This is a con­tributed blog post by Robert Rose, Senior Ana­lyst at Dig­i­tal Clar­ity Group.

There is no doubt that the Web has empow­ered a democ­ra­ti­za­tion of access to real-time con­tent. In fact, today, a brand of any size with a com­pelling voice has the abil­ity to aggre­gate their own audi­ence and actu­ally com­pete with the same brands they pre­vi­ously rented access from. The days of a main­stream media bud­get becom­ing a dif­fer­en­tia­tor for a busi­ness are gone.

This is a double-edged sword for the CMO. On one side, the idea of “reach” has never been more dif­fi­cult to achieve. Media strate­gies are frag­mented across dig­i­tal chan­nels, and not nearly as straight­for­ward as they were half a dozen years ago. It takes more effort to strate­gize niche plat­forms where the mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tion can tar­get the right audi­ence at the right time with rel­e­vant messaging.

The oppor­tunis­tic edge is the amaz­ing power that this democ­ra­ti­za­tion has pro­vided to busi­ness. Owned and earned are not only viable con­tent strate­gies – they them­selves inte­grate into paid media plans. Instead of rent­ing access to an audi­ence to gar­ner atten­tion, brands can aggre­gate their own. Smart brands spend real money to not only pro­mote their prod­uct or ser­vice, but on the con­tent that can edu­cate, enter­tain or some­how get audi­ence to pay atten­tion to the prod­uct or service.

Change or be Changed

Busi­nesses have long been like Banana Repub­lic dic­ta­tor­ships — in the busi­ness of tight “com­mand and con­trol” mes­sag­ing – only releas­ing con­tent as it passes through a strin­gent “does this meet our level of strate­gic com­fort” stress test­ing. This was the safe way of doing it. The busi­ness’ point of view was that “we release content/messaging only spar­ingly, and we pay for the priv­i­lege of hav­ing that highly con­trolled mes­sage dis­play in (and only in) places of our own choos­ing.”

This game is, of course, changed. The first slide at any keynote these days that calls out “global change” and “dis­rup­tive­ness of dig­i­tal” is almost cliché at this point. But here’s the irony for most busi­nesses. Regard­less of either com­mand or con­trol, con­tent now flows inbound and out­bound from most busi­nesses from a myr­iad of sources like a river gorged from a mon­soon rain. Teams on the ground from field mar­ket­ing, to sales, to prod­uct, cus­tomer ser­vice, and Web con­tent are try­ing to evolve, cre­ate and pub­lish con­tent like never before.  But, the mar­ket­ing, sales and busi­ness struc­tures have not evolved to help them. Inher­ently, many busi­nesses under­stand that the nature of mar­ket­ing, adver­tis­ing and con­tent deliv­ery is shift­ing, and that the lines between adver­tis­ing and con­tent are blur­ring.  Under­stand­ing that, the busi­ness still oper­ates from a struc­ture of com­mand and control.

Rebuild To Change

In order to com­pete, busi­nesses must orches­trate con­tent more strate­gi­cally. They must cre­ate, man­age, deliver and mea­sure new and com­pelling dig­i­tal con­tent expe­ri­ences for cus­tomers. And it’s not only the recog­ni­tion that change needs to hap­pen – busi­nesses actu­ally need to change. As I said recently in a post where I dis­cussed the dis­il­lu­sion­ment of Con­tent Marketing:

 “It is the prac­tice of mar­ket­ing, on the whole, that is in the process of evolv­ing, and con­tent mar­ket­ing is but one approach that fac­tors into the entirety of this fun­da­men­tal change.”

So, whether you believe the approach of con­tent mar­ket­ing is real, hype or just sim­ply a meta tag for some­thing mar­keters have been doing all along, there is (at this point) no dis­pute that ALL com­pa­nies need to cre­ate and man­age con­tent more strate­gi­cally to drive busi­ness results.

Per­haps no brand rep­re­sents this trans­for­ma­tion trend as well as what Coca-Cola is doing with their Con­tent 2020 project. The project is the brain­child of Coca-Cola’s VP Global Adver­tis­ing Strat­egy and Cre­ative Excel­lence Jonathan Milden­hall who recently said:

“All adver­tis­ers need a lot more con­tent so that they can keep the engage­ment with con­sumers fresh and rel­e­vant, because of the 24/7 con­nec­tiv­ity.  If you’re going to be suc­cess­ful around the world, you have to have fat and fer­tile ideas at the core.”

Or as Richard Edel­man, CEO of the PR giant said recently on his 6:00AM blog:

Every com­pany or insti­tu­tion should be a media com­pany, gen­er­at­ing con­tent that can be shared across the entire media clover­leaf of Main­stream, Hybrid, Social and Owned.

But this doesn’t mean that CMOs should ramp up their con­tent pro­duc­tion efforts and out­source more to agen­cies and “pub­lish more stuff”. No, in fact it’s quite the oppo­site. It’s not about more – and it’s not about scale. It’s about how the mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tion actu­ally restruc­tures itself as a media com­pany that can adapt to the ever-changing sit­u­a­tion on the ground.

In short — it is quite sim­ply not the mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tion act­ing like a media orga­ni­za­tion – it is the mar­ket­ing depart­ment becom­ing a media organization.

Stop Look­ing At More

A recent study found that CMOs cur­rently use 75% of the data they col­lect to facil­i­tate more trans­ac­tions.  This is the legacy of marketing’s com­mand and con­trol dic­ta­tor­ship.  The busi­ness insists that its point of view be accepted as long as it can get the mes­sage out to enough peo­ple.  There is a com­mon believe that the busi­ness just has to cre­ate accep­tance once in a cus­tomer – and then get another and another and another.

Today this is an unsus­tain­able strat­egy and it is one that is ulti­mately doomed to fail­ure.  The cus­tomer that a busi­ness wins today on sheer per­sua­sive­ness is but one click away from being engaged, romanced, edu­cated and enter­tained to a com­pet­ing prod­uct.  Seth Godin said it well when he said that “con­tent mar­ket­ing was really the only mar­ket­ing that remained”.

There­fore, the new man­date is to flip that sta­tis­tic. It’s no longer good enough to focus on ana­lyt­ics and mea­sure­ment as a way to facil­i­tate more trans­ac­tions.  We have to use data to cre­ate deeper insight, and more mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with customers.

CMOs must rec­og­nize the need to re-organize their orga­ni­za­tion, using con­tent and the facile man­age­ment of it as a strat­egy and the cen­tral­iz­ing force. The value of today’s con­sumer is directly related to how much atten­tion we can main­tain, and the deeper rela­tion­ship we will develop over the long term.

My col­league Dr. Tim Wal­ters often quotes Clay­ton Chris­tensen who so aptly put it – “you may hate grav­ity, but grav­ity doesn’t care”.  Change is here and more change is com­ing whether the CMO orches­trates it or not. As busi­ness lead­ers, we can alter our orga­ni­za­tions to be more facile with con­tent, or we can watch it change around us.

To hear more on this topic and learn best prac­tices, sign up for the on-demand webi­nar and also receive a copy of the whitepa­per “Built to Change: New Mod­els for Man­ag­ing Con­sumer Engage­ment”, hosted by Adobe and Dig­i­tal Clar­ity Group.

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