Mobile Will Revive and Redefine Content Marketing

Brand publishing isn't in decline. It's in a golden age

Some think that the brand-as-publisher trend has reached its peak, when in reality it's just getting started.

A mere five years ago, Red Bull was an energy drink, not a global media company. Chipotle was hard at work wrapping burritos, not shooting award-winning video shorts. Social media was in its infancy, and branded content consisted of things like trade brochures gathering dust on a shelf.

Today, content marketing encompasses a huge array of media platforms, social tools and influencers. As part of this sea change, brands have increasingly become the creators of the new, bite-size content for the mobile-first generation.

Since the dawn of the digital age, brands have recognized that success depends on their ability to build rich relationships with consumers hungry for engaging content and personalized experience. Nearly three decades later, mobile and in turn, mobile marketing, has the capacity to do just that: engage the consumer personally in real time with targeted, relevant context. Still, running digitized content on mobile without thoughtfully taking into consideration the complexity of the mobile platform will not instantly catalyze consumer engagement.

Successful content marketing models must integrate and elevate the experience of the consumer while on a mobile device. Brands must present something valuable to get something valuable in return.

In 2014, U.S. adults spent 23 percent more time on mobile during an average day than in 2013, according to eMarketer. This surge in adoption leads to mobile cannibalizing time spent with just about every other device and screen, and the shift toward ubiquity has reinvigorated the value of mobile advertising for brands. But to date, the majority of marketing has, to paraphrase Apple founder Steve Jobs, pretty much sucked.

Indeed, the real challenge for mobile marketers is not only to provide something compelling to view, but also to engage and re-engage with established audiences—79 percent of whom have their smartphones with them a whopping 22 hours per day—and transforming these mobile consumers into dedicated brand loyalists via evocative brand content delivered to their closely held, and heavily relied upon, phone.

Take Ford Motor Company, for example. Ford's agency, Team Detroit, partnered with extreme sports stuntman and YouTube sensation Devin "Supertramp" Graham to co-create a series of compelling videos permitting Graham to do what he does best—capture adrenaline-fueled acts on camera like insane BASE (bridge, antenna, span, Earth) jumping off of structures and out of hot air balloons.

In teaming up with Graham to provide strategic, noninvasive product placements, Ford was able to create the #onetankadventure video series that tapped into Graham’s existing audience of nearly 2 million YouTube channel subscribers, making them a potential new audience—and customer base—for Ford. By publishing strategic content marketing on YouTube, Ford was able to offer its epic programming alongside other extreme sports and stunt-centric videos to provide a thrilling new viewing experience to a targeted audience on mobile.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, brands are 36 percent more confident about the ROI on content marketing in 2013 than they were in 2012. That’s because brands as publishers are breaking the traditional mold to appeal to new audiences via mobile they never thought reachable and have become active participants in the daily lives of consumers and no longer interruptive voices.

Red Bull gave its brand wings in the wildly successful feature film, The Art of Flight. In cities throughout the U.S., Chipotle took its brand to the stage, sponsoring the Cultivate Festival, mixing rock bands like the Neon Trees with guacamole and chips. Ford decided to take its brand BASE jumping.

All three are great examples of mobile-centric brand publishing. What will your brand's epic mobile publishing moment be?

Marla Schimke (@vivamarketing) is vp of marketing at Zumobi.