THE BLOG
02/07/2013 06:16 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

Content Marketing's Revolution: From One-Offs to Continuous Storytelling

Content marketing is not a new tactic. From the days of advertorials in print, to content hubs built by online publishers, to brand integration within programming on television and digital media, brands have long recognized that content can often be more powerful than advertising to deliver a story.

But content marketing is undergoing a revolution as brands move beyond "one-off" executions to full-blown continuous storytelling. When a brand is in a position to capitalize -- in real-time -- on the lights going out at the Super Bowl, we've reached a new level of marketing agility and impact. Until this moment, such 24/7, real-time content creation could only be executed by the skill sets of a media company and its newsroom. But that's all changing now.

And as brand marketers capitalize on the opportunity to be publishers, they are quickly confronted with hard realities.

If you build it, they will not come. Content creation without distribution is not worth pursuing. From beautiful mobile apps to artfully constructed original video, we continue to be reminded that audience development must keep pace with consumer experience development.

Content marketing is not about bringing the people to a "thing." Instead of focusing on driving traffic to a single destination, it's time to bring the "thing" to the people. Syndicated storytelling strategies thrive because they align with the fragmented consumption of the Web. Brands will maximize consumer audience by unleashing their brand story in as many places as possible.

This moment is about the "Participation Generation." The yet-unnamed generation after Gen Y is characterized by a need to move beyond passive couch-potato consumption to lean-forward, active participation. People value being spoken with, not talked at, and digital technology now enables brands to build a meaningful two-way dialogue, taking full advantage of the opportunity for audience creativity and communication.

Campaigns and flights are not sustained brand strategies. We've been focused for too long on approaches that place 30-second television spots at the heart of "matching luggage" media strategies where broadcast commercials are simply replicated in other media formats. If we move beyond the insular creative approaches of ad campaigns, we can leverage one story-telling moment to the next and build powerful brand equity and momentum.

Agile development is not just for technology. Iterative, nimble storytelling allows brands to capitalize on the dynamics of particular moments. There is probably no better example than Oreo's success turning a Super Bowl stadium blackout into a brilliant brand moment:"#dunkinthedark." But such strategies are not well-suited to the risk aversion of corporate communications or the complicated decision-making within a brand organization.


Editorial calendars must move at the real-time pace of Twitter.
Brand content needs to thrive in social media, which necessitates having a very current content experience worth sharing or finding on Facebook and Twitter. Social networks require a rapid pace of publishing for meaningful connections to be made between brand content and powerful conversation -- often faster than most brand marketers are prepared to operate.

Data and trend analysis is not storytelling. Real-time data is only as good as the humans interpreting it. People build stories to connect with people and connect with them as humans; science and technology simply inform how we can best tell the story to maximize its impact. As better data abounds on trending topics, content consumption, and consumer engagement, it is critical to listen to the data but not allow data to dominate the creative storytelling process and the voice brands must own for themselves.

We are moving to a moment that is defined less by "brand as publisher" than it is by the term "brand as newsroom," which reflects the continuity and acceleration in the pace of storytelling required to build relationships between audiences and brands. A healthy balance of high-impact, creative storytelling with dynamic, data-informed, and real-time marketing strategies will yield powerful results for brands.

This first appeared on MediaPost