What happens when a brand becomes a media owner?
“Content is king” is a mantra for digital marketers which has stood the test of time. Born from a desire to show there was more to the web than tactical offers, content marketing demonstrates that long-term relationships can be built both offline and online by engaging audiences with quality content.
One need only look at Red Bull’s involvement in fast-paced action sports, Pepsi’s close links to music and Nike’s alignment with football and running content to see how brands are increasingly looking to become media owners. With rights to the most engaging content in place, a two-way dialogue with brand advocates can bring online and mobile communities to life.
According to Craig Hepburn, Global Director of Digital and Social at Nokia, this is prompting a new way of forming relationships with third parties and audiences which is changing the dynamic of marketing teams forever.
“The old days used to be more about sponsorship but just putting your name to something isn’t really relevant today,” he says.
“Digital marketing’s all about partnerships. So at Nokia we partner with outside events to get great content, such as Social Media Week, where we get video and content from events all round the world. The point is, the partnerships you enter in to have to result in content that is relevant with your key target audience. That has to be the starting point.”
To this end, Nokia works with EngageSciences to identify and more actively engage with the top 5% of its online social media followers to pinpoint what advocates would be most interested in. Much of the resulting content - focussed on passions, particularly music, entertainment and photography - can be accessed at conversations.nokia.com.
Becoming a media owner, or at least a content-driven organisation, also fundamentally alters the make-up of marketing teams. Whereas brands used to be focussed on bringing in marketers with good knowledge of channels and tactics, that is now only half the story.
“We have an editorial team now with an editor-in-chief,” says Hepburn. “We’ve also got video producers. You’d have never seen that kind of a line-up in a brand’s marketing division in the past. The key is to make sure these guys work across the different departments within marketing, so they’re not sitting on their own.”
Work with the experts
Direct access to content experts, so marketing teams not only know who to target but can also craft killer content, is at the forefront of the challenges brands face in the digital era, according to Cate Murden, Head of Partnerships at Mindshare.
“In the past marketing teams would just ask an advertising agency to come up with something which got over their message, but that’s not enough now,” she says.
“Brands need to have people in their teams who are experts in commissioning and producing engaging content that can strike up two-way conversations with their audiences. It’s about entertainment more than advertising.
“We worked with the Global Brewers Initiative to commission a series of mini-programmes with Sunday Brunch’s Tim Lovejoy to suggest beers to go with different foods. The LetThereBeBeer.com campaign was a reaction to people switching to wine. The GBI wanted to get people to think about matching beers to different foods and Tim was perfect for that audience. It was a huge success because the content was original, informative and really entertaining.”
Central and accessible
The fact that brands are becoming media owners, or at least content-driven organisations, is leading to a new approach to how they manage content. According to Tim Jenkins, UK Country Manager of content management company e-Sprit, a central consideration now is not only where content is stored, but how it is accessed.
“Marketing teams used to be set up in silos, and in many cases they still are,” he says.
“So you’d have a team for social, another for search, another for the web site and so on. Trouble is that can leave content scattered all over the place. So we’re now finding our clients want a central place to put photographs, videos and documents so everyone’s sharing the same content with the same message.
“Crucially, they don’t just want it sat there doing nothing, so they want a system whereby different parts of the marketing team can have access but, interestingly, many are building partnerships with events and other third parties. So they want to let them have access to assets and also to allow them to upload content as well.”
Jenkins has seen this maturing approach reflected in the type of content clients, such as Speedo, Berghaus and Kickers are interested in.
“We helped Speedo with the CMS they needed to put up timings and results from the Beijing Olympics in 2008,” he says.
“They’ve evolved their media strategy now, though, to go beyond repeating results you can get elsewhere to using partnerships to gather exclusive rights to bespoke fitness content to power programmes such as the current Get Speedo Fit campaign.”
This progression in to original, engaging content can only be made possible, he argues, if the necessary editorial and production skills are brought in to the marketing team which must then work as one, central unit rather than a series of mini-teams working in silos.