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Content Marketing Extraordinaire: A Brandscaping Review

Written by Michael Assad on November 28, 2012

With the success of Unbound Media, I am sold on the value of content marketing. It’s efficient, it provides value to your industry and it’s fun. Brandscaping really helps to crystalize the content marketing concept, but then takes it to another level. Andrew Davis gets this stuff better than anyone else out there, and if you are a magazine publisher or marketer, Brandscaping should definitely be at the top of your reading list.


A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

Creating content and tweeting it is great. But if you create content in partnership with other brands in your industry, your message is amplified and has a wider distribution. Your brand has an audience. Your partner brands have audiences. And when you create content with partners, you open up their audience to your content and vice versa. An industry working together and pooling resources has a much better chance of creating content that is engaging and benefits everyone. Rather than spending $5,000 on a video, find five partners and spend $25,000 on a short video series. You each spend the same amount, but attract five times the audience with content that is five times better.

Who owns your audience, and how can you partner with them to get a piece of the action? This is the heart of "brandscaping"

Content Sells Stuff

The promise of content marketing is that content sells stuff. It’s ongoing, rather than a one-off. It builds relationships rather than interrupting.

But not just any content. Davis says “… you need to create content that your audience wants and needs. Oftentimes, that content will have little to do with the actual products you sell and more to do with the audience you’re looking to attract.”

But you don’t need to start from scratch. Davis asks, “What content does our audience already have a relationship with and how can our brand embrace it?”

Imagine this in 2010, Geico could have hired Pixar “to write, produce and animate eight Academy Award-quality feature films like Finding Nemo” for the same budget. Sure, that little gecko in their commercials is cute, but how many more times would you think of him if he was on a regular TV series?

Cut Out the Middle Man

Access to media has never been greater. Do you need to pay a PR agency for a one-hit-wonder press release? Consider Blendtec. The founder had a bright idea to toss his iPhone in a blender and record the results for YouTube. By destroying his beloved smartphone, he was able to save thousands of PR dollars while building a loyal audience of YouTube subscribers.

If you’re a big enough brand, people are already authentically engaging with you somewhere online. Find out who they are and embrace them!  Like Sarah Leibach who shamelessly plugs the George Forman Grill on her Small Kitchen College blog.

Davis recommends that you “start thinking of yourself as a brand talent scout and embrace those who’ve already embraced you.”

Format and Schedule your Content

The benefit of producing or underwriting original content for your audience is that you start to build a direct relationship with them. In order to maximize that relationship, you have to format your content and deliver it on a schedule. We live in an age of information overload and programming your content can help get you noticed.

“You have to get [your audience] to start consuming your content on a regularly scheduled basis”, says Davis, “The format (not the content itself) is what an audience builds a relationship with – it’s what they get comfortable with.”

And remember – the better your relationship with your audience, the more "currency" you have to trade in a brandscaping relationship with others.

Be Where Your Audience is

Your website is not the center of the universe. You have to think about the channels that are already on the web, find out where your specific audience is, and make sure you have a presence there – focus on building your subscribers, followers, friends and what-have-you. You still need a website, but you will probably have better results if you focus on the channels and audiences that already exist.

Our top traffic source alternates between LinkedIn and Twitter. We also get a ton of traffic from Pinterest to our Inspiration section.

If you are a mainstay on the channels that matter most for your audience, you start to own that audience. And Drew notes that, “If you don’t own the audience you want, someone else does – and it’s not necessarily a media company.”

You Already Have the Talent

People build more meaningful relationships with other people – not with the brands they represent. How can you leverage the people in your company to create meaningful relationships with your customers and prospects? They already have the tools – you just have to give them the authority.

“Social success isn’t manufactured – it’s earned by building trust between people, not brands”, says Davis.

Brand Your Content and Build Relationships

Andrew’s TV and entertainment background gives him a unique perspective on marketing. He brings classic TV fundamentals to content marketing so that audiences are more comfortable with it. If you do something audiences can relate to, you can build a deeper relationship faster.

“Content that’s designed to be a brand on its own is far more successful and sustainable than branded content”, says Davis, “blatantly branded content, emblazoned with your product, isn’t as sharable, consumable, or interesting as content that happens to be brought to the audience by your brand.”

How do you figure out what content is high quality and relevant? Look at what has worked in the past. We all have analytics – which articles get the most page views, unique visitors and shares? Maybe that’s a good place to start. Was it a specific format that people liked, or what is the subject matter? Play around and try a few things. See what sticks. If you discover that you have a format that works, it’s gold. Simply plug new content into that format and watch your audience grow.

Connect with people's passions. “Stop putting your product first and start putting the passions and motivations of your audience first. You’ll connect with your market and reap the rewards…,” says Davis.

Your Content is Valuable

In order for content to be valuable, it has to be frequent, relevant and high quality. Quality in the sense that it delivers value – not necessarily production quality. Does it apply to your specific niche? It’s hard to be high quality for a wide audience. The more niche you get, the easier it is to be relevant for the audience.

Andrew Davis on Fractal Marketing

If you spend some time exploring websites, forums and niche publications, you will be able to identify the core of your niche that is specific enough to have significant “content holes” and the right size to be able to provide relevant content on a regular basis. If you fill these content holes with high quality, relevant content, you’ll be well on your way to building solid relationships.

“Content is a form of intellectual capital; unlike an advertising buy, it’s something you own”, says Davis, “Stop thinking of your content as a campaign or a marketing expense, and start investing in it as intellectual property. Think of it as something you can own. Treat it like an asset, not an expense.”

What’s your hook?

Putting your TV executive hat back on, why would someone want to consume your content?  You need a hook – something unique; something people talk about and share.

“A hook is, quite simply, a unique content concept that’s designed to ensnare and trap your unsuspecting audience into consuming and sharing your content”, says Davis.

Our Insider Interviews jump to mind. There is some great content here that our audience will consistently watch for almost 10 minutes, but we don’t get a lot of shares and haven’t built up a loyal audience. What can we do to hook 'em?

Without a hook, you’re just contributing to content overload.

The Influence Pyramid

Influencers are the 1% of your potential customers who create compelling content. They are passionately followed by 6-9% of your potential customers, dubbed “Prosumers”, who in turn project their thoughts and actions onto the 90% of your target consumers. 

 “… 90 percent of your audience can be influenced by seven to 10 percent of the consumers you’re targeting”, says Davis, “… understanding what and who influences your chosen audience will give you more practical insight into how the community works…Joining audiences by working with the digital influencers to create content that authentically engages prosumers is perfect brandscaping”.

How do you find influencers? It’s not that easy – especially if you have a very niche audience. But they’re out there. Look at the conferences your audience goes to – who are the speakers? Do a search on YouTube for a phrase that resonates with your customers – who has the most subscribers?

The Content Bubble

Content marketing is one of the biggest buzz words of the year. As more companies embrace it, the content for many of them will fall under the ‘information overload’ category. Andrew believes that this is leading to a ‘content bubble’ which is set to pop in the coming years.

To ensure that you’re contributing value rather than filler, Andrew contends that brands should look to existing content providers to partner with, rather than create your own content. I don’t totally agree with this. I think if you are the right type of company with the right type of audience, you can be very successful at creating your own content.

However, I also see his point. Finding existing content creators and “underwriting” their content can be a quicker path to high quality content.

Andrew Davis is a contributor to Unbound Media. Follow his series entitled “The Fine Print”.

Purchase your copy of Brandscaping on Amazon.


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