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Content marketing offers rich potential, but exposes the brand to wider competition

Like the best ads, the best content will reinforce brand equity
by Rupert McPetrie
MediaCom, China
We all know the memorable phrase “Content is King,” but the media, marketing, and consumer landscape has changed so much, and continues to change at an increasing velocity, that the application of that belief in content needs re-evaluation, especially in China. In today’s China, where all is connected and where digital places consumers and audiences in control, content is something that consumers must choose to engage with – thus, it shouldn’t be interruptive and it should provide added value.
Engaging and relevant content works in a different way than a traditional brand message. It creates rather than simply reminds, and therefore has a much richer potential. To get it right, keep these three things in mind:
  • Start with a strategy for your content. Know why you are using content, what outcome are you’re planning for, and the role of the content.
  • Source the content.  Have trusted partners available, or in-house capability, or best – have both, to ensure quality content is delivered quickly.
  • Be aware from the start which platforms you will be using, and how you will distribute the content.
The key when it comes to content, is that the competition is not only the traditional direct competition, content is available everywhere and always and shared by an endless number of creators. In that context, attention is the key imperative, as it’s important to understand that content serves different needs. It can inspire, inform, and involve.
As the Content & Connections agency, MediaCom considers content at the heart of all communications, and works closely with its clients to ensure that relevant content drives the business. It is the fuel within Content & Connections. Here are our five “golden rules” that allow you to use content in the most innovative and effective way to drive your brands business:
  • Optimize your content to fit the platform
    Every platform is different and consumers are engaging with them on their terms. A post in a WeChat Moments feed works differently than a pre-roll on Youku. When you place content on a platform it is important that you understand – and respect – the way it will be consumed. You need to create different iterations of your basic content to fit each platform. Or better yet: create specific content with the platform already in mind. When we relaunched Wrigley’s Doublemint in China we used WeChat to re-introduce the element of surprise into the platform. Our Doublemint “Random Connections” campaign sparked conversations among friends and strangers and introduced the brand as the “Icon of Connections.”
  • Don’t just hub & hold, but distribute & amplify
    If your content is relevant enough to consumers they might actively start looking for more. Thus, you need to have a “destination” or “hub” where they know they will find more content. But do not make the mistake to only “hub & hold” your content: most people are not going to come to you (they’re just not that interested). You need to take the content to them. You need a strategy for distribution and amplification. For Wrigley’s Extra we developed a partnership with Tencent during the 2016 Summer Olympics. We developed lots of real-time reactive Olympic content which we distributed across the Tencent ecosystem – but we multiplied brand reach by getting a few key opinion leaders (KOLs) to talk about that content on Weibo.
  • Engage with a broad audience
    For most brands, broad reach is still crucial to overall success. Most of your consumers will be light users, not fans, and therefore whatever you do to engage with your audience you need to make sure that enough people get to see your content. Thus, when you are developing your content strategy it is crucial to think about how to make your content relevant to a large and broad audience. So beware of niche topics. In order to make shampoo brand Rejoice relevant to a large young female audience we partnered with a leading Chinese pop star and created a cool, new dance music video. This video was launched on the biggest Chinese video and music video platforms simultaneously and became a huge hit.  
  • Inspire, Inform, Involve
    Compared to advertising, content is all about adding value for consumers. Very often in China, this will be entertainment value: we are partnering with hot programs or KOLs to create something that people want to watch because it is fun or because it creates social currency. In some instances, however, added value can come from relevant information or utility. We can provide consumers with content that is useful to them. For Parodontax, a medicinal toothpaste to prevent bleeding gums, we created a weeklong series of motivational and informative content pieces that – together with a free sample – helped the audience to learn how to best treat their affliction.
  • Have a clear strategy for the role of content
    At Mediacom we believe in systems, not silos. Not just for the way we integrate different channels, but also with respect to how advertising and content work together. If advertising is about awareness, your content may be about engagement; it may be about adding new memory structures to a well-known brand or it may simply be about creating depth and relevance around a point of sale promotion. In any case, it is crucial to define the role of content within your overall strategy before you start ideating. For Gillette we created a highly innovative and engaging virtual reality experience as part of an on-pack promotion to boost online sales. For Pedigree we developed a bespoke OTV show including celebrity dog owners to create an entertaining context for the nutritional information we wanted to provide.
These golden rules are guidelines for a successful content strategy. The most important rule, however, is this: like advertising, the best content always reinforces brand equity.