It’s the time of year for trends, themes, observations, resolutions….while we’d all love click-bait to go away and for brands to commit to mobile-first design so users could actually consume the content that has been so carefully curated, here’s my one wish.
That publisher brands put their <money> content where their mouth is.
The Big Guns are finally jumping on the innovation started by General Mills several years ago with their own publishing platforms. With great fanfare, Coca Cola said goodbye to its corporate website in late 2012, replacing it with “Journey”, a self-described “media platform" featuring branded and non-branded content. In 2014 Coke rolled out multiple global versions and now has a dedicated newsletter with tens of thousands of subscribers. Coke has been smart - they've hired a team of content experts, and they’re using analytics to drive the editorial process. They're getting over a million visits a month, so it is generally deemed a success.
But yet, look a little closer, and Journey is still just curated content within a corporate website wrapper (see that investors link? That footer? That careers tab?..yep, all still there… ). We all know how challenging it can be to create real innovation in Big Corporate and in Coke’s defense, “Journey” is a big step forward, even if its content simply crowds out the corporate mandated noise in the short term to prove the validity of the idea.
In 2015, I’d love to see more brands take audacious steps in creating meaning and impact with their content while still driving their business goals. For so long, compelling content and meeting business goals have seemed to be mutually exclusive (despite the engagement analytics evidence to the contrary). It’s almost like Big Corporate just won’t commit.
Sure, we all love to read about the one-legged soccer player while we’re waiting for the toast to pop (and we always need light heartwarming entertainment in our day) but how it is positively affecting my life, other than filling up fuzzy brain time? Coke may argue that it doesn’t care, because the ROI it’s getting from my data, the proof points it captures from my engagement metrics and my cookie that is now has to track me into the back of beyond have repaid its efforts handsomely.
But what if Coke could still win me as a user, then leverage that interaction with ongoing brand connection, where the brand helps me or an idea or cause close to my heart be successful? Even if it is simply adding a feature or section to that one-legged story that helps me share an idea related to sports, or disability or a local team that needs help. Or an incentive for sharing the story which then translates into dollars given, credibility lent and connections shared. We're not always talking huge new initiatives - links to existing programs would be a start.
The goal should ALWAYS be to increase ROI and business value with content, not for content simply to support, and by committing to deepening the role of content, this is possible.
This isn’t about mining for ideas (like this excruciating Hersey’s video on its corporate site…), this is about being a brand that makes an authentic commitment to ideas that will truly impact change. 2014 saw a big leap in the democratization of invention and ideas - Quirky is a great example of how easy it can now be to share an idea, win support and funding and see success.
At the mima Summit in fall 2014, Dean Kamen, one of the inventors of the Segway, described how he recruited Coca Cola for his latest invention - a water purification machine that has the potential to save millions of lives. He had the idea, he’d built the prototype, now he just needed one of the largest and widely distributed brands in the world to support him…Luckily, he had contacts there due to his partnership to reinvent the soda fountain and by his own account, Dean Kamen was irritatingly persistent with his requests.
We’re not all Dean Kamen, but we do all have ideas, passions and we all read online. Hopefully 2015 will see brands take advantage of that for the good of all.