Joy Parks

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

What do you think your audience will swallow?

In content communities, What works on March 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm

After years of working in the advertising industry and sitting through countless pitches— when I see a particularly annoying or ineffective television commercial, I have to wonder what went on in the presentation meeting. Sometimes it seems as if traditional advertising is digging its own grave.

I would have paid good money to be at the pitch for a commercial for a mainstream brand of yogurt that’s currently running. I would have paid even more to know what was going on in the mind of the marketing executive who decided to green light it. Basically, it’s a woman in a long flowing gown, flanked by young men in tuxes (and possibly tails), singing and dancing about yogurt to a hokey broadway-esque tune.

Considering that the number one target market for yogurt is power moms who buy it by the case load because a) calcium and vitamin D are important for growing bones and apparently it’s easier to get a child to eat a cup of pink fruit-flavoured goo than drink a glass of milk and b) keeping a power mom’s schedule is rough on one’s digestive system. I’m trying to figure out how a power mom, a woman who lives in sportswear and quite literally doesn’t have time to go to the bathroom, can relate to fancy gowns, boy toys and dancing to show tunes. Seriously, how does this commercial in any way relate to yogurt or, for that matter, to contemporary marketing approaches?

Then there’s the Stonyfield approach—based totally on useful (and quite beautiful) branded content. Granted Stonyfield is a small boutique brand, but it’s got the marketing savvy to be a lot bigger. First of all, CEO Gary Hirshberg wrote Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, an insider guide to running a profitable, environmentally responsible business. That’s big time credibility. Plus the Stonyfield website is full-on branded content. There’s a simply gorgeous video featuring beauty shots of the yogurt’s natural ingredients and the farms where the milk is produced, articles on organic living, a downloadable “go green” handbook, plus more conventional content like CRS goals, coupons and recipes. Not only is it a visual feast, but at a time when the local food movement is telling power mom she needs to be on a first-name basis with the guy who grew the tomatoes in her lunch salad, this level of branded information hits on all cylinders.

Let’s see—a traditional 30-second spot featuring an irrelevant dancing routine that has nothing to do with the product, ignores the needs of its audience and offers little but a corny sales pitch…or beautifully produced branded content that understands its audience and offers both information and a sense of community. The traditional approach is about the product, the company, the sale. The branded content approach is about understanding customers, responding to their needs and building relationships.

So which one do you think would be easier to swallow?

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Every company must be a publisher. But what does that mean?

In business development on March 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Every company must be a publisher.

This is pretty much the underlying premise of every piece of information ever written on the value of branded content. But what exactly does it mean?

Once upon a time, publishers were very powerful because they controlled the flow of information. Publishing was a very expensive business; not just anyone could publish and someone had to be the gatekeeper. So publishers (and the editors they hired) were the ones who made the decisions about what books, magazine and newspaper articles and other information made it into publication. There were vanity presses, which allowed authors to pay to be published, but they had a feeling of desperation about them. Since they had neither gatekeepers, nor access to the channels of distribution afforded real publishers, vanity books seldom got much notice or had much impact.

Back then, getting out information on your company, your products, your growth was a long, difficult and risky process. You made a list of trade magazines and had your communications department or PR company send out a press release to reporters. If you were lucky, a reporter got interested and went to his or her editor—who in turn may have had to get buy-in from the powerful publisher. If you were really lucky, the reporter got permission to do an article—and after a three-month lead-time, your story ran—right beside stories about your competitors.

Now we’re genuinely lucky. Businesses can communicate directly with their audience. That’s why in The New Rules of PR and Marketing, David Meerman Scott advises businesses to write news releases directed not at reporters, but at customers, at consumers. There’s no need for gatekeepers anymore (which may explain why the publishing industry is in trouble). Companies can shape their own messages, determine what they want to say, when they want to say it and to whom. They have the luxury of publishing branded content, online or sometimes in print, to create a loyal following of customers who feel their needs are understood and that their business is valued. Companies are beginning to realize the value (and ease) of communicating with their customers even when they aren’t trying to sell them something. Some companies get it. As time goes by, lots of others will too. That’s why all companies will need to be publishers—because their ability to control not just what information potential customers receive—but how—is going to give them a competitive advantage.

Ain’t progress grand?