Susie Sell
Nov 18, 2014

Strategic content: Beware of diving in head-first

Brands need to take stock of their content marketing initiatives and ensure they fit into the bigger business picture.

Strategic content: Beware of diving in head-first

Korea’s entertainment scene is about to experience an unusual departure from its familiar, high-octane dramas. A new show is preparing to launch: a music-heavy, all singing, all dancing extravaganza about “the hopes and dreams of young people”, with K-Pop star Minah playing a lead role. But the six-part Best Future series will not be broadcast by any of Korea’s TV networks. It will be launched on YouTube, by smartphone manufacturer Samsung. 

The Korean behemoth’s transition from tech giant to independent media publisher may have been met with surprise internationally, but the collision of marketing and entertainment is nothing new. Samsung’s first attempt at sitcoms pulled-in an impressive 5.5 million viewers last year, although with the show’s reported references to hiring policies there will be cynics that believe this to be more symptomatic of the country’s insatiable appetite for K-dramas than the firm’s prowess in plot writing. 

But even before Samsung’s foray into the entertainment world, brands have piggybacked on popular content to spread their messages and drive sales for decades. P&G’s soap opera, As The World Turns, enjoyed more than 50 years of success in the US before the off-switch was flicked in 2010. In Asia, the Mengniu Yoghurt Super Girl Contest in 2005 became the most-watched show in China’s history, a coup for sponsor Mengniu Dairy.

But the dawn of digital is providing an ideal breeding ground for a new era of content creation. Brands now have much greater freedom to reach people through entertainment and information than ever before, and they continue to experiment. Endless videos are pumped out across social media, each chasing virality; platforms like YouTube allow companies like Samsung to go it alone, while TV shows, magazine editorials and online articles are increasingly sponsored or created by brands.

Today, content marketing is big business as companies continue to be dazzled by the promise of transcending manufacturing boundaries to become publishers in their own right. Research by Econsultancy and Campaign Asia-Pacific, showed that 73 per cent of marketers across the region believe content marketing will become more important for their organisation over the next year, with a further 63 per cent planning to increase spending on it during this period. 

James Morris, global head of MediaCom Beyond Advertising, says that as consumers’ attention spans for traditional advertising wane, content marketing is becoming a primary way for brands to communicate with their audiences. He adds that Asia offers big opportunities for content marketing globally, in part due to the region’s love of technology and social media. “If a brand didn’t do this I think that in a very short period of time it would be in trouble,” he says. 

However, as content marketing becomes the latest buzzword, there is a very real risk that brands will jump in head first, with no guarantee of success. Runaway initiatives like Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, which has racked up more than 64 million YouTube views to date, do little to dampen interest, but for every winner there are plenty of others falling flat. Research by TubeMogul shows around half of YouTube videos generate fewer than 500 views, while just 0.33 per cent reach the coveted 1-million-viewer jackpot.

Join Campaign Asia-Pacific for Content Marketing (Sydney) from 16 to 18 March and Content Marketing (Singapore) from 19 to 20 March.

Graeme Somerville-Ryan, Asia marketing and business development director at international law firm Wikborg, Rein & Co, says there is currently a lack of strategy around content marketing, with few companies thinking about how it relates to other marketing channels, or how it ties into the sales process. “There is a lot of hype but I actually don’t think there has been a lot of thought put in behind what content marketing is, and how it is being used.” 

Somerville-Ryan adds that he is not convinced that content marketing is agency territory, outlining that it takes around two years to understand a subject well enough to write intelligently about it, or to provide useful content around it. “I don’t think people are actually willing to put in the time to sit down and think about what needs to go into content, let alone the marketing strategy around it and … how it ties into all the other marketing tentacles that are out there.”

It is likely that the nebulous phrase of ‘content marketing’ is adding further confusion and paralysis in the industry. There appears to be no standardised approach, with ‘content’ referring to anything from online videos, crossovers with TV, white papers, or even a tweet. As Thomas Crampton, global managing director for [email protected], says, “Content marketing means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, leading to a questioning of what it means at all.”

Crampton says there is a need for brands to approach content marketing strategically, with a focus on building brand equity rather than chasing extra video views. Tactical approaches, he warns, can ultimately damage the brand. “I don’t think brands are getting the value from it … there’s an awful lot of money being badly spent,” he says. “Brands need to … make sure they have a proper strategic approach, because otherwise they risk undermining what they have built up over a long period of time.”

It appears that marketers today are concentrating efforts on flooding content in traditional channels, rather than taking full advantage of Asia’s digital love-affair. Research by Frost and Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership showed that the majority of Asia-Pacific companies centred content activity on developing brochures, newsletters, and customer testimonials or case studies. However, many were looking to devote more resources in the future to digital channels, including videos and webinars, as well as case studies and live events.

But Paul Gage, regional planning director, APAC, at Iris Worldwide, describes content marketing as “over-hyped” compared to the number of brands actually doing it properly. He says some advertisers are simply disseminating above-the-line content across social, and labelling it “content marketing”. “[Brands are putting] TV ads on YouTube … without thinking about the context of that environment — what people are doing, what they are looking for — which means that it does not have the efficacy it might have had,” he says.

Gage adds that another mistake made by advertisers is thinking that content marketing is free or doesn’t need much investment. He says it is rare for content to be shared so much that the reach obtained is much bigger than the media buy. “Many so-called ‘viral’ pieces … have had significant (i.e. six-figure) digital media spends behind them,” he says. “Stats from Unruly suggest that on average 70 per cent of views for any branded content on YouTube have been bought.” 

Content as a business tool

Where content marketing is executed properly, however, it appears to have the potential to impact positively in real-business terms. Content is not just a means of increasing awareness; it can also be used to drive transactions, and the results can be significant. Speaking on-stage at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity this year, Marissa Mayer, CEO and chairman of Yahoo, said people were six times more likely to conduct a brand-related search online after seeing a related piece of content — a video or short film, for example — than they would be if they were exposed to a straightforward display advert. 

Recent research by Waggener Edstrom Communications also shows a clear link across Asia-Pacific between brand storytelling online and consumer spending, advocacy and engagement. It finds, for example, that Indonesian consumers who follow F&B brands online spend up to 90 per cent more on category products and services every week. “Put simply, the more consumers engage with brand content, the more they spend on brands,” Stephen Tracy, APAC lead at Waggener Edstrom’s Insight & Analytics (I&A) practice, said at the time. 

Josh Gallagher, regional strategy director for Havas Media, also points to the agency’s Meaningful Brands index, which provides a measure of brand strength. He says companies that clinch the top spots are not only doing content well, but they are also outperforming the market by 120 per cent. “If you do content right, you have a good sense of what your business’ purpose is, and I think that flows through the whole business,” he says.

Gallagher agrees that successful content is likely to require an “accelerant”, whether that be paid media or by reaching out to bloggers or other influencers to spread the word. But he says it is also important that quality content is underpinned by good data. “Having live data sources, whether it’s social, search or any brand data, gives you a really good insight into your consumers and the type of content they are consuming,” he says. “At the end of the day, content strategies are less about your brand, and more about people.”

When it comes to measuring success, Gallagher says content marketing demands a different approach if its impact is to be properly evaluated. Brands need to move away from assessing results on a campaign-basis as they may with TV adverts, he says, and instead lengthen the measurement timeframe of KPIs. “You can still measure things like brand equity, purchase intent, loyalty … but your expectations on when they will deliver and how many pieces of content you might need to deliver those will be different,” he says. 

Anathea Ruys, head of Fuse APAC, a specialist business unit of Omnicom Media Group, says brands should measure success across all channels, adding that there is a need to think more about the role of each and how they work together to help brands connect more effectively with consumers. “Content works best when the decision to use it is the result of a clear channel strategy that defines the roles of each channel,” she says. “It doesn’t work when it is a knee-jerk reaction because ‘everyone else is doing it.”

OPINION: Business or pleasure?

‘Well, it’s just a few moments of pleasure.’ If you tend to see a half filled glass as a half empty glass, chances are that you won’t be optimistic about the potential of branded content. But you might have to revise your opinion.

Branded content should not just be isolated to its primary channel. The online films that we create, for instance, will always be translated to different channels. Not just social, or TV or cinema, but also to retail. And this is exactly where making the difference starts.

Our So Real It’s Scary series for LG for instance has led to major sales success. We’ve not just made the series visible on the shopping floor. We gave the floor sales guys a great conversation starter. That’s not just pleasure, that’s business.

Rogier Vijverberg, ECD and co-founder of SuperHeroes



Imaginative online content helps set Heineken apart — and grow sales

The Challenge Beer advertising in Singapore is saturated and ultra-competitive. Consumption habits of the communication’s target audiences—18- to 44-year-olds—were shifting from traditional to online and social media. But the beer industry was still relying heavily on traditional media and on-the-ground experiential activity to communicate with audiences. Heineken aimed to differentiate itself by turning to non-traditional means to engage with audiences.

The Execution Heineken’s ‘The passport’ involved a journey across Asia using nothing but bottles of Heineken as a means of trading for transportation, lodging, food and other expenses. It auditioned for an intrepid explorer, Heineken’s Man of the World, and for two weeks he travelled from Inner Mongolia, China, to Bangkok, Thailand. His entire adventure was captured on film and put up online as content for audiences to follow and share.

Results The initiative garnered 3.28 million online video views. It achieved 43 per cent ROI on earned media versus paid media. It secured US$714,000 PR value, while Heineken Singapore’s Facebook Fanbase increased from 22, 828 to 65,721 during the duration of the campaign. Brand preference scores increased by 23.7 per cent and top of mind awareness by 33.6 per cent versus the previous year. From a total Singapore volumes perspective, the campaign led to incremental sales, achieving brand growth of 15.6 per cent on the previous year.

Source: Spikes Asia


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