You may have heard of Content Marketing. It’s become one of the hottest industry buzzwords for good reason: it works. It is so effective in marketing brands, products, and services because–in the age of social media–the hard sell approach is something that most people nowadays reject.
Hard sell no longer works because of three factors: a) information overload; b) irrelevance; and c) too much fake news online.
With so many products and services being offered online, consumers are overwhelmed by the information. Having so much information on their smartphones, it quickly becomes difficult to distinguish one brand from its competitors.
Second, consumers are already busy paying attention to so much internet content: funny or emotional social media posts; touching stories about dogs and cats; news, memes, how-to videos, etc. — unless your content is mere interesting than these, it won’t hook your audience. Unless your content tells a relevant, useful meaningful story, then your marketing won’t get anywhere much. (Hard sell usually doesn’t tell a story relevant to consumers.)
On the other hand, many consumers are more ready to get skeptical over claims made by brands. Not surprising because they’ve become wary about fake news on social media. This is why authenticity is something that many consumers demand from brands.
Consumers’ collective response to the controversial Pepsi TV commercial is a case in point: the soft drinks giant was accused of faking its supposed support for protest movements and woke culture. Forbes.com even came right out and said it: “The problem with the Pepsi spot was a simple one: [lack of] authenticity.”
The power of relevant content
Back in 2017, Jollibee proved how powerful content marketing can be for a brand. It produced a series of hugot TVCs that focused on short, heart-warming (or even heart-breaking) love stories. This was for their Valentine’s Day campaign.
Of the series, the most popular was titled. “Vow” (you can watch that here.) which is all about loving someone unconditionally. The audience has no doubt that they’re watching a Jollibee commercial; however, the story is told so well, in such a compelling manner that the TVC becomes a pitch for the value of sacrifice and loving unconditionally.
Of course, this also had the effect of putting the Jollibee brand and its products in a flattering light. Even as Jollibee’s audience embraced the love story and shared it more than half a million times, they also embraced the brand.
“Vow” became a viral sensation. Just look how it did on Facebook: 15 million views, 510k shares, 510k reactions, 196k comments. No hard sell type of marketing can match that.
This happened because, following the tenets of content marketing, Jollibee let its brand take the backseat and allowed the TVC to tell a powerfully compelling, meaningful, and relevant story. In content marketing, the content/the story is king.
Brand publishing: Levelling up
Still, while it is amazing what content marketing can do, there’s still another level that experts are now saying is the next wave in content-driven marketing.
We’re talking about brand publishing. How different is that from content marketing? Well, brand publishing is content marketing–but with a crucial difference:
In content marketing, content (articles, videos, social media posts, memes, etc.) is made relevant, meaningful, and compelling to serve the goals of the brand. Brand publishing however, produces relevant, meaningful, and compelling content to serve the needs of the audience–the brand itself might not even be present in the content.
This seems strange to those who are used to the more traditional approaches to PR or marketing. Just think: why would you spend so much producing content that does not mention your brand? That sounds bonkers, right?
Ironically, in brand publishing, the content is able to benefit the brand precisely because it is absent from the content. This is because the goal of brand publishing is to put the needs of the audience first before the brand. The content is provided to serve what the audience wants.
This is best explained by an illustration. The textbook example for brand publishing is that done by Red Bull. Yes, the energy drink. Google “Red Bull” and “brand publishing” and you’ll see the consensus: Red Bull is the global leader in brand publishing today.
The energy drink maker began its brand publishing campaign in 2008 and has not looked back since. The results of its brand publishing efforts are indisputable: Red Bull is now the world’s number one energy drink brand, with 6.8 billion cans of energy drinks sold, and counting.
Red Bull began its brand publishing by setting up Red Bull Media House in 2007. Essentially Red Bull Media House is a media company. It produces videos, documentaries, articles, and posts all of these online. Most of these are just awesome–and most don’t even mention Red Bull at all.
Rather, the content is simply provided for the enjoyment of audiences that are part of the energy drink’s market: those that love extreme sports, festivals, and those with active fast-paced lifestyles. When you look at this content, you’ll be amazed at the production value: the quality rivals that of major media companies like CNN, Fox, Discovery Channel, Time Warner, etc.
Now has it dawned on you? Brand publishing means levelling up from a company that uses online content, into one that creates online media content. Yes, it means becoming a media company. That’s how Red Bull Media House is run; like a media company.
That said, we must point out how the business model has changed. In content marketing, content produced is considered a cost. It’s cost incurred for marketing the brand. However in brand publishing, content is not a cost–it’s a source of profit.
Not surprisingly, Red Bull Media House profits from its content. Through advertising revenue, through partnerships with other brands, and by selling the content itself to other media companies. Red Bull content not only helps market the brand but generates profit for the brand as well, because content itself becomes a product.
In short, with brand publishing, Red Bull has expanded from simply an energy drink maker into a media company. That’s nothing to sneeze at when you consider that media companies like Disney and Marvel earn billions of dollars a year.
Changing times for marketing, media
Red Bull was able to do all that because the audience and the market demands it. Consumers today are on their smartphones for four hours a day or more. They are constantly consuming content. What Red Bull did was recognize this trend and realize that both the media and marketing landscapes have changed substantially–information, data, social media posts, stories, these are some of the most consumed “products” today.
This does not mean that Red Bull no longer uses traditional PR or marketing. It does–but its overall arsenal, so to speak, is used with a brand publishing strategy as part of its core marketing playbook.
Of course, taking on a brand publishing strategy requires a change in mindset as well as an investment in resources–not just technical and production aspects but most especially, the human aspect. For brand publishing to succeed, you’ll need not just marketing experts, not just creatives, but most importantly, editorial expertise. Still, such an investment, as proven by Red Bull and these other brand publishing companies, is worth it in the long-term.
PR and marketing in the Philippines is at least five years behind the content marketing and brand publishing waves that are now happening in the US, Europe, and Asia — as brand publishing, PR and marketing just got more exciting and more challenging. The Philippines, though, as a whole, has yet to catch up.
One of the very few Filipino PR agencies that uses both content marketing and brand publishing strategies is Comm&Sense. You could say that Comm&Sense now adopts the international standard. Let’s talk and ride this exciting future together.