When we go back forty years ago, it must have been an easy time for brand managers. Consumers were only interacting with brands on a few touch points. The reach of a limited amount of media channels, such as television, was enormous. Three national commercials of 30 sec. could reach about 80% of all middle-aged consumers. Furthermore brand managers were able to just shout and spread their message in a one-way direction and customers were consuming it passively.
But times have changed and the world has become a lot more complicated. Consumers are no longer only influenced by a 30 sec. TV commercial. Media is splintered into a plethora of different channels, and so are consumers. Brand managers have to find new ways to engage consumers and bring our message across. Consumers want to engage, shape and be part of their favourite brand. But to constantly attract and involve customers, brand should play a different role and become more active. They have to facilitate those dialogues with relevant content.
Content marketing is a hot topic and a lot of brands are wrestling with ways to create content around their products that is relevant for their audience, but in the end must also lead to conversion. Many brands have traditionally been structured to create overwhelmingly creative, one-way, advertising campaigns. However, brands nowadays have to shift their current mind-set from creating original campaigns to creating evoking content. They have to move from one-way messaging to dynamic dialogues, from advertiser to discussion leader.
A tremendous example of a brand that is creating relevant content and facilitating a dynamic dialogue with their consumers is LEGO. As the patent for their bricks ran out in 2005, more and more imitators came to market. LEGO had to find new ways to create conversations with their audience to keep up their competitive advantage. One of the initiatives they launched was the LEGO Club Magazine. The magazine, which is customized for specific markets and age, offers new ideas for building structures, interactive cartoon stories on how to play with the yellow little men, and reference to their products in store. The ‘high quality’ interactive magazine is still in line with the brand’s earliest motto ‘Only the best is good enough.’ LEGO is providing branded content that is targeted in a relevant, authentic and differentiating way to their consumers.
To create strong branded content, such as LEGO, a brand should start by creating a strong proposition, a solid base that resonates in the whole organization and whereupon the consumer touchpoints with the brand are built. Consequently, the brand proposition will function as a compass in creating relevant, authentic and differentiating branded content that will stimulate the dialogue between brands and consumers. Additionally, it will help brands to actually shift from advertiser to discussion leader.
Vincent Hövels is an analyst in Interbrand’s Amsterdam office.