Quick. Can you name 10 brands that truly stand out as bold leaders in the content space? What are they doing that is unique? Can you remember anything past their 30 second spot at the Super Bowl? Are they the dominant player in their field? Are they known as leaders? As ‘cool’? As trendsetters? What is it about them that makes their content stand out?
In a world where thousands of brands compete for our attention and wallet, it is shocking how few brands try to be leaders; how few try to push conversation into waters not yet claimed by competitors, or plant their flag as the top voice in XYZ. Or if they do create content that becomes “tweet able” fodder, it’s amazing how many are being “bold for bold sake” to get a reaction, versus trying to lead a conversation — worrying about getting an award or a Buzzfeed article versus thinking about the bottom line for their business. Here’s my philosophy on ‘cool’ content:
Content built to leave an impression and provoke (should be) a given for any successful business. But if that “cool content” is devoid of a measurable return, it is time, talent & treasury wasted.
Indeed, you will see that fortunes fall as the hip factor overrides purpose. It will be a longer and slower process for the big brands, but a lack of purpose will erode every brand. And that is something that seems to be the norm today: content for content sake, devoid of true outcome.
With that in mind, rethink the idea Virgil presented millennia ago: “Audaces fortuna iuva”/”Fortune favors the bold.” Fortune (aka ‘profit’) favors the bold: Rethink where you start in content creation, your goals and what truly makes you stand out. Start with the need and the ROI, then infuse that which makes you UNIQUE to make content that leads and provides profitable benefit. Yes, BE BOLD. And be smart about it.
Be True to Yourself
Every brand was built on an inherently unique DNA: that which drove you to get into business in the first place and plant a flag in your industry. But look no further than the cola wars to see that ultimately, while they all have different vibes, they are all pretty much the same. Shoes, apparel, big box retail, automotive, etc. — all suffer from a “sameness” over time. If you are operating in sameness, you must be willing to pull your ideas apart and strategically dive back into what makes you unique and what you are willing to stand for. Great Example of remaining true when others morph: BMW
Walk the Walk
Bold is not a gimmick. Bold is not copying what others are doing. Bold is not brash, in-your-face for the sake of looking cool. Bold is not based on who has the most ‘likes’ on social media. Bold is not who shouts loudest or uses ALL CAPS to prove a point. Bold is the ability to take risks, confidently and courageously based on your uniqueness and willingness to stand up for your beliefs, your culture and your customer. And in the ever-competitive brand landscape, being bold will be one of the monikers of brands that thrive in the coming years. If you espouse beliefs, you must put them into action. Customers take note of those they see as being pandering or opportunistic. Once you say it, be it. Great Example of setting big ideas and sticking to them: Starbucks
Fortune favors the bold. And at no time do we need bold brand leaders than in 2017 — a time where divisiveness rules the day. How does your brand seize the day? How are you focused on building on your uniqueness and walking the walk-in ways that can transform and build return? It is not in a spot, or a campaign, it is in something bigger and more profound: shifting content to respond to the changing landscape, bringing people together in ways that show that you are above politics and trends. Look for the pockets nobody else is fishing. Look for ways to build an authentic leadership position that helps you stand out and once there, don’t seek short-term success over keeping true to your leadership. Great Example of looking internally to always shift your own landscape: Facebook. And lest you think I’m only going big, I present to you: Smartwool
DO NOT Believe the Hype
“We have a great idea for your brand! It’s a Snapchat campaign, featuring an influencer with 3million followers, targeted to Millennial females. It can’t loose. In fact, I’ll go viral for sure!”
How many of you have heard that? This is how much of “big idea” content is developed. Sure, you have a persona in mind. You may even have a distribution channel in mind. And you are oh-so-positive that you have the right (albeit expensive) influencer to guarantee views and engagement. I have clients that say “we don’t have the money to do something frivolous” but they would think that this thinking is enough. IT IS NOT. You have to forget the standard Idea > Outcome and focus rather on thinking outcome FIRST. Do not believe anyone who tells you that it’s smart to come up with an idea then hope it works. Example of building content that doesn’t work.
Reverse Engineer Customer-centric Content
If you live into the above, you will focus on creative approaches that have a return and purpose front and center, rather than the traditional “make it and see” approach to campaigns that has been the driving force for decades. I call this new reality the age of reverse engineered content: starting with a definable outcome a brand is seeking and working back into strong content. Brands that are successfully engineering content start by determining their needed customer outcome, then they focus on the exact demographic and the exact distribution channels that can best affect this outcome, only then do they move into creative. Thinking about “Customer-centricity” does not mean that the product isn’t creative. Far from it.
Putting content as the end of the process vs. the starting point means that the end results are stronger, more engaging with those the brand wants to reach and who they truly are. Truthfully, reverse engineering will be how content will become known moving forward. Some look to the content studio as the approach to take to proactively engineer this bold future. I’d say at the very least hire a content consultant to help focus where you go next.
So, what does that mean for brands in 2017? It means that they must push past the “we have a great idea” mentality. Spend money wisely. Invest in ideas that will move the brand in ways that a water cooler spot during a big event cannot. Not sure how to lean into your boldness? Let’s talk.
I’m excited to see how fortune favors your boldness!
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.