How content fits into the Internet of Things

internet of thingsInternet-connected fridges, Google Glass, smart watches…everybody’s talking about the Internet of Things. But what does it mean in real, as opposed to ‘geek’, life? And where does content fit in?

No doubt most brand marketers have by now had their de-brief on the Internet of Things/the Quantified Self/Wearable Technology (note: it’s compulsory to uppercase certain letters to demonstrate Appropriate Importance).

They’re all thinking: “hmmm, fascinating, but what does it mean for me as a marketer?”

As Dan Calladine, head of media futures at Carat, points out, what they all have in common is ‘personalisation’.

Taking this as a starting point, the first consequence is that brands are highly unlikely to produce traditional, broadcast, interruptive advertising for these devices. Google, for example, has said it won’t allow any advertising on Glass. But content-led marketing needn’t be invasive if it is served on the right device, at the right time, and in the right context. It can also be highly personalised.

This means then that there is an opportunity for brands either to create content or to offer structures around which users can create their own content. Clearly, though, it means producing content for a much smaller screen – if there is a screen at all.

It might also mean:

  • producing short-form or disposable content, like Vine or Snapchat;
  • encouraging gamification that allows brands to reward users;
  • being the hub or village green around which people congregate, as with Nike’s Fuelband, which allows users to input their own content and share it with others;
  • allowing users to record what they’re seeing or doing and sharing that around;
  • or generating content from the data collected by these devices.

Take US fashion brand Kenneth Cole (think something mass-market, but just above the average – more John Lewis than M&S), which in March used Google Glass to launch its Mankind fragrance.

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be too much synergy between Cole and Google. But that would be wrong.

At $1,500 a pop, the glasses are hardly up there with Specsavers, but users will be early adopters who no doubt like to think of themselves at the cutting edge. But part of Google Glass’ strategy is to turn itself into a fashion item (an uphill struggle, perhaps, when wearers are colloquially known as ‘glassholes’), so association with a fashion brand like Kenneth Cole helps.

For its part, Kenneth Cole is probably not where your average hipster or thrusting tech entrepreneur buys their clothes, so it benefits from the link-up with Google and the cutting-edge halo thrown off by products like Glass.

Called ’21 Days, 21 Deeds’, the campaign mechanic was itself quite simple. Contestants were asked to perform over a three-week period a series of random, ‘gentlemanly’ tasks, ranging from bringing in coffee to fellow-workers, over-tipping bar staff, or sending as hand-written note to a loved one.

The prize was a Mankind kit, worth $1,000 – not generous enough in my view for the effort required, but that’s a different matter. The twist was that, via a Kenneth Cole Glass app users were encouraged to record their good deeds for posterity. Using the hashtag #manupformankind contestants were then encouraged to upload the photos to Twitter.

It comes over like a good, old-fashioned competition. But in fact it’s a thoroughly contemporary take on content.

What’s not to like? It’s fun, it’s simple, it’s relevant and, by combining a contextual narrative with authenticity – all boxes ticked by content.

It also adds an element of social currency – participants gain kudos not only for doing a good deed, but also for sharing – and gives Kenneth Cole data that offers insight into the behaviours of a cohort it would like to target.

The Kenneth Cole/Google Glass work also chimes with some other, broader, content-led characteristics:

  • It’s human-centric: the best content gives the brand a human face. By connecting through emotion, it engenders trust and loyalty.
  • It’s shareable: people love to share, and love the social currency that generates. Brands that produce shareable content provide a utility to consumers.
  • Uniqueness: Consumers seek uniqueness, and brand content can provide them with those experiences.

Dominic Mills is consultant editor of the Content Marketing Association