December means planning and predictions for the year ahead, right? Hindsight may be 20-20, but FOREsight is 2020:
As the digital landscape continues to evolve (rapidly), brand marketers are, once again, increasingly putting their owned and operated platforms back at the center of their relationships with consumers.
Paid, earned, and owned media offer marketers virtually limitless ways to connect with consumers and drive business objectives. Brands have always used others’ canvases for marketing and creative purposes – from television and radio to Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. But within the past decade, competition for user attention has grown fiercer than ever, and the cost to both create content AND reach consumers has risen, often beyond what marketing budgets can support. The balance of investment has disproportionately tilted in favor of paid and earned platforms. Our industry has increasingly prioritized engagement as a primary KPI to measure ROI… while surrendering more and more control of their message to media platforms, influencers and even consumers.
Putting “O&O” back at the center of brands’ digital architecture is critical for succession in the year and decade ahead.
Relinquishing Control? More Like RECLAIM Control.
In the pre-digital era, brands communicated directly to, but rarely with, consumers. Monologues, not dialogues, were the manner in which they passively received these messages. In the digital era, however, consumers have been able to craft their own messages about brands, converse in multidirectional, multiplatform formats, and broadcast them to their friends and followers. Brands have been encouraged to relinquish some of their control over the conversation to consumers, but these are old talking points, and the pendulum has swung too far.
By bringing together LifeSTYLE content – focused on engagement & stickiness – and LifeCYCLE content, which casts a wider net for consumers, brands have tremendous opportunity to reclaim ownership of their content and the engagement/performance data that goes with it.
Don’t Act Like a Publisher. Hire One.
For the better part of the past decade, content marketing conferences, blogs, white papers and strategies all recommended that brands start “Acting like a publisher.” The idea behind it is right – storytelling, content planning, and strategic messaging across platforms – are all important aspects of brand-building around lifestyle content. Lifestyle includes original video series’, digital mags, branded blogs, podcasts, articles, gifs, galleries &more, as well as, campaigns, fan activations, influencer programs & sponsorships.
However, most brands do not know how to do this well, and are hiring marketers to lead this transformation. Thinking and acting like a publisher means unbranded publishing. The knowledge and experience required to do this well also includes overhead costs and specialized expertise that most brands cannot afford. It also shouldn’t be overtly branded content, either. By creating owned, but slightly less branded publisher content, organic reach goes up and paid CPCs go down dramatically. In short, we are looking at the return to prominence of a brand’s editorial and long-form content strategy.
Long-Form Content and Why It Works.
There are different definitions of what long-form content truly is – whether that means “anything over 240 characters,” articles longer than 700 words or something in excess of 2,000 words, but many consumers and readers crave longer articles with more information and appreciate the value and rewarding experience. This also boosts SEO and can drive everything from awareness to engagement to conversion. As a result, average visit duration goes up, return visits increase, and the ability to lead the consumer to his or her next click rises dramatically.
Long-form content doesn’t just have a positive impact on a page’s rank in the SERPs, but also resonates with readers. Medium, which is used by many brands and companies for its blog and longer-form content, compiles data on its most successful articles by measuring the average time on page in relation to post length and the amount of time it takes the average reader to finish the post. Based on this data, the ideal blog post takes seven minutes to read and is around 1,600 words long.
We can share countless examples of how brands and marketers can use this type of content to their advantage, generating traffic, leads, and brand value, but we don’t want this post to get too long…
Content for CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization).
The BEST canvas for creative AND conversion is the brand website, and “O&O” is back again. Lifecyle content is the complementary, practical, functional content required to optimize a website for conversion. Product description and category pages, “About Us,” and other content can be just as important to a brand’s website as anything created on a daily or weekly basis. We call this CRO, or conversion rate optimization. CRO Analytics is a process and methodology used and implemented for continuous, consistent improvement on websites and landing pages (with both organic and paid ads driving traffic to sites).
Ongoing optimization on the website is critical for conversion, from content to UX and UI. This has become an overlooked aspect of marketing spending, but the benefits are clear: encourages smart decision-making (for growth of site and business), offers efficiency, speeds up decision-making process, reduces bounce rate, improves site speed, improves competitiveness and overall better customer acquisition.
As the lines separating B2B and B2C marketing have blurred, we now live in a “C2C” world, where culture drives content, content drives conversion, and conversion drives commerce. For brand marketers, cultural affinities – from fashion & beauty, food & esports to music & film – have brought niche passions into the mainstream. Our job is to create & tell stories that shape culture, connect with consumers and drive this bottom line. Brand content that THEY own needs to be planned, developed & deployed across the consumer experience. So, while it may start with social and paid media, it FINISHES on their owned and operated platforms.