The quality of content a brand produces has never been more important. Static campaigns are being drowned out in a sea of video, feeds, social sharing, dynamic content and programming, and users are now blocking interruptive advertisements. There has been a fundamental shift in the landscape. Marketers are no longer dealing with a customer base, but an audience. Their products and services have been transformed into a set of brand values, which can now be embedded in rewarding content.
This has been driven by an evolving ecosystem of content distribution platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. With billions of videos being consumed and shared, these platforms offer innovative opportunities for companies to reach their audience. Yet, many marketers continue to make a meal out of it or simply get it completely wrong.
Take the now deceased Channel Us YouTube channel from McDonald’s, for example. Fronted by YouTubers Ollie White and Hazel Hey, the entertainment channel aimed at millennials started strong with 758,000 views, only to fade fast with just one video in 2016 reaching 1,000 views. The lack of interest which caused the demise of Channel Us is proof that brands are underestimating the challenges surrounding the content space.
For companies like McDonald’s, setting up their own channels means competing against a high-quality threshold set by established content creators like Vice and the BBC. Even these reputable companies are struggling to compete against dynamic video on platforms like Snapchat and Facebook.
The difficulty stems from changing audience expectations for ‘always on’ content. As marketing guru, Seth Godin says, “real content marketing isn't repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.” It evokes a human reaction that builds trust with an audience.
But, this runs contrary to the philosophical problem of control that marketers face. Control creates structural constraints that positions risk-free content against audience connection. So while brand managers are there to protect the brand, editors are responsible for winning audiences by building those connections.
That’s why the future of marketing must shift to a new generation of ‘brand editors’. People who understand how audiences ebb and flow, how they work and what engages them. The editors need to be responsible for producing natural, native content that doesn’t disturb the user experience and inadvertently encourage ad-blocking uptake.
Major companies have already begun this transition of adopting a new attitude to content. FMCG giant Unilever created U-Studio, which is building a range of different content, like ‘needs content’, designed to meet a brand’s immediate customer needs. U-Studio is joined by the ‘passions content’ focused U-Entertainment. Here, Unilever partners with entertainment producers to create content that the company co-owns. Overcoming the growing problem of adblockers means companies like Unilever must deliver relevant content audiences will watch for its own sake.
Unilever isn’t alone. Social media platforms have allowed brands to become broadcasters in their own right. By owning and supplying live moments to their audience, marketers can foster trust and a depth of audience recognition that campaign-led messaging alone could never deliver.
At Contented, we’re helping brands and publishers along this journey by building on their values to create dynamic video that fits into the real-time news cycle. We’re driven by an editorial response, creating content in a timely, topical and relevant way, and using our expertise to build original videos that reward an audience.
In the not too distant future, branded content will rival traditional TV. The first steps in companies developing content as an additional revenue stream are already being taken. PepsiCo are set to create a new feature film, an urban coming-of-age tale with Dallas Buyer’s Club producer Robbie Brenner. Mondelez International is partnering with studios to develop content that’s “good enough to make money in its own right”. At least one of these being ‘Heaven Sent’, a live TV special of a skydive for US gum brand Stride.
The future of marketing belongs to the new generation of brand editors – not managers. They will work with in-house teams or in partnership with content creators to create videos that audiences want to watch. Budgets will continue to divert funds from traditional campaigns to this new content era, and with it, the entire industry will become a very different space.
By Moz Dee, co-founder of Contented Group
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