Content: Don’t Invent the Wheel, Modify the Wheelhouse

courtesy of Acrojou

Earlier this week I was on a call with a prospective client and one of my business partners, discussing the growing demand for brand engagement with eSports. The client kept saying they are 100% ‘in’ on eSports, but didn’t know fully what that meant or where to focus energy and funding. (Disclosure: the client is a large B2C brand.) While they have sponsored live events in the past, and are currently sponsoring a team, they haven’t felt that they’ve fully realized the potential of the eSports community. Thus, our call.

The client came to CORE Innovation Group because they are interested in rethinking the role content (as it relates to their brand) can play within the eSports ecosphere, and where energy should be placed. We discussed what they’ve done to date, their goals, budgets, and priorities in terms of marketing, communications and brand development. We then went through a discussion of reverse engineering to get them focused on what can be developed that benefits them as a brand, not just what is pitched to them to sponsor by the teams, leagues, etc.

For those of you who have heard me on my soapbox about reverse engineering, you might want to skip the next two paragraphs. For the rest, here’s my position on content development: all too often (in what is pitched for linear, OTT and digital content, as well as what is developed via agencies) content is all about having the “big idea” that you believe will be a “water cooler, game changing” idea, and then letting that idea determine distribution and outcome. As I mentioned to my client, I am not a fan of this kind of content. While I’ve pitched, sold and seen results with it, when you are looking at where to invest you are putting a very large gamble on a vast margin of unknowns.

Rather, in today’s market, I’m a fan of reverse engineering the content game. This means starting with a robust discussion and focus on the return each brand is looking for. Is it increasing product spend, or engagement with the brand in terms of followers and patrons, is it ROI or ROE, etc.? Once you know this, layer on top of that a strong understanding of who will give you that return. Which element of your demographic/audience/customer base are you needing to reach? The answer should not be a vague “adult females ages 20–45.” The answer needs to be one that can be quantified, targeted and focused upon to achieve results. When you understand that, then layer onto it deep understanding of which distribution channels can get you to that audience. These factors will help you then create the content idea. (In other words, don’t lead with the idea, let the idea be the outcome of strategy.)

Once we went through this exercise, the brand client was fully engaged in ideation. We discussed in depth content ideas that truly can lead to their needed return. Interestingly, most of these ideas weren’t brand new, never-before thought of concepts. Rather, they were interpretations of content that has worked on linear and digital platforms over the years, but haven’t been focused into the eSports space. The brand got incredibly excited about the idea of taking something that has worked in other areas, and focusing it into eSports in a way that could expand not only their reach, but their affinity within the community. They loved how we could focus content towards return without trying to think about ideas that were cool, but untested. My comment to them:

We aren’t reinventing the wheel, we’re just bringing the wheel into your wheelhouse.

This is what all of us that develop media need to be thinking about. How to strategically focus on what brands need, rather than trying to get them to underwrite the sexy things we want to create. Parameters help creativity because they focus opportunity. Don’t reinvent the wheel in terms of content. Especially in a market as open and “wild West” as eSports, ideas do not have to be clever, never-before seen concepts. Rather, the true winners will be ones that can reinterpret tried-and-true ideas to fit the needs of content funders and the audience. Bring that focus (aka: those wheels) into the brand’s wheelhouse. Achieve success through thinking smart.

The result of our conversation: CORE-ig has a new client — that is focused on developing three distinct content projects, all with unique and focused distribution partnerships. A true win-win was developed by putting the brand’s end game first. #foodforthought


Patrick Jager is CEO of strategic advisory firm CORE Innovation Group, and content strategy consultant to the clients of RevThink. Jager is a frequent speaker, panelist and author in media, brand, and business leadership.