Interview with Razorfish Germany’s Preethi Mariappan

- in INTERVIEWS, The Drum
Comments Off

Preethi_MariappanBOBCM DACH Region Edition co-editor Sandra Freisinger-Heinl caught-up with Razorfish Germany’s Executive Creative Director Preethi Mariappan at Cannes this year to discuss the purpose of content:

What brand objectives can be solved by branded content?

Content can be used to drive brand reputation and thought leadership. It can be used to connect to a new audience that you need to open up and engage. Ultimately though, content has to serve a business objective and drive results. I think we’re all trying to find ways to deliver a seamless content- to-commerce journey.

These are all viable objectives when we consider branded content. However, I don’t think we should be fencing in branded content to an exclusive set of objectives. It’s a fairly new phenomenon and we’ll probably see many different approaches for different brands.

Branded content aligns to brand purpose for the long term. I think the big question we need to be asking here is: “What is the value I deliver as a brand with my content, how will it help me engage my customers or form a community, and how does it serve my brand mission?”

What are the key factors to consider for content creation and distribution?

Creativity in content hinges on understanding the zeitgeist and the cultural context of your audience. Co-creating with your own customers, fans and influencers is obviously key for acceptance and sharing. You need to assess where people are already engaged with your brand topics, or identify a need for it. If you want to belong to a group, you have to hear what the group is talking about – and have something relevant to say – in order to participate.

If we look at our client IKEA, we see that interior and home decor is a huge topic on the web and within their community. With IKEA Hej, we co- create content actively with the community and influencers whose voices matter. The brand experience is democratised and shared, driving an uptake in leads.

Also, a distributed content approach means you need to think about creating content that feels native to the platform and to how people consume and share. Think Pinterest versus LinkedIn. Or YouTube versus Vine. For instance, we launched IKEA’s street art poster collection with a live event streamed to Instagram where there is a natural affinity for this type of content.

Sometimes I see a good piece of content, but then companies end up sharing the same thing on Facebook, YouTube, et cetera. I think ‘spray and pray’ as a tactic simply doesn’t work.

Any specifications on the type of content to use?

Content specifications are very specific to the brand and its objectives. A content mix is a healthy approach, from fan-based or user- created content, to influencer- or brand-created. The same applies to the format mix from video and visual to editorial. Or choosing when or how to mix snackable, mobile-first content pieces with long-form content, whether video or editorial. A sound strategy and editorial calendar needs to underpin great creative content.

Also, people don’t care for one awesome piece of content if you’re hoping for engagement beyond simple views. You need to consider an ‘always on’ content approach.

I think the influencer piece is the newest formula within branded content – for instance, working with YouTubers or Instagrammers relevant for the brand. These are the ‘new celebrities’; producing content together with them is the ‘new TV’.

This also changed how we think about creative content crafting. Today, content needs to be real, not sugar-coated. What the content influencers create is not very crafted by marketing standards, but it’s authentic.

Do you have any key statistics on brand investment in content versus media?

Brands in Germany often invest 20% in content and 80% in media. I think the ratio clearly needs to change to 60% in content and 40% in media at least, if we’re to create purposeful sticky content and start relying less on a media push-type approach.

But actually it needs to be about content and distribution, not content and media! We need to stop thinking of content, media and distribution in silos to be truly effective.

I think we’re still learning how to do this within both agencies and client organisations, since this calls for new structures, processes and ways of working together between multiple partners.

This interview was originally published in the BOBCM DACH Region Edition (2015) co-edited by Sandra Freisinger-Heinl and Greta MacFarlane.