Content Is Hard… What's Your Brand To Do?

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That’s one simple, but very real statement, isn’t it?

Maybe there was something in the water at Social Media Marketing World. Maybe it’s something that I see – day in and day out – with hundreds (yes, literally, hundreds) of brands each and every month. In fact, after 40-60 presentations a year (for well over the past two years), I don’t think anyone has ever pulled me aside and said: “I think our brand has nailed it.” The brands that are brave enough to say this are (usually) very small operations where the CEO/Entrepreneur is also the main content creator.

There is a lot of money being spent here… there should be much better results (overall).

Yes, there are always anomalies and exceptions. Yes, there are some brands that can create compelling content that gets lift, awareness and pushes the business forward (sales!). The kind of “content” that I’m thinking about is: timely, consistent, relevant and – ultimately – the stuff that consumers are consciously looking out for. It’s a tall order. The “Apple” of great content marketing seems to be Red Bull. Red Bull is the bellwether example that content marketing practitioners point to, as a brand that understands content and delivers on it – constantly and consistently. Others point to Dell, American Express‘ Open Forum and a few others.

The water is shallow. The opportunity is deep.

It would be easy to get down on how few brands have proven the content marketing model. The difference between the good marketing professionals and the great ones are those who are opportunistic and optimistic in these scenarios. On March 28th, DigiDay published the article, Media slims down: Publishers are building audiences in discrete verticals. The article reflects the challenges of mass media properties in growth and readership. Many of the brands (NBC News, The New York Times, Huffington Post and others) are develping specific niche titles in lieu of chasing scale at all costs. While the verticals still seem pretty wide (areas of interest like: technology, health, food, etc…), it points to an obvious brand opportunity: dig deeper than these established media entities.

Vertical plans. Vertical pains.

While these mass media brands have not crossed the chasm in developing and building recognizable brands yet (even the ones that these media companies have acquired have not scaled), it is still early days. In these early days, there will be lots of growing pains. These media companies (like your brand) have no long-term history of creating new brands and nurturing them into these more verticalized opportunities. Still, their efforts are going to open up opportunities for brands like yours:

  1. Brands will be able to create content, advertise or sponsor within these publisher’s niches. 
  2. Brands will now have the opportunity to build their own niche publication and draft along with what these brands are doing to leverage and grow their own properties. 
  3. If a brand falls within one of these traditional publisher’s niches, there is an opportunity for the brand to go deeper. An example of this would be technology. A brand could go specific into chatbots for Facebook (if that’s your jam). 
  4. Brands can breathe a little bit. Brands can make plans for their content to be more hyper-deep in the vertical, but appreciate that if media properties like the New York Times are struggling to bring a product like this to market, there are significant challenges that brands will face.

No free lunch.

Like anything else in marketing, content is hard (not cheap, easy and free). There is a reason events like Content Marketing World have year-on-year record growth, with more and more brands trying to figure out how to best pull it all together. My presentation at last week’s Social Media Marketing World was titled, How to Avoid Virtual Crickets and Digital Tumbleweeds With Your Content (It’s Not About the Headline), and it was based on an article I published titled, 7 Steps To Define Your Content Center Of Excellence. If you feel like going vertical and deep, that might be the place for your brand to start. With that, always remember…

We are not all media companies… no matter what some brands are saying in the media.