Brands Love Content—When They Make It

The wall between publisher and product continues to erode

     Thanks to the ease of self-publishing online, marketing has looked increasingly like publishing with each year, and it’s only going to continue moving in that direction. In a panel at today’s Digitas NewFront conference, marketers from SAP, American Express and General Electric discussed their shifts toward branded publishing, concluding that eventually, the difference between brand content producers and media outlets will be indistinguishable. For example, said Steven Rosenbaum, author of the book Curation Nation, many advertisers now employ in-house content strategists to plan distribution and content marketing around their digital publishing campaigns, he said.

     American Express is drawn to digital content marketing because of the already-pleasing ROI it’s experiencing on its existing campaigns, said Susan Sobbott, President of American Express OPEN. Beth Comstock, the chief marketing officer of General Electric, said that broadly defined, the conglomerate spends around 40% of its marketing dollars on digital. Susan Popper of SAP said the company’s mix distributes 30% of its ad spend to digital.

     Turning a brand into a publisher of content is not without its challenges, though. Navigating the world of social media isn’t always comfortable for brands, which employ too many controls and layers of approvals to respond to the fast-moving digital conversations on Twitter and Facebook. “We’re used to control and it’s hard to give that up. And speed is difficult too,” said Comstock.

     And then there are the conversations themselves—submitting a brand to user-generated content relinquishes control, something that’s terrifying to a chief marketing officer. Comstock said “We have to be okay with costumers taking control of our brand. We don’t have a choice.”

     The sheer volume of information distributed online makes navigating the conversation “wilier and harrier than any of us ever imagined,” said Rosenbaum.


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