GoPro: What Happened To The Content Marketing Child Prodigy?

GoPro’s like the preternaturally gifted kid at Content Marketing High. Its community of content creators churn out viral video clips like butter, and its online audiences are second only to Red Bull’s. The product’s actually a viral video machine, giving it this absurd business, marketing and content strategy alignment:

But all is not well with the valedictorian of Content Marketing High. Its market value has been decimated in the last half year, as its stock crumbled to less than 25% of its former self.

Given that this brand is such a content marketing wunderkind, anyone interested in content marketing has to ask himself: Is this a demonstration of content marketing’s impotence? I’ve asked another content marketing influencer, who wouldn’t really answer the question.*

My colleague, Ted Schadler, has the consumer electronics savoir-faire to diagnose GoPro’s real problem: The product has not become a mass market product; it’s been embraced almost exclusively by extreme sports stars and wanna-be’s.**

Powerful consumer electronics brands cannot
grow on snowboarders and skydivers alone.

GoPro’s success documenting inhuman feats by death-defying daredevils has come at the expense of documenting the content that real people might want to create from a first-person camera.

The brand is adjusting to the market headwinds by investing in its software, making it easier for anyone to upload and edit video footage. Democratizing its storytelling to appeal to everyman should get as much focus.

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12 Quick Observations On The Content Marketing Vendors In That Supergraphic

Two days ago, Scott Brinker published his annual marketing technology supergraphic. It's now grown to some 3,800 vendors.*

There are, by my count, 159 vendors categorized in the content marketing part of his uberstack.

Some quick analysis of this collection:

  • First of all, a blob of logos is hard to relate to (but it looks intriguing, so I know why Scott does it). To see the 'content marketing' vendors in a more usable way, I made a list in this spreadsheet (three relevant colums: all 159 vendors, the 89 new ones he added this year, and the 21 that departed, for varying reasons).
  • Only a small handful of these vendors would ever be considered as an enterprise content marketing platform. Nine of these vendors made that cut last year.
  • The longer and harder you look at any space, the more vendors you will find. Vendors that were new this year, but which have been around for several years, include DivvyHQ, Inpowered, Livefyre, Oracle Content Marketing, Nativo, Outbrain, Pressly, Sprinklr, Taboola, TechValidate, TrackMaven, and Uberflip. It's possible many other of the 89 'new' entrants are not new, but I don't know them as well.
  • Only three of the 21 departed from the space are 'presumed dead'. The remainder were recategorized, pivoted or acquired (Storify by Livefyre, and Docalytics by Contently). Some pivots are likely equivalent to 'presumed dead' (in the content marketing space).
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Don’t bet on your video subscribers

Here’s an interesting discrepancy: Marketers and agencies fuss over how many people subscribe to a brand’s YouTube channel. Yet, the ease of subscribing suggests little commitment, and YouTube buries notifications of new videos from subscribed channels.*

Thus, in the context of a report I’m writing, I hypothesized that YouTube subscribers were worthless; brands that had collected thousands of subscribers had only a number. Nothing more.

And I tested the hypothesis.

  1. Take 60 brands with at least 1K YouTube channel subscribers (the average was 350K).
  2. Count views for a dozen videos, each between two weeks and 12 months old.
  3. Establish an average view count, and divide by the subscriber total.
  4. Graph it.
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The Age of the Customer Hits The Media World

Do you hear something?

Is someone banging on the door?

Yes, I think someone’s banging on the door. Pretty hard actually.

In fact, it’s deafening.

The knocking is empowered digital media buyers. The slowness to answer is the media ecosystem of publishers, media agencies, and broadcasters.

I shared the video below a week ago on LinkedIn and people clearly like it. It’s the parable I just stated, but acted out. Listen to Gabe Leydon of Machine Zone (big digital media buyer) slam the media ecosystem. It’s painful. Cathartic. Iconoclastic. Focus on two segments: 11:00 -> 11:45 and 12:55 -> 13:55.

This is the advertising ecosystem’s reckoning with the age of the customer. The customers want to cut through all of the layers of BS that advertising has traditionally wrapped itself up in.

I had a few takeaways given Leydon’s analysis:

  • Media businesses are trying to be technology platforms, but are mostly houses on fire.
  • Analytics agencies are the new media agencies.
  • Media agencies are just houses on fire.

If you’re a marketer, pull your media-buying capabilities close to your chest. Invest in better analytics. And do everything in your power to get a measurable, direct-to-consumer sales channel on its feet, if only to provide insights to the marketing that feeds your indirect channels. 

All Things Hair: A case study about brand-building in 2015 AD

I just published this case study about All Things Hair. If you haven’t heard or come across ATH before, it’s a series of YouTube channels initiated by Unilever’s hair care products division. On each national channel (they’re in about a dozen countries now), a half-dozen teenage and twenty-something video bloggers describe how you can get some really important look or style going.*

There are a lot of interesting things going on in this ATH thing that I’m not really going to focus on here, such as predictive search, marketing innovation, influencers, video marketing, product positioning, brand measurement, ecommerce links, audience targeting and paid content promotion. This was Unilever working with Razorfish, so you knew it wasn’t going to be “How VO5 got better email open rates”.

No, what interests me most is how this whole ATH burrito here represents a new way of building brands based on how customers work and think today. Unilever’s not the first to do this, by any means, but – given the fact that they have a little bit of experience thinking about brand-building – they seemed to have done it with their “eyes wide open” if you will. They knew they were reengineering how they built brand value, and proceeded methodically from that standpoint.

So what did this awareness mean when push came to shove?

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Marketers want more content strategy from their content marketing

We recently asked marketing leaders who use content marketing platforms (CMPs) a simple "this or that" question, namely:

What business outcomes did your content marketing initiatives generate last year: top-line benefits (new customers, revenue, sales) or bottom-line benefits (loyalty, reduced marketing or media expenses)?

The responses came down decidedly in the second category. In other words, those marketing leaders who are currently practicing content marketing in a way big enough to necessitate software specific to it believe the value they're generating is less growth than efficiency.

This is in line with the input I've received from both marketing leaders and CMP vendors. Both describe a scenario where all kinds of marketing teams - search-focused, website-focused, customer engagement-focused, social-focused, recruitment-focused, PR-focused - have internalized the value of content, and are commissioning lots of it. To the point of chronic overindulgence.

Content Strategy

Their current needs are these:

  • Producing content once and repurposing it and reusing it in a way that maximizes media efficiency
  • Managing multichannel fragmentation in a way that doesn't fragment the organization
  • Maintaining brand consistency when brand is as much about culture and narrative as it is about colors, logos and lock-outs
  • Learning how to prioritize customer needs and value in all customer engagement situations
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Introducing the Forrester Wave for Content Marketing Platforms

Once you scale beyond a couple contributors and teams, it gets messy.”
– Content marketing leader at Intel

That’s as succinct a summary as you’ll get for the pains of contemporary content marketing. Even as marketers flock to it, experienced practitioners know of content marketing’s side effect:  An unmitigated mess, with lots of people producing piles of content all at the same time, all over the world.

Cue the Content Marketing Platform, or CMP. CMPs emerged to bring order to this cross-channel, cross-organizational, cross-brand, cross-geography, cross-everything content mess, by putting all the people working on content in to a common and shared space.

It’s against this relatively nascent CMP category that we just published a Forrester Wave report.

[Editorial note: Forrester publishes approx. 50-60 wave reports per year, or about one per week on average. Of those, only about a dozen each year are entirely new. This is one of the latter.]

The CMPs assessed in this report – Contently, DivvyHQ, Kapost, NewsCred, Oracle, Percolate, PublishThis, RebelMouse, and Skyword – can cite content marketing giants as part of their client list like: GE, Pepsi, Marriott, BlackRock, IBM, Dell, Diageo, Unilever, MasterCard, and Colgate-Palmolive. And they are picking up new ones relentlessly; as a group, they’re doubling software revenue year after year.

To pin down exactly what CMPs do, here is Forrester’s definition:

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Hello World. It's Audience-Centric design.

Today I heard an agency describe the content strategy that it was working for a client. At the end of the description (which revolved around how the client saw itself, and what it wanted to talk about), I said: “That sounds like an ad pitch.” Awkward silence.

Right now, in meeting rooms around the world, bad ideas for content strategies are being hatched. And it’s no fault of the idea-hatchers.

Sitting in a meeting room.
Thinking about the company’s (or client’s) management or board.
Needing to sell an idea in to sceptical constituents.
Knowing, no matter what they hatch, it’ll get enough paid air cover to make it look a winner.

So they lay an almighty egg of a content strategy. An egg that, within the hothouse confines of the group that hatched it, meets only reaffirmation. But the content strategy doesn’t serve customers. Not at all. And it doesn’t serve the real strategic goals of the company behind it.

How do you get around this natural tendency of organizations to lay eggs?

You need a very strong counterweight to the natural tendency towards basic self-interestedness from the parties involved (client approval for the agency, peer approval for the marketer, and self-serving messages for the internal stakeholders).

Audience-centric design is the response. Taking its cues from the user-centric design discipline, audience-centric design relies on rich and direct audience observation – both their attitudes and behaviors – in order to inspire value in the eyes of the audience.

What types of observation are we talking about?

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What Will Come Of Recent Content Marketing Deals

Last year we announced in our report about tools and technology for content marketing that:

Marketers must mix service providers and software solutions to serve their needs . . . vendors bifurcate into service partners and software solutions.

Increasingly, we’re seeing those two camps – the service providers, usually agencies, and software tools – merge in the market. Last year, WPP took a small, strategic stake in Percolate to “strengthen its capabilities in fast-growing sectors.” Then, yesterday, Havas Media announced a strategic partnership with Newscred thus:

NewsCred’s cloud-based software, combined with Havas Media Group’s expertise and data analytics, gives clients access to an unrivalled and fully integrated management tool covering the complete content marketing value chain across all platforms: from content strategy and planning to production and validation through to content curation and publication. 

I spoke with Newscred’s CEO, Shafqat Islam, to cut through some of the jargon and tell me what this means. The two will elevate an informal relationship into a specific go-to-market strategy where Havas provides strategy, creative and paid media/analytics, while Newscred’s in for the content technology backbone and its licensed and original content offerings.

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You Must Solve Two People-Shaped Content Problems

The problems of content marketing apply to you as a marketer whether you’re actually practicing “content marketing” or not.

In any enterprise, there’s a New York Times-scale amount of content getting produced.[i] And your customers are hoovering up content (from a brand or otherwise, in many channels, interchangably) and making decisions based upon it.[ii]

That means you’re in the content business. And the more customers control the purchase path, the more marketers find themselves in the content marketing business.

Which means you will be dealing with the problems content marketing creates. Two of these problems are particular to marketing teams and governance. These are best explained with analogies:

The Menu Problem – How content gets conceived and planned

The Sausage Problem – How content gets made and delivered

The Menu Problem
Marketers don’t have much experience running editorial organizations. This is best reflected in the low percentage of marketers who report that they follow a content marketing strategy.[iii]

A strategy is necessary.[iv] And no one is taking the responsibility to make one.

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