Empowered Consumers and Their Insatiable Demand for Content
The shift to digital-first marketing has radically changed how consumers engage with brands. They have an insatiable demand for content that will help them make their decisions. And with new technologies showing up and showing off daily, and still others waiting in the wings, turning back is not an option.
Already, touchpoints between brands and those who buy and use them are multiplying rapidly. This shift has led to a limitless thirst for relevant, meaningful, present-tense content.
This environment we live in is powered by a need for “more.” Consumers want more from content — not just in terms of quantity, but in the quality of the content. Everyday users and influencers have the ability to create high-quality content via better technology on their phones and tablets. This requires more personalized messaging and a more seamless blend of experiences between the real world of time constraint and the digital world of “now.” People expect more interesting visual and verbal messaging. And they need more consistency across any sort of marketing communications that have anything to do with the brand.
Nothing less will do.
Creative-Led Hyper Connections
We’ve entered into a new age of creative thinking and execution. Faster than ever before. Better. Stronger. Cheaper. “Mad Men” of past decades would have been a hell of a lot more mad if they wanted to succeed in the environment that holds today’s women and men of marketing communications.
From now on, content needs to be relevant, authentic, in-the-moment, consumer-first, creatively led, responsive, unexpected, disposable, and eye- and mind-opening. It has to be hyper-connective, easily found and measurable. And it has to be made relevant.
Content Is the Message
Content was once the byproduct of a marketing strategy, transformed into a creative strategy solved by an advertising campaign. Even the word “campaign” is no longer relevant. Content creation is. Content drives it all. Content creation and creative operations are what you need if your brand wants/needs to get to “more.”
Consumers increasingly control their content. So your brand’s content must have the ability and agility to compete, interact and respond to open-sourced content. If not, the risk of being muted or irrelevant becomes a viable possibility in absolutely no time. For that, you need speed and technology.
To get there, we need to redefine our content creation strategy and redesign our creative operations. And that's not easy, because the content supply chain is not well-understood, and quantifying and measuring investments in content is next to impossible.
What’s New? Pretty Much Everything
In the old days, you had to score on two out of the following three: volume, cost and quality. Today, you need to meet all three of them and, on top of that, you need to do it at-speed.
Consumers want more: VR and 3D and AR and CGI and motion and imagery and voice recognition and hybrid mixes. Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, a consistent, high-quality branded creative omnichannel experience, please. We have neither patience nor tolerance for weak messaging — it’s a brave new world. And if the world is brave, you’ll need to be brave.
Sometimes the best way to be brave is to become smarter. The smartest brand marketers understand that these various content types and their budgets can’t be seen as separate. They aren’t separate; they are variants of the same deliverable. Not only does your brand need a cohesive strategy, but the way you produce content needs to be strategic, too. Content budgets don’t increase as fast as demand does, so brands will need to continuously increase the amount of content they get for every dollar.
In order to evolve, you need to be brave enough to overhaul your content creation operations, disrupt legacy practices, tear down legacy silos and replace legacy tools. Think overhaul, and not tinkering. If you do some body work on a tired old car, you’ll end up with a better-looking tired old car.
Pull the Plug on Your Hidden Factories
Hidden factories are unmanaged, uncoordinated production lines that are not integrated into a broader plan and are out of view of senior leaders. In some cases, hidden factories are well-established and highly evolved, institutionalized bottlenecks.
The concept of “hidden factories” dates back to the early 1980s, and even though it started in manufacturing, it applies to many industries. Specifically, hidden factories inside your business survive on inefficient processes and structures. They may still provide output, but it is usually at the expense of productivity, time, effort and quality.
Change is difficult. But rapid change in the content ecosystem is required. We all know it is.
It is important to remind your organization that change can happen incrementally. But having an open mind for the kind of change necessary is only the first step. Implementing changes works like any creative process — iterate, improve or die.
From Hidden Factories to a Powerhouse
In order to adapt to the breakneck speed and need for rapidly evolving content creation, brand marketers need to dismantle the hidden factories and institute a new creative operations discipline.
To be successful, creative operations must be managed with a strong framework of business fundamentals, business intelligence, data analytics discipline and nontraditional content creation functions, including coding/development, AI expertise and digital content strategy.
None of these work in isolation. But when they do work together, they work as a content creation powerhouse.
Where to Begin
Every situation is unique, so don’t expect one-size-fits-all solutions. Begin with the following guidelines:
Take a big gulp and be ready to admit that you may not be as good at content as you think. Be ready to accept that your organization may not fully understand today’s requirements. Yes, content is critical today, but until you figure out why you stink at it, you’ll never get anywhere — even if you work harder.
Identify those with potential to be key drivers of change, who are savvy enough to drive culture change. Empathy and listening to those who may feel threatened will go a long way.
Quantify the Subjective
Data and analytics will be a key foundation to enabling your transformation, and for future-proofing your operation for the changes of tomorrow. Start with establishing a framework and methodology for data and analytics and defining KPIs. You’ll find that the data may be imperfect at first, but you’ll continue learning what does and doesn’t work. In the end, data will be a key tool to identify hidden factories and quantify their impact. And as data and methodologies evolve, they will become a powerful tool to maximize ROI on content spend, which channels you should use to distribute your content, and how much cost and resources should be allocated per unit of content.
Leave No Stone Unturned
To make this critical leap, you will need to evaluate every part of your organization — organizational structure and functions, processes, technology, spaces, equipment, talent and talent development, data, finance, reporting, recruiting, etc.
Following these guidelines, paired with a strong strategy and goals, should set you on the right path. Partner with those who have experienced this change and are open to discussing experiences and best practices.
Benefits of Creating a Content Powerhouse
Identifying and addressing hidden factories will position your organization to succeed in today’s content environment. It will allow you to create or transform a creative operations discipline, and future-proof it for the changes that are coming.
With the right business principles, data/analytics and process framework, creative operations will be better-positioned to articulate their value to the business, while allowing your creative, production and technology teams to focus on the content.
Marketing will always be a blend of art and science. But it’s time for a little more science.