It’s not news to suggest that brands are now media owners.
In the pre-digital world, advertising was simple – you found a media vehicle that gave you access to your target audience, and bought space alongside their content to promote your brand.
As the media landscape became more sophisticated, audiences got better at filtering marketing messages. So brands began to find other opportunities to talk to their customers by creating media space – via customer magazines, brand websites, email newsletters and the like.
The explosion in social platforms created even more owned media channels. And the barriers to entry are now lower than ever – anyone who can operate a mouse can set up a page on Facebook, a channel on YouTube or an account on Twitter.
This has created a problem: more and more brands, creating more and more content, distributed across more and more platforms. And that puts us back to square one – it’s harder than ever to cut through and connect with your customers.
The issue is particularly acute for FMCG brands – it’s tough to create distinctive content about tinned food, toothpaste or toilet roll. Which has led some of the world’s biggest advertisers to invest in a new kind of content marketing –creating lifestyle media platforms that can serve the needs of their portfolio brands.
Examples have sprung up in lots of different sectors and markets. Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCentre competes with well established parenting brands like Bounty and newer online communities like Mumsnet. The site, which now exists in 14 markets and 11 languages, carries third-party advertising and hosts partnerships with retailers like John Lewis, as well as promoting Johnson’s Baby range of lotions and shampoos.
In India, Unilever has launched BeBeautiful (pictured below), a beauty, fashion and lifestyle portal with a broad editorial remit that stretches from beauty tips to travel blogs. As with BabyCentre, the parent company’s brand presence is minimal. The site is “created and supported by five renowned brands in the beauty industry – Lakme, Dove, Ponds, Sunsilk and Vaseline.”
At Zone, we’ve just re-launched BakingMad.com (pictured), an online community commissioned by The Silver Spoon Company. As the owner of the Silver Spoon and Billington’s sugar brands, as well as Allinson Flour and Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract, the company is well placed to benefit from the overall health of the home baking market. BakingMad’s purpose is simply to help Britain’s bakers get better – because better bakers increase both their frequency and repertoire, both of which benefit Silver Spoon brands.
Successful media brands must serve the needs of audience and advertisers simultaneously. BabyCentre, BeBeautiful and BakingMad target different audiences to promote different brands – but all of them understand that some editorial integrity is key if they are to have any credibility. Creating a media platform requires a different mindset to marketing a consumer brand. Brand managers used to signing off every comma and full-stop have to embrace a different culture, where writers and editors have the freedom to commission and publish whatever they feel it right.