What Content Marketing Needs to Rule in the Post-Advertising Age

Never Be Content

Never Be Content (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seven years ago digital became social and media changed forever.

We all agree interruption as a marketing strategy is dead.  But advertising has largely failed to act on that consensus.

  • It’s clear that valuable content will ultimately replace traditional ads.
  • But the content marketing business has yet to seize — or even squarely face — the future of advertising.  

To wrest advertising from the cold, dead hands of the traditional agencies, the content industry is going to have to master and improve some basic brand management skills, including branding, strategic planning, media planning, and measurement.

Content-focused agencies can dominate their more traditional — and monolithic — peers, but only if they begin to resemble those ad agencies in some crucial ways.

  • Most content marketers are not nearly ambitious enough and apparently do not see their potential to take over advertising.
  • On the client side, too many brand marketers apparently do not see how much money they could save — and how really important they could be in their audiences’ lives — if they got serious about joining the ongoing media revolution.
  •  The traditional approach of interrupting the show or the story that attracted your audience is indeed a tactic with diminishing returns.

Ads now need to be the show, not the sideshow. Ads must:

  • Attract and hold their own audiences
  • Be valuable content experiences that compel and reward attention
  • Be such compelling content that people will share a brand’s stories with their social networks. Mounds of research prove such peer-to-peer sharing affects behavior some four times more powerfully than brand-to-consumer advertising.

Pretty quickly, the opportunities to interrupt people with a traditional paid ad began to narrow sharply. Suddenly, if you wanted a message to get attention, you needed to create a piece of real media with the power to attract and hold its own audience.

The best advertising began to shift toward compelling non-adsnon-paid pieces of valuable content that go up on the web, powerfully engage an intended audience, and stimulate sharing across social networks.

A more sophisticated and complex view of media consumption that understands three things:

  1. How paid advertising, including TV and digital ads, can effectively assemble a precisely targeted community
  2. How the community can be engaged with valuable brand-owned content
  3. How the reach and impact of those brand stories can be multiplied nine to 10 times by earned social sharing, lifting effectiveness while lowering cost.

In a digital world where anyone can ignore anything, advertising must be as valuable to an audience as a good book, movie, or news story.

  • It must simultaneously and unambiguously embody the brand that paid for it and measurably advance the brand’s business goals, including getting more people to buy and buy again.
  • By all rights, content marketing should be the clear solution to this new set of needs.

The ad industry is constantly in search of the elusive “agency of the future.”

  1. A proprietary narrative branding process that reliably finds a brand’s core narrative, so the agency can craft a brand’s most powerful stories quickly across all platforms — from TV to Twitter.
  2. A sophisticated strategic planning function that merges traditional strategy and market research with social listening and a journalistic approach peculiar to content shops.
  3. A creative group staffed by real storytellers — journalists, screenwriters, animators, digital designers, and creative technologists.
  4. Digital media planning and buying skills that perform the critical task of efficiently building influential communities by acquiring carefully targeted audiences for brand content online.
  5. An analytics function that measures it all and provides insights and a basis for daily optimization to drive efficiency. 

The object of all this is simple: To replace the traditional ad agency with something better, something far more efficient and effective. Something that lowers the cost of doing business. Something that forms communities with consumers.

Something, in short, that actually works in the new media era that has overtaken us all.

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About Michael Stuart

Mike's experience in the technology industry is quite extensive, serving both as a designer of complex enterprise applications and as a corporate executive. In his previous life, Mike was founder and CEO of AssetWorks Inc. the industry leader in facility management solutions. Currently living on the Texas coast helping with digital strategies using Amplified Content Marketing.