Gowthaman Ragothaman
Sep 22, 2014

Content marketing: Permanent whitewater

Marketing was once akin to boating in a calm sea, with predictable waves and ample time to react. No more. Today, brands and agencies must develop skills closer to those of whitewater rafting.

Gowthaman Ragothaman
Gowthaman Ragothaman

‘Advertising: A non personal form of communication, conducted through paid media under clear sponsorship.’

That’s how the management books in 1990 defined the industry.

It was like boating in a calm sea.

Everything was predictable. There was time to act and react. Measurement came a week later, and there was time to evaluate and course-correct.

We had quarterly reviews, where learning was shared with stakeholders.

There was a strange sense of reassurance that we knew where we were going and invariably—we got there.

But today, the landscape has changed, the waters no longer calm.

The industry itself has expanded with digital, bringing a sense of dynamism to the ecosystem. Technology and Marketing are seamlessly interacting with each other and today’s CMOs are required to have CTO and CIO skills to cope with the one connecting factor of it all – data.

The dominance of digital channels and the data that comes with it, has made communication highly personal, and the ‘permanent whitewater’ environment that this creates is only going to increase with the convergence of more devices and integration of more and more services into the marketing eco-system.

To succeed, a system must be created that navigates this whitewater, channels the flow of data, analyses, interprets and assigns importance. The timeless principle of reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message, recording the result and response has never been more relevant and should act as a corner stone, providing both the framework and direction so that cause and effect are firmly established.

Today Reach is at a premium on the back of rising fragmentation and availability of choices, and will continue to be that way if the target is kept too broad or vague. Today, savvy marketers are segmenting the audience based on a set of tastes and preference, with point of sale and time of consumption becoming increasingly important. The frequency required to effect a decision is becoming more and more scientific through the power of data and regression analysis.

Context makes the communication more relevant, appropriate and effective and allows the measurement of effectiveness to be far more accurate. Programmatic buying harnesses this power.

In this whitewater environment marketers are now faced with a new communication challenge.

‘If you wrote a blog and no one read it, did you really write a blog?’ sums it up well.

Did I place my blog in the right stream for my audience to see it?

Is the stream rich enough to enhance my communication?

This is the reality of today where the success of Netflix is determined by the streaming capability of Comcast.

Infrastructure, Audience and Context influence marketing communications the most today. For content marketing the success or failure of the communication reaching the audience is now dependent on the three streams of Pipe, Content and Consumer. All these streams have one thing in common – the data they carry, and with data feeds across Paid, Owned and Earned sometimes numbering 120 for just a moderate category - it is important to understand them, in order to lift the bar in content marketing.

There are at the least 7 different streams through which content can flow – and this includes both analog and digital - Location, Occasion, Cable, Satellite, Print, Internet and Mobile. With the content in forms of Text, Literature, Poster, Audio, Shortform and Longform Video and now being leveraged across all.

The content is then segmented across three types.

1. Long Lead – Content produced ahead of time as part of a broader campaign – from online films to integrations; From TV shows to TVCs.

2. Planned Spontaneity – Assets created around a known upcoming event or tentpole. Designed to maximise cultural relevance of a campaign.

3. Reactive – Genuinely adaptive real-time content that reacts to something happening in the world in a timely manner.

And then disseminate by one of four methods:

1. Create – Built from the ground up. Brand controls the process and owns the content.

2. Co-creation – Developed in concert with a strategic partner or 3rd party. In marketers voice and partner’s voice

3. Integrate – Weave your brand into a partner’s program or storyline. Product integration, Brand Story etc.

4. Curate – Associating a brand with filtered content through Paid, Owned and Earned media. Having a simplified single-window, a bank of screens in a dedicated room with specialist planning and implementation tools available at a glance, offering real-time information and enabling content to be varied to address real-time data provides a powerful advantage.

To have a successful content marketing program, it is important to have a clear strategy around how to influence and link all the various streams, how to create assets that can be leveraged across multiple formats, and how to engage with the audience across these multiple platforms.  Leveraging and managing the connected data across all the streams is essential.

Mobile cannot be ignored having emerged as the greatest influencer of all the streams by increasingly becoming the second screen to TV viewing and the primary reach provider to markets through SMS and Social Media. In developing and emerging markets the potential to use Mobile phones as the leading stream to create consumer contact innovation is immense. The next 3 billion emerging consumers are in Asia, Africa and LATAM.

To harness this potential we believe it is important to segment solutions, services and partners by consumer (handset type) and established individual streams; not just publisher facing solutions (mobile banners) but Telco facing solutions which can address both feature and smart phones. While many agencies continue to focus on Smartphones and app based inventory and innovation, we have taken this much broader view resulting in a unique stream now ready to reach one of every two phone owners in these emerging markets.

This capability is incredibly powerful when more and more sophisticated clients are embracing the creative potential of media and working with us to invent ideas that ignite brand love, cultural conversation and consumer action. These consumer interactions can be valuable mechanisms to uniquely express a brand’s voice or generate engagement, and also become important pathways to optimize content.

Content is no longer one-size-fits-all.  Content optimization works by deconstructing the layers that make up how a viewer consumes content -and seamlessly incorporating them into the creative itself. For example: Time of day viewed, location, weather, device, destination, pop culture, trends, history, etc. We then take this multi-faceted data and the ensuing insights  and incorporate content tech partners, who utilize automated technologies to quickly alter and version the original creative into highly personalized content.

In a consumer centric world where data is readily available, the philosophy that a medium itself can be used as a creative canvas beyond just delivery of an advertising asset can greatly augment the potential of the content marketing arena.

Multi Platform Content Creation is the future – which of course is already here. 

A future of ‘permanent whitewater’ that if navigated well will lead to overall success.

Gowthaman Ragothaman is chief operating officer, Asia Pacific, at Mindshare

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