There is talk of 2015 being the year of brand publishers. Instead of brands just publishing a blog here and there and then advertising in popular magazines or video channels, brands will become the popular magazines, video channels, and overall content providers.
Adweek recently mentioned, “A mere five years ago, Red Bull was an energy drink, not a global media company. Chipotle was hard at work wrapping burritos, not shooting award-winning video shorts. Social media was in its infancy, and branded content consisted of things like trade brochures gathering dust on a shelf.”
When you visit the websites of major brands like Red Bull and Coca-Cola, you’re first faced with remarkable original content, not ads for their products. Why would companies who make money by selling products not feature those products prominently on the homepage? Both companies have taken the big step to become brand publishers.
These companies have dedicated writers charged with documenting the best experiences their customers want to enjoy. Utilizing vast amounts of data, they can hone in on what customers are interested in and showcase stories relevant to those interests.
And their content isn’t limited to the written form hosted on their websites. Red Bull now has its own video channel accessible through Roku, Apple TV and various smart TVs.
While many brands are beginning to get on board with the idea, they must realize that pumping out quality content in the quantity that brands like Red Bull and Coca-Cola do is not cheap. So why should they consider risking the investment?
Companies are starting to realize that the audiences they’ve built are largely on rented land. Your Facebook fan base? Rented if they only experience you on Facebook. Twitter? You’re a blip on their ever-moving Twitter stream. Your readership based on this or that major website/publisher? Not yours. Companies are waking up to the fact that in order to retain audiences, and thus generate ever-increasing revenue, they need to be the source of value customers are looking for.
By becoming a publisher, a brand can entice readers in a way they cannot if they just highlight their products or occasionally sponsor an article on another popular website. Brands need to become a part of the customer’s lifestyle in order to stand out and truly be successful in the future.
As I mentioned earlier, turning a brand into a publisher is not cheap. You can build your publishing platform and develop your talent from scratch, or you can purchase an existing niche publisher to make it your own. Either way, you are committing to regularly generating superior content that indirectly promotes your products.
Are you on board with this idea, but wonder what the C-suite would say? It might take some convincing, and it’s not necessarily something that will pay for itself immediately. But consider the alternative: With more and more brands already making this investment, and other promotional methods potentially losing their return value, this might be the most effective way to generate your own owned content and subsequent loyal fan base in the future.
But does this mean that common customer outreach methods used today are no longer relevant? Should you shut down your Facebook presence in favor of your own branded magazine? Not so fast. Branded content can become the destination, but social media is still incredibly valuable to reach new audiences and continue to engage existing fans. So keep working on enticing your fans via social while you also begin to build your own branded content universe.
Katie Mayberry is the head of content and social media at Spyglass Digital. Katie got her start in the industry focusing on online magazines and academic journals. She’s worked both in-house and agency side since 2007. She loves a good story, and seeks to help her clients tell great stories to wow customers online.
Spyglass Digital is a digital marketing agency based in Orange, CA. By focusing on all aspects of the customer decision journey Spyglass Digital helps clients reach more customers online. Specialties include social media, content marketing, influencer marketing, search engine optimization and video production.
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