We are living in a time of constant change. And the pace of change is constantly increasing. Trying to reach consumers in this environment is becoming more and more difficult. As marketers, you face channel fragmentation, micro segmentation of audiences and the decline of attention spans. With so many changes on the horizon, how are you supposed to create yearly marketing plans? How do you plan in an environment that is so hard to predict? As it turns out, you can be both dynamic and agile while having a sustainable, long-term strategy. You just need to change your approach to planning from the core. Increasingly, the key to this is to focusing on themes that can be expressed through content.
Content Over Campaigns
My experience working with some of the largest and most successful brands in the world has taught me that they all have something in common. They’re not thinking about the next campaign, which often means working hard leading up to a launch and subsequently throwing it all away once the launch is over. They make sure that they have a center of gravity that pulls everything together – and it’s usually all about content.
Let’s take Redbull for example. Their theme is “Redbull gives you wings.” If they were focused purely on campaigns, they would never have spent four years planning to send a man to jump from space. They look at their lighthouse – their theme – and if an activation makes sense in its light, they do it. They also plan carefully how an activation, in the “online” or “offline” world, will generate content – owned as well as earned. That jump resulted in over eight million people watching the live online broadcast for nearly four hours. It also generated a whole lot of earned media like this piece in “Forbes”.
For Redbull, marketing is all about great content driven by their overarching theme. The vast majority of the content on their site has nothing to do with their products. It’s all about the events they produce and news that’s relevant to their audience. The content is delivered through their website and online syndication partners, on TV and in print.
Their print magazine theRedBulletin is one of the largest distribution paid magazines in the world with over 3 million subscribers. Redbull’s content is so good that they launched a media division, RedBull Media House, that is selling (!!) its content to media houses. Getting paid for product placement? Think of that as an ROI goal of the marketing budget.
American Express OPEN is another great example of a brand that’s theme driven. Theirs is “Powering Small Business Success.” In that light, it makes sense for them to do initiatives like “Small Business Saturday” every year. It also explains why they invest so much in OpenForum.com – a place where SMB owners can get great advice from the likes of Guy Kawasaki and Richard Branson and become part of a vibrant community. They’re not trying to hit you over the head with their message. They’re focused on providing great value in line with their theme.
And what about Kraft? For them, content isn’t just a tactic. It’s the strategy that powers all of their marketing – online and offline. Did you know they own one of the most popular subscription cooking magazines, “Food & Family”? And what about one of the most successful food apps, iFood? Owned by Kraft as well. So it’s no big surprise they also have one of the most successful recipe sites in the world in KraftRecipes.com. The site features more than 30,000 recipes, 20,000 of which were submitted by the vibrant community that surrounds it.
Optimizing and Measuring Engagement
When your marketing strategy is driven by a theme, you’re more likely to create great content and ultimately, provide true value to consumers. Then you’ll discover something profound. All of your marketing initiatives across all channels will seamlessly plug into it. Former strategies like SEO, paid search, earned social, paid social, content amplification, CRM and even display will suddenly become just tactics – working together to drive discoverability and engagement with your content. You can now take all of these tactics, no matter what the buying mechanism – CPC, CPM, CPV or CPA – and create a common measurement unit that’s focused on engagement.
Each engagement indicator (a page view, a download of a white paper, a print of a recipe, time on site, downloads, CRM subscription, bounce rate) will have its own dollar value or simply a relative value in comparison with other KPIs. Let’s say you assign a whitepaper a value of 100 points. Now you can take all other engagement options and reference them relative to this number. For example, how much is engagement with your thought leadership video worth? 20? Great. Now what about a page view of an article? Let’s say 5. Now you can take all your different engagement indicators and evaluate the total value of engagement, and optimize any engagement acquisition tactics with a goal to increase your total engagement worth.
At the end of the day, good marketers will always be pushing the envelope and experimenting with new trends and strategies. But keeping everything tied to a theme that’s core to your brand and drives everything you do will help keep your marketing strategy cohesive and focused – just like the big guys do.
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Image courtesy via Flickr/Creative Commons .