This article by OMD EMEA‘s President Nikki Mendonca was originally published in the 2015 Global Edition of BOBCM. You can also read an interview with Nikki that formed part of the research for the edition, and also her input into the Exert Insights Report in for the 2015 DACH Region Edition:
As a leading global marketing communications agency, content and the principles that the discipline embodies sit at the heart of everything that we do. In fact, the word ‘content’ and its related areas have become so broad that it’s now almost meaningless as a definition. It’s hard to imagine a campaign without content in it – for example, what campaign doesn’t have a social element?
The scope is really all-encompassing and the rationale is clear. The industry has, over time, accepted that marketing has to focus more on engagement than interruption, but now it’s beginning to understand that this should apply to every touchpoint with consumers. Gone are the days when content was a side strategy with an entertaining video or a sports partnership. Now entertainment sits squarely at the heart of most major campaigns and it’s easy to see why Cannes Lions has rebranded its branded content awards as Entertainment Lions.
If the starting point is the consumer, which it has to be, then the only way to engage them is either through entertaining them or providing information they require. Of course, it usually has to be packaged in good storytelling which is really the heart of most effective content. People will share something that touches them emotionally or that they find really important.
It’s no surprise that there is growing focus on this area, particularly with ever-increasing technology advances opening up new opportunities. For example, the exponential growth of video and distribution options being supplemented by live streaming from Periscope and other apps continues to open up a range of new and exciting possibilities. Equally, every marketing plan now has to at least consider a role for digital influencers, with new personalities and online communities constantly emerging. Influencers have become living media and human brands in a way that celebrities previously couldn’t manage. A great example of this is the OMD Germany Hasbro NERF Toy Blaster campaign.
However, it’s amazing how many brands fall into the traps that come from ignoring basic marketing engagement principles. For example, most advertisers now understand that leading with something that entertains consumers is an effective way of drawing them in. However, many campaigns that we now see have little or no involvement, authenticity, or relevance to the brand – sometimes it’s just a badge tagged on at the end of a video. They almost seem like vanity projects from a CMO who has forgotten the brand they need to promote and instead wants to have a go at becoming a filmmaker. The distinction between content marketing and branded content marketing has been lost on them and the effectiveness will disappear with it. Clearly, the most powerful campaigns are at the intersection between the story that the brand wants to tell and the one that the consumer wants to engage with.
Equally, some brands completely forget their distribution strategy. There are many beautifully made videos by experienced marketers that just sit on an online platform with a handful of views. The hope that the video will ‘go viral’ through consumers stumbling upon it seems at best naïve. I’m not sure who said “The phrase ‘build it and they will come’ only worked in the Bible or Hollywood”, but it’s very true. It’s even more amazing that marketers take this approach given the breadth of fantastic and cost-effective distribution options that exist and continue to be developed. Distribution has to be the starting point for any content or integrated strategy, not an afterthought.
The other principle that can be overlooked is that content still has to be delivered in the right context at the right time in order to be relevant, although fast-form content systems increase the possibilities. For example, OMD Sweden’s Pierre Robert #BIKEMYTIGHTS campaign is the perfect example of context. Getting this area right can then be a platform for using personalised messages to offer greater impact, a process that’s now easier through programmatic advertising. What marketer doesn’t want to have one-to-one personalised marketing at scale?
As a business, we continue to advise our clients on another crucial area – purpose marketing – which will only increase in importance and fuel branded content marketing. Brands realise the strong link between business success and the ever-increasing demand from consumers for businesses to be ethical. And, of course, purpose marketing can provide the ideal platform for content engagement, one well-known example being the ice bucket challenge.
So, while marketers are content-led and focussed on engagement, it’s crucial to remember basic marketing principles that drive the effectiveness of campaigns. No one would question that content has to be entertaining or useful to the consumer to really engage them, but it also needs to be telling the brand’s story, have a clear distribution strategy, and be in the right time and context to make a real impact on the bottom line. It has to be about branded content executed in the right way, not just the content itself.