Tailor-made: How to cut through with custom content

Tailor-made: How to cut through with custom content

Belinda Barker
Source: Event Reports,
Downloaded from WARC

More brands now want agencies and media partners to develop increasingly sophisticated branded content solutions to reach certain target audiences.

Historically, content marketing has been produced by a brand and its ad agency, before being deployed across a plethora of media titles, but new research suggests tailor-made content for specific media owners is growing in demand. Marketers can cut through with brand content in many ways, such as being meaningful – readers want to know you’re investing to help answer the big questions on their desks today, not a pitch. Marketers may also consider bringing in multiple voices – compiling several valuable viewpoints and lessons from across the industry ecosystem and the publisher themselves, not just commentary from your brand, demonstrates a real commitment to finding the right answers, and a humility too.

A growing number of brands today are looking for agencies and media partners to develop increasingly sophisticated branded content solutions to reach specific target audiences.

At least, that’s a collective interpretation of many of the findings unearthed in the World Media Group’s Future of Global Content-led Marketing study. With an overwhelming 78% of brand and publisher respondents (and 85% of agencies) expecting content-driven marketing to grow over the next two years, and 45% saying more than half of the campaigns they are currently working on are now content driven, the discipline can clearly expect healthy growth.

Historically, content marketing has been produced by a brand and its ad agency, before being deployed across a plethora of media titles. But the new WMG research suggests tailor-made content for specific media owners is growing demand. Some 66% of respondents believe audience and media alignment is “the most important factor” once a story has been created, and “story, authenticity and creative” top the list of most important elements for success.

The findings support the trend in brands working more closely with media owners and agencies from the outset to shape their communications strategy and executions. This has fuelled the rise in the creation of in-house multimedia specialists within commercial teams of many of the world’s biggest media owners.
These “studios” or “labs” teams have the ability to produce highly targeted creative executions – or, as Deutsche Bank’s Managing Director, Global Head of Marketing, Christoph Woermann said, “build a magnet in the marketplace, not a megaphone.”

Woermann’s words are cited by Tony Jarvis, Managing Director, Client Relations at EI Advisory, a B2B agency that worked with Deutsche Bank on its award-winning treasurer-targeted work, in conjunction with The Economist. “Christoph’s point is that they don’t have the budgets of Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan and need to produce work that turns heads and is meaningful,” Jarvis said.

Publisher-specific content campaigns are not limited to financial, or niche brands, according to Rupert Turnbull, brand ambassador for Fortune, who has worked on campaigns for the business title (as well as its former stablemate Time) including for the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Tourism.
“I wouldn’t say there are certain brand types more suited, it’s more about the brand understanding the voice of the media brand,” he said.

That said, there was clear evidence of financial services investing in content marketing among the winners at this year’s World Media Awards. There were plenty of examples of brands, agencies and publishers working in collaboration to produce bespoke, engaging work in an individual title’s tone of voice. Among them was Credit Suisse’s partnership with Bloomberg Media designed to position the financial services company at the centre of a conversation around entrepreneurism and leadership. “The Power of Entrepreneurial Thinking” triumphed in one of the most contested categories, Brand and Media Owner Partnership.

The content strategy was informed by a global study into entrepreneurial thinking among Ultra and High-NetWorth individuals, conducted by Ipsos MORI. It underpinned a comprehensive, nine-month content programme across a multimedia portfolio, and planned around key global events, like the World Economic Forum in Davos. The video series generated more than 850,000 views and achieved significant perception shifts around “Credit Suisse’s understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset,” among its target audiences.

“Our research deeply informed our content and approach to interviewing entrepreneurs at different stages of their careers, from ambitious startups through to a £90 million buyout success story,” said Arif Durrani, executive editor for EMEA at Bloomberg Media Studios. “We tapped into a wealth of in-house specialists, from sales advisors and data scientists to strategists, journalists and creatives.

“Much of the work we do for clients involves brand building and market positioning and we’ve seen first-hand how silos between media, advertising and PR agencies are breaking down. The Credit Suisse series involved close ties with Havas International, for example, while our BMW Group Centenary campaign saw us work closely with German PR agency Ketchum.”

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank’s “Global Treasury Leaders Programme” campaign won the Financial Services category for its innovative take on reaching corporate group treasurers and heads of treasury by inviting them to network and share ideas.  A series of top-level forums were run in New York City, London and Hong Kong, while an in-depth survey conducted by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit quizzed 300 treasurers on the latest innovations and issues. The campaign reached 1,250 corporate treasury professionals and engaged 415 via its global treasury leaders network across a variety of sectors.

The right message in the right place
There are many advantages to publisher-led content, and one of them can be cost, according to Turnbull. “Procurement people understand that they can target people at scale and cut costs dramatically, with the metrics showing that they’re getting a response.”

“We tend to meander in the marketing industry between fashionable things – it’s suddenly all about certain channels, videos and now content,” said Deutsche Bank’s Woermann. “But I think there’s a misconception here. It’s always been about content. For us, it’s not just about content marketing itself, it’s about the context within which that content is delivered. The headline of this is to let the customer determine the journey.”

Turnbull admitted that a publisher-specific campaign presents challenges. “It’s much harder work to pick a particular channel and get under the skin of that channel and understand the consumer mindset in their language, it’s a much heavier lift for marketers,” he said. “But results will follow.”

Tone of voice
There are some key considerations to running a content marketing campaign. For instance, Woermann counts himself as allergic to self-proclamatory terms such as “thought leadership”, because, he says, it is presumptuous. “The client decides if you’re a trusted advisor or thought leader,” he said. Brands should present wellresearched information and create reciprocity. “At some point have the urge and desire to reciprocate. That in my view is a principle that marketeers and agencies need to understand.”

Interestingly, Deutsche Bank does not aggressively pursue direct response sales through its content marketing. “It kills goodwill,” Woermann said. Instead of sales, Deutsche Bank’s KPIs are usually more focused on engagement levels.  Even so, Woermann admitted that he would be “super-surprised” if as a consequence of a campaign “we did not get a single piece of business”. But, he stressed, he would not go so far as to say that “content is the new gold”.

“If you’ve opted for a content strategy, be willing to let your customer determine your journey. Be willing to spend a lot of time listening, be willing to spend a lot of time researching and driving the conversation,” he added.

More collaboration
The future of content marketing looks set to encourage more collaboration between agencies and media owners alike. For Turnbull, being open to new partnerships can be conducive to success.
“There’s a question over whether the commoditisation of media has made it difficult for individual publishers to compete,” he said. “Media brands used to only compete with each other, but we’re seeing more examples of multimedia content partnerships. The World Media Group is a great example of where brands are putting aside that petty competitiveness and working as a collective.

“That’s really where we see opportunities for media brands, especially ones with passionate and engaged audiences. You’ve got Fortune, National Geographic, The Economist, Bloomberg, Time – brands whose users specifically come to them for their point-of-view, opinion and voice that they completely trust.”

Six tips for how to cut through with brand content
EI Advisory’s Tony Jarvis and Rachel Reasbeck, Senior Client Relations Leader, outline some of their top considerations when optimising a content strategy with a specific publisher.

1. Build trust

Co-branded content with an established media brand is more likely to be trusted than your own content, by prospects and also by your existing clients. Showing both groups that you are investing in quality content pays dividends. It will also provide ammunition which your client teams will be keener and prouder to use in their dialogue with the market.

2. Be meaningful

Readers want to know you’re investing to help answer the big questions on their desks today, not a pitch. You need to find a way to listen to the market, process what you’re hearing, and play back initiatives which move the industry forward. Media editors have this sense in their blood if you can tap into it.

3. Bring in multiple voices

Pulling in several valuable viewpoints and lessons from across the industry ecosystem and the publisher themselves, not just commentary from your brand, demonstrates a real commitment to finding the right answers, and a humility too.

4. Publishers know their audiences

Lean on your media partner to help optimise the content campaign for their specific audience. What works well with their particular audience in terms of calls to action, gated versus non-gated content, text versus graphics, short form versus long form etc?

5. Ask yourself: “So what?”

Why is this particular programme different, meaningful and a better use of time for people to read than any other content out there? If you and your media partner can truly answer that – you will turn heads.

6. Think longevity

One hit wonders are quickly forgotten. Build a programme which fosters real dialogue an ongoing community, like a club with a mission.

About the author
Belinda Barker Director, World Media Group
The World Media Group is a strategic alliance of the world’s leading publications which incorporates The Atlantic, Bloomberg Media Group, Business Insider, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, National Geographic, Reuters, The New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and associate members: Moat, Smartology and The Smithsonian. Its aim is to promote award-winning journalism and the role of international media.

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