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Don’t get me wrong, I love GoPro.

I follow them on Instagram, and regularly like and share the stunning photographs and footage you could not capture without their state-of-the art camera gear.

And so as I have been following their every Insta move intently, I couldn’t help notice that they are starting to resemble another big favourite brand of mine – Red Bull.

Here are some compelling reasons why you could be forgiven for mistaking their moves for Red Bull’s own:

A week ago I learned that GoPro had just launched their own energy drink:

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Then yesterday they announced the launch of their own channel on the Xbox 360 console and home entertainment system:

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Incidentally (or not), Red Bull has its own web TV channel and is a fully-fledged multi-platform media company too.

Now… one may rightly argue they have got something major in common: their target audience.

Both brands are not for the faint-hearted but for the adventurous and sporty types amongst us. They are particularly big on extreme sports enthusiasts. Just take a look at the 2 snapshots below of their Instagram feeds – you could easily swap images around. The one saving grace is the Red Bull branding being prominent as you scroll through the feed.

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photo 2 edited

A shared target audience partly explains how their NPD efforts and marketing tactics may cross over.

GoPro is also by the very nature of its product a great source of content, with their move onto the Xbox platform the next logical step of an existing multi-channel content distribution strategy.

However, how many glaring similarities can a brand get away with before it becomes detrimental to the brand image itself? How sustainable can it be as a business strategy? If your brand stands for adventure and versatility, how could one’s perception of it as a copycat be a good thing?

In my view, to dispel any doubts in the consumers’ mind, GoPro ought to work harder on finding its own creative voice and key differentiator. That or it may face the risk of becoming uncool amongst the cool, edgy audience it is trying so hard to woo. Copycat brands have never been popular to my knowledge – if you know of one, please hit reply and share your thoughts with us. I genuinely can’t think of any as I write this.

As a further test, I did a quick search on Google scanning for any public outcry over what strikes me as a lack of creativity. And I saw that AdWeek did very recently touch on this topic. Their article title was a give-away: GoPro’s Super Bowl ad looks a lot like Red Bull, Circa 2012.

GoPro may be forgiven for wanting to share some of the limelight on the Stratos jump – the footage was captured with their cameras after all. It’s just that the Stratos jump has been done to death. Also, their Super Bowl TV ad is heavily, well, Red Bull-branded. Enough said.

 

 

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Let us take a look at Target and General Electric… What could they possibly have in common?

I have been a fan of Target’s innovative marketing techniques for some time; whilst GE has just made it to my Top 10 all-time favourite marketers.

Neither brand is what one would say sexy or aspirational i.e. not in the same vein as a Nike or a Red Bull. Yet their content marketing efforts are in my view amongst the best, if not the most hyped.

Simply, both companies’ content plays are great examples of how to build relationships with consumers through meaningful content – relationships that eventually drive sales. The last point is not to be underestimated as mentioned in an earlier post.

What is it Target and GE are doing well then in the content space? What can we learn from them?

First, they aren’t afraid of experimenting with new technologies and getting out of their comfort zone.

The first time Target piqued my interest was in October 2012, when I came across their ‘Falling For You’ shoppable web series.

They had then hired an Emmy award-winning TV director and Hollywood talent to film 3 episodes of an online rom-com, which was to be a promotional vehicle for their Fall collection. Products (from women fashion wear to homewares) were cleverly placed in each episode and could be shopped effortlessly throughout the online viewing experience. The technology that allowed you to buy as you watched without pausing the film was claimed to be a first and certainly caught my attention at the time. You can find out more about Falling For You in their (promotional) behind-the-scenes video:

Meanwhile, GE have been experimenting with real-time marketing and campaign hashtags on Twitter amongst other social platforms; with its #IWantToInvent and #PiDay campaigns in particular attracting a lot of attention.

It is also (surprisingly) one of the early adopters of Vine and so far it is doing well with it: its #6SecondScience Fair campaign launched only a few days ago has already generated 20K+ social interactions on the young network as it invites users to submit Vines of their DYI-style science experiments alongside its own, like this one on how to create your own lava lamp. Entertaining and captivating at the same time.

The brand’s bold marketing approach was recently acknowledged on Creativity-online.com.

Both brands have invested in content hubs to tell their stories.

Target’s online magazine A Bullseye View launched over a year ago and deliberately stays clear of hard-sell messages; instead it focuses on the company’s behind-the-scenes stories (e.g. designer partnerships). The site is heavily branded and as such, unequivocally positions the brand as the publisher.

GE has opted for the more discreet position of ‘Sponsor’ with its online magazine Txchnologist, one of 2 blogs the company operates and that focuses on non-corporate news. The site is a Tumblr blog about technology, science and innovation across the various industries the giant corporation is involved with (e.g. energy, transportation, heath care etc.).

Both have complemented their content strategy with an influencer program to boost their credibility and relevance.

Target has more than a dozen Fashion bloggers on its books, who write ‘Target-inspired’ posts on their blogs and also contribute to A Bullseye View. Likewise, GE’s Txchnologist features guest contributors and writers.

Lastly, they are outsourcing the bulk of the content creation to agency partners.

Whilst Target’s A Bullseye View is run by Target’s PR team, GE’s content marketing and social media team is responsible for operating Txchnologist. Both teams are understood to be on the small side, primarily focused on the site development strategy and operations, with the creative execution (content creation) sitting with agency partners. Brands and agencies meet weekly to discuss and plan the editorial content.

Interestingly, the 2 brands are ticking a few of the pre-requisites outlined in my earlier post on best practice content marketing.

I will continue keeping an eye out on their progress in that space and will keep you posted on their next (bold) moves.

Brands across multiple categories are increasingly investing into content marketing. Yet, for the vast majority, their efforts are more often than not met with mixed results. I have been looking into why that is.

The learning curve appears to be steep on a number of levels still for most advertisers.

First, content creation remains an art that simply most haven’t mastered yet, with only few brands having become experts at it, at both a strategic and executional levels (Red Bull is famously one of them).

Many need guidance on how to develop a content strategy in the first place, including advice on how to identify what content will resonate best with their target audience, how to achieve content relevance and stickiness whilst staying on brand, or where and how often to publish their content for maximum reach.

The prevalent state of play was summed up recently in the UK Outbrain survey: it revealed that whilst 93% of client-side marketers expected content marketing to become more important, only 38% had a strategy in place.

So whilst the intention to get serious about brand content is there, how to go about it is where the problem lies more often than not.

Additionally, the resource advertisers are prepared to commit may not be adequate – the dollars may be insufficient or the investment strategy short lived, with strategic, creative and editorial skills poorly represented.

Overall, the trial-and-error approach prevails, with a great deal of debate around who should own the content creation process: the brand (and within the organization, which team: marketing? social media?), the creative agency, publishers, content distribution platforms or a combination of all 4?

As the approach takes time to fine tune, and the brand learns what content works and doesn’t work over time, the lack of an immediate ROI makes the business case for continuous investment hard to defend in most organisations.

As I was reading about Virgin Mobile’s own journey and its test & learn approach, one particular comment piqued my attention: “The obvious risk, as with all brand content, is it does nothing for the brand” the article says.

An argument that Virgin Mobile’s head of brand marketing Ron Faris refutes however by saying that the company has data that proves that “creating fun content people actually like helps improve people’s perception of the brand — and the likeliness that they will then listen to its sales pitch”. Faris goes on saying “The more content they see the more they’re willing to consider us. You have to be more patient than with display advertising.”

I agree. Brand content is no fast way to your consumers’ hearts (and wallets); but a slow-burn approach to guiding them down the purchase path. Its sales impact builds up over time as it primarily drives awareness and consideration.

Where to from there then?

Listed below are the key learnings from my investigations to date on what to expect with brand content marketing, what works and what doesn’t:

#1 – Have a clear content owner and champion within your organization (e.g. your marketing team or social media team), who will become the guardian of your content strategy and give all your content across multiple channels a single-minded focus.

#2 – If new to content marketing and/or lacking the in-house strategic, creative or editorial skills, partner up with your creative agency on defining the content strategy that best aligns with your corporate and marketing objectives.

#3 – Let your creative and media agencies assist with setting up content partnerships with publishers. Publishers may be vying for your attention (and budgets) and approach you direct. Best you let your agencies broker the deal on your behalf: they will research publishers (incl. their audience demographics, quality and relevance of content being offered, engagement levels etc.), evaluate how well their offering matches up to your corporate and marketing objectives and work out the anticipated ROI for you.

#4 – Have a content plan. Some of the content may be organic or created in real-time in response to topical events or issues as they arise. Some of it should be planned for in advance through the development of an editorial calendar.

#5 – Create content that your audience wants to consume. Is your content entertaining (e.g. high adrenaline extreme sports content for Red Bull fans)? Is it genuinely useful to your audience (e.g. American Express’s Open Forum provides small businesses with content they want and need)? If the answer to either question is no, then drop the idea.

#7 – Be brave: have a point of view. This will help reinforce your USP. Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, does this very well.

#8– Where your content lives depends on the target audience and the audience reach you are aiming for ultimately. It may be seeded on the social web (e.g. Red Bull YouTube channel), live in a dedicated destination (e.g. Virgin Mobile Feed), be embedded within a publisher site (e.g. Virgin Mobile on BuzzFeed), or a combination of all.

#9 – Your advertising itself can be a source of brand content – a great example of this is the TVC developed by Wieden + Kennedy for UK mobile network provider Three that went viral at the start of the year – a fine example of how content can entertain.

#10 – Or your brand content may become your advertising – Carlsberg does this very well as it started turning to its fans and the wider public to create its ATL advertising. Famously, its biker stunt ad has successfully helped reposition the beer as the reward for an act of courage (in line with its new 2011 strategy and tagline “That calls for a Carlsberg”). The results were impressive: 11 million views on YouTube within 8 months of the launch, Facebook shares in excess of 1.5 million, 364K mentions on Twitter and free publicity in more than 900 blogs, 150 news sites, numerous TV shows, newspapers and magazines with a 98% brand attribution (source: mashable). All of these led to a 4.3% increase in sales volumes in the 6 months following the campaign launch according to Carlsberg.

#11 – Arm yourself with patience and be willing to test, learn and optimise.

This list is by no means exhaustive; just a good starting point in my view. It will no doubt evolve over time as we all become more “content-savvy”, and roles and responsibilities change as the content production and publishing industries mature.

For now, don’t hesitate to let me know of any more must-have’s from your point of view we ought to add to our list!

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