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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