Debate: Content marketing – future or fad?
Topic sentence: Content marketing and branded content are simply part of the latest fad in marketing, rather than the future of the discipline.
Clemenger BBDO Melbourne
Affirmative – When I was at boarding school in the 1970s the fitness fad was the chest expander. People ordered them by the thousands because they promised a new slab of abs in 30 days.
As with most fads, within a few months, the only thing they were expanding was the clutter at the back of thousands of wardrobes.
Chest expanders were a classic fad – just like content marketing and branded content. They are no more the future of the marketing discipline than celebrity endorsements are. Content marketing and branded content, like celebrity endorsements, belong in the toy box of the marketing playroom – they are nice things to play with and muck around for a while but they don’t lead to brand building and productivity in the long term.
The future of marketing is what it has always been: compelling storytelling.
Content marketing and branded content are cheap shortcuts, pushed by the media agencies as a short-term hit for the client and the brand because, let’s face it, the media agencies do not have the resources capable of creating and sustaining a compelling story.
Content marketing and branded content are cosmetic surgery in a world where brands have to make an effort to be interesting, not just pretty. Branding is about building meaningful relationships, not speed dating.
As the great Dan Wieden puts it, “This business is about strong provocative relationships between good companies and their customers. Those relationships will feed the business, but you have to feed the relationship first”.
Head of sales and marketing
Negative – A main purpose of our brand is to be a destination and a resource of inspiration and content – where our audience can shop from what they read and also fulfill whatever fashion and style need they may encounter, for whatever sartorial scenario in their life – be it work, wedding, or the weekend, etc. The very DNA of the Mr Porter brand is this intersection, where the fashion contextualises the story and the stories contextualise the fashion.
MrPorter.com is our global retail destination for men’s style, where we combine the best in international menswear with award-winning editorial content 52 weeks out of the year. Our product ranges from designer brands to contemporary, with furnishings from Borsalino hats to Church’s shoes, J.Crew Tshirts to Alexander McQueen eveningwear. Our digital magazine The Journal consists of eight features a week of video, interviews, exclusive photography and lifestyle stories that launch in conjunction with new arrivals and product deliveries on the site every Tuesday.
Within that, we create a 360-degree experience for our readers, and the site almost markets itself. At Mr Porter, the product and the content complement each another, and from there, traditional marketing, PR, social media and outward communication drives the voice of all that is available on the site.
Negative – If you think the internet is here to stay, then so is branded content.
The internet has changed the way we consume media, and marketers have to change the way they promote their brand, on and off the net. Brands that connect, engage and entertain will attract consumers. But branded content is not filming a ‘behind-the- scenes’ video and uploading it to see if it will go viral. And it can be so much more than paying to be part of a popular existing TV format such as MasterChef.
The future of branded content is much more integrated than that. Online, you can create entertainment that has relevance and meaning in people’s lives, build an audience, and build your own channel.
On TV, a brand cannot only lower the production costs for a network, they can increase the entertainment value of the format.
The brands can further the stories and the stories further the brands.
Then you take that content beyond the traditional format, onto the second screen, into digital, social, retail and events.
Yes, there will always be brands that have a strong rational point of difference. But those who don’t, need to create a strong emotional bond. And when consumers are deciding when and where they want to consume any kind of media, you want them to be looking for you. And if you make them laugh or cry, if you scare them, inform or surprise them, then they’ll find you. Advertising has been riding on the back of entertainment ever since the beginning.
The original branded content was the soap opera. Then brands moved out of the entertainment into ad breaks.
It’s time to be the entertainment again.
Negative – Words are the most powerful tool that mankind possesses. Words form stories, and stories have the ability to bond civilisations and instil lifelong faith. At the core of content marketing are stories and words which connect a brand to its customers. It’s as close as a business can get to its market and no fad. It is the evolution of something that has been happening for thousands of years.
However, I believe this debate has arisen due to the steady dilution of earned media – in other words, ‘earning’ what journalists write about your brand on the back of good business and hard work (or maybe just paying a PR agency). Without wanting to sound too negative when referring to the PR world (as I do believe it has its place), this unfortunately has become the sentiment of many journalists and the more media-savvy consumers.
The consumer has become more informed about how things work. With almost all publishing houses having an obvious slant, by the time the subject matter hits the reader it has passed through so many stakeholders that it’s difficult to pick its origin or intent.
And here arose the need for owned media, branded content and for businesses to truly get behind what they were putting out to the public.
It’s the need for brands to stop pushing their message through a media platform that ultimately has its own stakeholders to please. It’s the need to start communicating directly to its consumers in a more humanised manner and to be accountable for what they are saying.
The brand may well be publishing the content, but they are also taking away their ability to hide behind a newspaper or any other media platform – they may ‘own’ what is being said about them, but they are being upfront and honest about it. And there’s nothing short lived about that.