A Sign We’re Headed In The Right Direction?

by Jason Falls |
Jason Falls
Jason Falls

We’ve been screaming, “Content is King!” for years now. Brands still aren’t listening. Their idea of content is an interactive game or a Facebook app. As a social media thinker, but one that has the advantage of talking to brands as the head of an interactive department and, for lack of a better term, chief internet marketing strategist, I’ve now developed several content-centric approaches for either clients or prospective clients. The ones that don’t use the economy as an excuse not to spend the money for development respond with a deer-in-headlights glaze.

“So when do we get our viral video?”

“Can we build an on-line community first?”

It would be easy to throw up my hands and just churn out more billboard websites and one-off crap, but I keep plodding away, making steady progress with the willing and chipping away at those not.

And then I get a call from someone wanting to buy an ad on my blog.

“I don’t have advertising on my blog, but I’d be happy to refer you to some similar blogs that might be interested,” I say before asking what she’s advertising. After listening, I beg her to send me information because the thing she’s wanting to advertise is something I would write about in a heart beat.

Pointing Towards The Future by Nick SantiagoOn March 22-24 in Miami, the Custom Publishing Council is hosting a conference called “The Future of Branded Content: Building Value-Added Custom Media Programs Across Platforms.” Could this be a sign that the on-line marketing world is actually headed in the right direction? People are moving past talking incessantly for three days about content being king and now teaching brands how to make it so?

David Meerman Scott will keynote the second CPC annual conference for the custom content industry. (There is a custom content industry? I thought we just called ourselves writers. Who knew?) Other speakers include Kate Thorp, CEO of the Real Girls Media Network, Nic Covey of Nielsen Mobile, social media author Dr. Tracy Tuten, John Moore of Brand Autopsy and others.

No, they didn’t ask me to speak and yeah, I’m kinda bummed about it. But then again, I need more case studies in the custom content area and didn’t even know it had its own industry. Heh.

Don’t get me wrong, I get the fact that the Custom Publishing Council and industry is centered around selling branded magazines like Spirit, the magazine of Southwest Airlines or Dog’s Life, which is actually published by Nestle/Purina. But that’s kinda the point of the content-centric approach to the web social media advocates have been spouting for the last several years.

When building your website, think of it as an online magazine built around your brand. Every article (or piece of content) isn’t a blatant advertisement or marketing message for your product, but instead an accompaniment to people who are interested in your brand. The winter edition of Dog’s Life has tips on how to help a stray dog find his way home. I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with buying Purina Brand Dog Chow.

Purina actually does a fair job of providing content on its website beyond the Funniest Pet videos and ever-popular “Downloads and Games.” But most brands don’t. They see their websites as electronic versions of their print campaigns, not lifestyle environments built to captivate their core fans.

This is a conference I would recommend brand managers, marketing managers and other corporate decision-makers attend. Sure, the whole point of it will probably be to sell you on paying a bunch of money to produce your own magazine for your customers. But if you take notes with the thought in mind that your magazine is your primary URL and that enriching environment they’re selling is actually an online space, not a perfect bound, 160-page glossy bathroom table fixture, you just might see the light.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see if I can juggle my schedule a bit. Miami in March sounds nice.

IMAGE: “Pointing towards the future,” by Nick Santiago on Flickr.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).