The New Game for Brands is Content Monopoly

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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The destination is the vehicle.

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Many people forget that their website or brand or company page is not about the destination.  Presenting beautiful and highly functional brand pages can certainly be valuable, but expecting people to visit the page (often) is foolish.  Since the invention of the web browser, much focus has been put on the company website, or better yet… the Facebook page. Consumer behavior and technology have reduced the need to repeatedly visit a company’s website or brand page regardless of whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, or another social platform.  Users now expect to have information delivered to them.

What began as a destination-based medium, marketers invested heavily in web pages and then paid enormous amounts of money to drive traffic to those sites.  The value of a web presence was initially focused on traffic and then measured in much the same way brick and mortar retail was.  The reality is that the web is just as much if not more of a distribution-based medium than destination-based.  Updates and other forms of posted or shared content can be distributed through feeds and social media platforms, which is how audiences are leveraging the technology, especially when it comes to mobile.

The real value of following a company as a consumer is to get updates and stay connected.  As a consumer I need to know what the latest and most relevant news is.  That has value to me, and the more value I get from a brand, the better chance I have of engaging and supporting that brand.

Brands that focus on value creation will not only build an owned audience, they will focus on content that resonates with that audience.  Content calendars will be driven by audience interests, not corporate messaging.  Companies will make conscious efforts to produce content that is worth sharing, and they will closely monitor the value of the content they publish.  Content marketing scorecards and dashboards will highlight in real-time consumer reactions that go well beyond site traffic or click thru rates.

While your web site and brand pages are important and should represent your brand, the most value will come from the ability to deliver relevant, meaningful content to your audience as efficiently as possible.  Do you want to go to a company’s Twitter page more than once?  Twitter is for following brands, not visiting them.

The destination has become the vehicle.

Residual Media: Media Investment Beyond Media Metrics

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The rapid rate of change in the world of media continues to see brands and agencies scrambling for meaningful metrics.  Most are quick to measure what they can, which is not always the best thing to measure.  (Admittedly, it is easier than measuring what you can’t.)   Media investments should be focused on generating value.  Reducing your cost per click or increasing your CTR does not necessarily drive value.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a key metric meets three criteria.   It is directly tied to financials, it is part of the organizational culture (not a top down directive), and focuses on the now, not forever.  I believe this last one is key to creating value when it comes to media investments.  What current challenges or opportunities are relevant?  What aspects of our business would drive the most value.

Whether or not good will could classify as a key metric, we will leave open for debate.  Residual Media focuses on the overall return on the investment, not just the marketing achievements.  For example, the budget for the Walter Mitty film trailer was spent entirely on helping hurricane victims in The Philippines.  (They created a traditional trailer as well.) The production budget was spent on food and aid.  The project was filmed and edited and then shared on YouTube, laying out what was done with the budget for the trailer.  This example focuses more on the production budget being used (vs. media budget), but it still results in creating an additional asset.  In both cases a video product would have been created, however in this instance there was the addition of good will.  By focusing on something that people could relate to, that stood for something, and yet still echoed the essence of the film, the studio could achieve something deeper with the audience.  And while deeper, more meaningful connections with the audience may still fall in line with marketing metrics, the non-traditional execution allowed for innovation, and was not confined to the traditional approach.

Brands focusing on traditional campaign metrics and evaluating short term sales growth will often fail to account for the long term value of building a strong social media base that increases media efficiency, owned and earned media impressions, and most likely loyalty.  The sales focused organization will forego the value of building a loyal base which should be key to a more sustainable growth trajectory.

The real benefit of a Residual Media approach is to focus on value creation, which can come in many different forms. Seek not to create a marketing campaign, but a marketing property.  Know the value of sponsoring content versus content creation, and most importantly leverage the value of your intellectual property and seek to unlock greater value that can accompany your investment.  Evaluating value creation along with marketing metrics provides a broader spectrum in which marketers and brands can operate and opens up new opportunities for growth and innovation.

Residual Media is where Wall Street meets Madison Avenue.

French Kissing Your Mom and other Social Media Thoughts

I laugh.  So many brands chasing the social media followers to claim a victory of size in a game measured by something else.  People often say you should move out here – you get a lot more house for the money.  I don’t want more house for the money – I want more neighborhood for the money.  Similarly, having the largest group of followers is not the objective.  The objective is to take care of your customers.  One way is providing them connection points that suit their lifestyle.  Another is treating them the way they deserve to be treated.  If you walked into your high school reunion, would you treat your whole class the same way or would you seek out the people that mean more to you so you could engage in meaningful conversation with them?  The idea that a brand would invest in building a large audience of followers and treat them all equally significantly misses the most basic laws of relationships – they are not all created equally.  You might french kiss your girlfriend, but would you french kiss your mom????

Special K – special idea

 

Special K spent a lot of money building a web site that may not have enough draw to bring people in.  After talking to Yahoo, the company launched a national integrated campaign that utilized a variety of media and product boxes that drove people to Yahoo to search for Special K.

Search results at Yahoo featured the Special K logo with links to the Special K web site, a unique Special K landing page on Yahoo, and a custom group within Yahoo.

So?

Who wants to go to a group for cereal?

That’s what makes this campaign special.  People may not want to talk about cereal, but almost everyone wants to talk about getting healthy.  Special K launched the Get Healthy Now Group on Yahoo where people could find out how to lose 6 pounds in 2 weeks.  The group and the campaign, I beleive, has been a huge success.

Spuds and residual media

One of the finest examples of acheiving a high return on investment with marketing dollars is the Spuds McKenzie campaign from Anheuser Busch.  The 1987 marketing dog of the year was not without controversy.  In addition to his fame and marketing success for Bud Light Beer, Spuds also racked up millions of dollars in merchandise sales.  The pooch appeared on the David Lettermen and Joan Rivers shows and was Grand Marshal at Mardi Gras.

While marketing problems may have resulted – (think dogs, beer, kids), consider the fact that the canine moved millions of dollars worth of branded merchandise.  People associated so strongly with the brand that they were willing to pay to promote it via shirts, hats, etc.

This is a great example of how media dollars can generate revenue of its own without degrading the brand.