publishing industry turned out, is that such a great idea?
Content marketing is the latest rage – and for good
content is a social currency that engages consumers tired of being targets
for push marketing. Brands and their agencies
are gearing up their content engines with editorial teams and newsrooms. Coca-Cola was out in front, relaunching
their corporate website as an online
This move to brands as publishers sounds good … at
first. But has anyone checked the state
of the publishing business? It’s not too
good. Are we sure we want to emulate publishing
as a role model?
Whenever a new medium comes into existence, we look at it
through the lens of the old. The first
TV shows were broadcasts of radio shows.
The first web sites were digital brochures. And motorized vehicles were called horseless
carriages for a decade before they became automobiles.
It’s natural that brands would look to publishing as a model
for content creation. It’s the obvious
choice. But maybe there are other models
that would serve us better. After all,
publishers aren’t the only content creators.
The problem with publishing as a model for content creation
is that is rooted in broadcast media.
Books, magazines, newspapers, television, radio, and film are all one-to-many
media. Content is distributed in one
direction to a passive audience.
We no longer live in a one-to-many world. So emulating a publishing models based on
one-to-many is stuck in 20th century thinking. Mass communication has given way to mass
collaboration. We need content models
that are suited to the 21st century and a world of many-to-many
So what other models are available to brands who want to engage
with content in a way more suited to our time?
We need models with (a) more reciprocity, (b) greater sense of community,
and (c) more opportunities for co-creation.
Instead of Brands as Publishers
perhaps we can consider instead;
“Brands as Educators” – We all remember our
favorite teachers. How made us want to
learn. How they made knowledge come
alive and relevant to our lives. How
they engaged the classroom and sparked discussion and debate. How their influence stayed with us long after
we moved on. Some of the best branded
content is informative, as if it came from a great teacher.
“Brands as Professionals” – There are some professionals who are
exceptional at their craft. Whether
doctors, lawyers, accountants, or consultants, we know when we find a good
one. They are consummate problem
solvers, putting your needs and interests first. They have accumulated expertise in their
fields, and an extensive network of contacts that they are glad to put to work
on your behalf. They give excellent
advice, and when they don’t know something they tell you. Some of the best branded content is good
advice, helping consumers make good decisions.
“Brands as Artists” –
Great artists don’t try to persuade.
Rather, they express a fundamental human truth as an individual
expression. We are left touched, moved
and inspired, with a feeling of connection to both the artist and
ourselves. Some, like performance
artists, jazz musicians, and improv comedians, incorporate the audience
directly into their work, altering their performance or expression based on the
participation of those around them.
Some of the best branded content is a form of artistic expression,
expressing the essence of a brand.
Each of these represents a different approach to creating
and communicating content, and most importantly, a different kind of
relationship. In a many-to-many world,
brands need to go beyond creating an audience to creating a community, a
classroom, a client, or a crowd.
“Brands as Publishers” is a great start, but let’s not stop there.