Is content simply a commodity for brands?

The phrase ‘content is king’ has been bandied about more and more since the social media boom and the expansion of the Internet. Everyone from stay-at-home mums to the world’s largest brands is jumping on this increasingly saturated bandwagon – but to what effect?

Most of us will remember the time before the Internet, when display advertising, TV and radio where the mainstays of brand interaction with consumers. Nowadays, however, brands have huge opportunities to engage with their consumers in a myriad of different places in more meaningful ways. The media landscape has transformed and social media sees consumers expecting brands to engage with them directly.

Due to fast-paced market conditions, brands have rushed headlong into publishing, thinking they will miss out on opportunities if they don’t – but few have been successful in their forays. In my opinion, one of the major reasons brands fail is that they lack the strategic vision, talent, infrastructure and genuine audience understanding to succeed. So determined are they to create ‘content’, that their resulting efforts usually bear no resemblance to the brand and is seen by business leaders as just another commodity.

As such, this ‘content’ has little intrinsic value and its cost can always be driven down. Of course, there are exceptions, and while clients will often wistfully look towards these, at the end of the day they are looking at ways to deliver the required ‘content’ for the least expenditure.

If, as a brand, you want to maximize your chances of cutting through the content bullshit, then an asset audit is the best place to start. It will allow you to really understand the value of your content assets and how to maintain them.

Furthermore, brands should have useful content that serves its different audiences and customers. The purchase path is far more complex than ever before and as such; content needs to be served at the various points of their consumer journey. However, brands need to be able to create fast, flexible and often reactive content – sign-off procedures need to be slick and a war room assembled for big events – look how brilliantly Oreo handled the Superbowl blackout with it’s ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ tweet.

Most importantly, brands need to align their content strategy with their overall mission. Everyone is familiar with the peaks and troughs of a media plan, but to succeed as a publisher, brands need to adopt an ‘always on’ approach and that takes serious investment in the right people to keep the operation from falling off the rails. Before creating reams of content, brands should take a step back and look at how their content strategy aligns with the overall business plan. They need to be in-sync. Content is there to support the overall business mission and serve its consumers.

Lastly, brands need to think about what they want their content to achieve. Is the main aim to build brand awareness, sell more units or drive registrations? It is not enough to pump out a ‘one size fits all’ piece of content and expect to reap the rewards. Properly crafted content that knows its audience and serves a purpose will gain the desired traction, while the rest will just add to the increasing amount of noise being created that has no real purpose at all.