2013: The Year Branding Marries Content?

Three Experts Speak Out On The Intersection of Branding and Content Marketing

Content marketing and branding predictions for 2013

Content marketing has been around for over 100 years, ever since The John Deere company introduced The Furrow, a custom-published magazine designed to help farmers (and John Deere) be more successful.  For most of that century-plus, many of the denizens of “sexier,” higher-profile brand marketing firms have looked down at content marketing as one of the lesser “below the line services.’  However, a confluence of powerful factors suggests that all marketers – and their agencies – will be wise to consider how to best marry traditional brand messaging with the informational, educational, entertaining charms of content marketing, online and off. Those factors include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  •  The rise of consumer control, particularly via social media, and the unprecedented ability of consumers to choose, or reject, messages
  • The shift toward search algorithms that favor quality content over SEO manipulation
  • The growing consumer distrust of traditional, paid advertising and marketing communications
  •  The opportunity to shift from a forced “push” marketing model to a natural “pull” model, a shift beyond the short-term value of transaction to create the long-term value of trust

“We Are Just At the Beginning of Thinking Differently”

Sensing a sea change at hand, we asked three content leaders and practitioners to give their forecast as to what extent content would finally penetrate brand marketing programs in 2013.

Joe Pulizzi is one of the foremost figures in content marketing, author of Get Content, Get Customers, and founder of The Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World, the industry’s largest tradeshow. We asked him about his recent prediction that more and more companies will hire a “chief storyteller,” and whether that portends more companies going all-in for content in the coming year, as Coca-Cola has with its Content 2020 Strategy, or whether content will remain a separate tool in the marketing kit.

Piluzzi replied, “I think it’s somewhere in between.  There will be many brands that start to take their content marketing seriously (like Coca-Cola and Red Bull have).  They will begin to build out their marketing department from a publishing and storytelling mentality, and use relevant information as the “in” to conversations on the web. That said, if content marketing were a baseball game, we are just getting out of the dugout for the first inning.  We are just at the beginning of thinking differently about how we market.  Many industries are still years behind.  There is much education that needs to be done.  The good news is that we are heading in the right direction.”

The Need for a Chief Content Officer

Pulizzi noted the structural difficulty organizations face in making the shift from traditional to content marketing, saying, “Almost all organizations are silo-ed (marketing, PR, corporate, social, email, etc.).  If an organization doesn’t hire a chief content officer to integrate all the content that’s being created, they at least need to make sure that the content leads within each group begin to meet.  If every department is telling a different story, it’s almost impossible to have a consistent customer experience.

Moving Content Beyond the Client-Centric

We also asked Michael Brenner, Senior Director, Global Marketing at SAP and President & Co-Founder of Business 2 Community,  to give us his content forecast. “I think 2013 will see content become a much more significant part of brand communications, as well as tactic used by many more marketers. We’ll see many more branded “content hubs” where brands will publish content that is often not 100% related to their products but more in line with the solution areas customers are interested in exploring.” Brenner went on to say that,”2013 will likely be the year that the promise of ‘brands as publishers’ comes closer to being fulfilled.”

Aligning  All Marketing with Content for Competitive Advantage

Lastly, we contacted London-based Nick Allen, Global Head of New Media Strategy at Towers Watson, who offered this view of whether or not branding and content could consummate their relationship in the coming year:

“Content marketing has come of age. Brands are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and content marketing is the pivot. We need to be wary that we’re addressing clients needs, creating leads through our content, segmenting and addressing customer’s positions within the sales cycle. Our content needs to be special, where possible, not just filler. Brochureware, specifications sheets, and sales decks will slowly be overtaken by good content marketing and storytelling.

Most large brands in the coming years will adopt some form of content marketing. Their websites will benefit from dedicated editors, content planners and curators who can segment larger content, find angles and curate content across social media. Call us early adopters, but I think those starting now with aligning their content marketing teams will have significant competitive advantage in the coming years.”

How Do You See the Relationship Between Brand Marketing and Content?

Now we’d like to interview you, too.  Do you believe, as with Allen, that content promises “significant competitive advantage in the coming years?” If so, what will the relationship be in your organization between brand marketing and content.  Will they remain separate in 2013, “move in together,” or consummate a wholly new union?  And will your posture, as you walk down that aisle, be one of an original publisher, as with Coca-Cola, or of a media patron, as Pepsi envisions in its recently announced deal with Beyoncé?

Please share your answers and comments here – because unlike the old marketing model of “paid monologue,” content marketing seeks to push us all into dialogue.

  • http://twitter.com/Anabagail Abigail Anaba

    I believe content marketing is the way to go for most big and growing brands in 2013. There really is no other way to go if you really consider it. Traditional push marketing is being ignored more and more with customers seeking engagement and being more interested in what they can gain before they part with their money or their loyalty.

    • http://twitter.com/creativeoncall Chuck Kent

      I personally agree, but recognize that brand marketing agencies have a) a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and b) often lack the expertise to branch out beyond simply creating ad-centered campaigns. The smarter agencies will learn how to marry branding and content, because clients will demand it.

  • Carlos Puig Falcó

    We, as branding consultants, believe that branding is on an upper level and content is an important vehicle to reinforce the relationship between brands and customers. As storytelling or sensorial experiences do, content should never go separately from a global branding strategy. The problem is that in this turbulent times, brands are looking for new ways to connect with their audiences and sometimes they forget that the brand should be over all, and its values, culture and promises are to be delivered in each contact point.

    • http://twitter.com/creativeoncall Chuck Kent

      I agree that “content should never go separately from a global branding strategy,” but like all elements of a coherent, integrated program should be consistent vehicle and voice for the brand promise. Too often it is excused from that role, and valued only as a tactic. ON the other hand, those charged with brand stewardship forget that, amid the turbulence you mention, it is no longer enough to simply assert values, culture and promises – they need to be demonstrated to be believed (see the Edleman and Neilsen surveys on declining trust in advertising). Content, particularly when delivered as engagingly as BBDO does for Save the Children, can do just that, letting the self-evident truth of a brand promise shine (see my follow-up article at http://ow.ly/gz0MO)

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