The New Game for Brands is Content Monopoly

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As content marketing continues to play a more significant role for marketers, most brands take a traditional, less than sophisticated approach. Often, the goal is to create something that can be posted online, and hopefully shared. Today, paid content is based on the traditional marketing production model – pay for production, pay for distribution. Marketers need to consider an asset creation approach and start thinking like Hollywood or private equity where profits on content creation are expected.

They say content marketing is about building relationships, engaging audiences and creating advocates. Sound familiar? Think about the type of relationship film studios have forged with audiences? Hollywood builds properties; series of movies from Star Wars, to Indiana Jones, Batman, Spiderman, the list goes on. What’s more is that people pay to see these films, often times buying DVDs and merchandise. What if a brand produced that type of relationship with their customers? One of the best examples of content marketing is Felix Baumgartner’s televised free-fall from space.

Two companies that are paving the way with content marketing are GoPro and Red Bull. Red Bull had a monopoly on the Felix Baumgartner free-fall content, which was an event in its own right. When 8 million people tuned in to watch it on TV, Red Bull had shown the world that the “brands as publisher” movement was here to stay. The event remains tightly associated with Red Bull to this day, and they have consistently executed on this type of content approach; they own the event and the event is the content. A question I often ask is why would you sponsor something you could own, and Red Bull (for now) is the king of Content Monopoly.

GoPro on the other hand has leveraged user-generated content to transform a hard goods company into a media powerhouse. Nothing undermines the traditional approach to content creation and highlights the value of content-as-an-asset more than the GoPro model. GoPro more than doubled sales from 2010 to 2011 to $24.6 million, and only spent an additional $50K in advertising. With a channel on Virgin America and the ability to view through Xbox, brand, audience, and distribution are aligned. GoPro may not recognize significant licensing revenue, but the content is clearly an asset. While maybe not technically a content monopoly, it is close enough.

Companies like GE pay millions for content creation globally, while CBS and many others earn huge revenues from licensing. Business models have been built on these licensing deals as a way to attract customers – just ask Netflix and Amazon. As the business of content rights and distribution continue to evolve, it is interesting to see how brands choose to engage. An agency production model is not the answer. Marketers need to create their own space, an area that they can own – one that resonates with their audience.

The brand-as-publisher model, when done right, not only creates advocates, it drives loyalty. Brands like GoPro and RedBull have loyal audiences that are eager to see what these brands will serve up next. This bond is a coveted position most advertisers spend immensely on establishing. As soon as marketers transition from content as an expense to content as an asset – you will see a stronger bond with customers, an increase in the quality of media assets and programs, and likely a greater separation between competitors.

Still, advertisers must “cut through the clutter,” and the best way to do that is to have a monopoly on your content. But remember, like Monopoly, owning the valuable stuff is much better than the low rent properties, and the valuable stuff is great, differentiated content.

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