This piece was originally featured on Glossy on October 15th, 2019
Across fashion and beauty, both established and emerging brands have become serious about investing in content. The challenge is that they don’t always know where to start or how to set up streamlined content operations. As a result, they’re opting to outsource content to publishers’ content studios and/or agencies.
This is a missed opportunity. With a more considered approach, brands can set up their own internal content capabilities. But this requires them to approach it from a strategic, creative and operational perspective.
The first question should be what role content will play in achieving the company’s business and brand objectives. There needs to be a very clear and internally adopted idea of what the company wants content to achieve, in relation to its audience, in relation to its short- and long-term sales and marketing goals (e.g., drive traffic to the site, acquire new customers, drive awareness, keep existing customers coming back), and in relation its business and brand growth (e.g., convey the versatility of the brand’s offering, enforce brand position, emphasize a specific product line). The idea is not to throw content pieces to see what sticks; the idea is to make content strategy part of the overall brand and business strategy. In reality, this seems to be hard for a lot of brands — blame the siloed organizational setup and unclear content mandates. But there are good examples from smaller brands like Tracksmith, Rapha and Outdoor Voices. All strategically use their content to attract new customers by featuring existing community members in their ads; to retain existing customers through content about races, community outings and events; and to enforce repeated product purchases. (As one OV fan said, “it’s almost like a subscription,”)
Content needs to clearly convey a brand’s visual and verbal territory, and needs to be consistent with the visual and verbal language across all other already existing brand efforts (like packaging, product descriptions, stores, the website and partners). Content is a brand exercise, and works best when used to convey brand message and deliver a great brand experience. Everything a brand says is content. A lot of what brand does is also content, so it’s important to make sure it’s compelling, consistent and clear, and that it conveys a differentiated brand voice and positioning. Few brands do it well. A notable example of a brand that does do it well is Aesop. It has a clearly considered approach to content that stems from its overall brand purpose: to be a fabulist and to use stories to encourage its audience to live a well-lived life. Everything Aesop does — from its partnership with film director Luca Guadagnino on the design of its flagship in Rome, to its packaging, to its product collaborations with 3D fashion designer Iris van Herpen, to the content on its site and social media — enforces Aesop’s positioning and conveys its brand identity. This brand identity is critical as the brand scales: Rather than competing with mass brands by following the grow-big-quick rules, Aesop is focused on preserving its differentiation as it grows.
Successful implementation of content is a matter of having the right organizational structure and processes. Brands should ask: What kind of organization is needed around content conception, production and implementation, and how does that fit within the wider organization? Define the right human and technical resources, as well as the processes that will be the fastest and most responsive, and adequately set up for measurement and optimization. Define the roadmap and the preferred methodology, and avoid decision-making bottlenecks. Make sure strategic and creative content parameters are clearly defined and operationalized, in the form of brand strategy, a brand book, content strategy, a social media playbook, KPIs and other success metrics. In this way, the content — and those in charge of it — are in sync with the wider organizational business and brand objectives, and the brand’s creative output.