Content is king but distribution is queen and she wears the pants

michelin man“How do we sell something to people they don’t know they need ?”

“What if we create something that both educates, entertains, informs AND gets people talking about us? We could give it away for free at first and if it works we could even start to charge for it!”

This wasn’t a brainstorm or strategy session at Nike or Red Bull HQ but rather a conversation that (might have) happened 114 years ago in Paris discussing how to sell more tyres. The result was The Michelin Guide which now sells 14 editions in 90 countries.

Fast forward to Chicago in October 1930 and the lunchtime radio series ‘Painted Dreams’ aimed at a female audience debuted on WDN Radio as an initiative to appeal to advertisers to sponsor more shows. Procter & Gamble’s Oxydol soap powder took the first slot and went on to sponsor and produce 100’s more radio and TV shows – the term ‘Soap Opera’ was borne.

These two seemingly unconnected events have one thing in common, along with Deere & Sons’ ‘The Furrow’ and Pan Am’s inflight magazine they were the first forays by brands into an industry that has since burgeoned – Bill Gates summed it up perfectly in 1999 “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet….those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content”

According to The Custom Content Council this marketplace now accounts for 39% of all marketing budgets, is used by 88% of all brands and has a spend over £43bn – content is indeed king.

So why after hundreds of years is the C word on everyone’s lips ? Jay Baer puts it best ‘If content is fire, social media is gasoline’. We have reached a perfect storm where storytelling meets advertising meets technology where it is no longer about impressions and eyeballs but rather premium offerings and meaningful engagement, in short: make content people want to watch and can’t find anywhere else, or prepare to be ignored.

The distributive nature of social means that not only can people participate in the conceptualisation, the production, and the development of content but they can also share both on and offline and ultimately create holy grail of brand advocacy. This has driven brands such as Coca Cola to see content as central to their strategy as they recently announced their 2020 Marketing Plan with a focus on ‘Branded Storytelling’ with a 70:20:10 split of ‘safe’, ‘innovative’ and ‘high risk’ content development.

However as Econsultancy recently found whilst 90% of marketers believe that content marketing is very important only 38% have a strategy in place – you only have to look at the ‘The Condescending Brand Page’ on Facebook to see evidence of this.

Given the huge rise in number of channels, decreasing consumers’ attention and the bombardment of messages it is vitally important to consider the elements that make up this strategy including:

- Understanding of your audience to ensure relevance via entertainment, utility and education.
- Consideration as to brand story that you want to tell – ensuring quality, authenticity and transparency.
- Balance of focus with coverage in channel selection.
- Method of measurement of the results.

However highly visual content, catchy headlines and consumer incentives can only take you so far success in social is predicated on understanding the different platforms and as such the context in which the content is delivered – after all as Jon Steinberg of Buzzfeed said ‘Content is king but distribution is queen and she wears the pants’

So what are the opportunities for each social platform? and who is winning? We will be taking a look at each of the platforms over the next week.