Content is the medium that gives a voice to brands

Meg Riley, SVP and Social Strategy Lead at MullenLowe US, and Dustin Johnson, SVP and Creative Lead of Social and Digital at MullenLowe

By India Fizer

In our increasingly digital world, the value in content marketing has increased and consumption patterns rapidly shift as a result.

Meg Riley, SVP and Social Strategy Lead at MullenLowe US, and Dustin Johnson, SVP and Creative Lead of Social and Digital at MullenLowe, walk us through their approach to adapting to new mediums, anticipating the audience’s needs, and standing out in a sea of sameness.

Content is the bridge between you and your audience. How do you anticipate and then integrate the right topics for your audience while maintaining a consistent brand voice?

MR: As the prominence of content marketing has increased, we’ve fortunately benefitted from our investments in social media. Over the last few years, we’ve created a proprietary tool we call Speedbag that helps us identify, follow, and become immersed in conversational communities online.

Speedbag helps us break down active online conversations and get ahead of trending moments and content. With Speedbag we can easily identify content that will resonate with our targets and develop editorial mixes we’re extremely confident will be not only relevant but in many cases anticipating interests ahead of social listening and what can result from bench research.

What role does branding play in content marketing?

DJ: It should be playing more of a prominent role, but the trick is you need to create a brand that people want in their lives. Content should be the medium that gives a voice to brands.

However, the industry, advertising, media, and digital media aren’t adapting quickly enough and being consistent with their approach to fully take advantage of the consumption pattern changes. Consumers want to be entertained and informed, not sold to.

Not everything can be advertised the same way, which can require a different approach across clients. How does content affect the way something is marketed and how do you pivot to treat this?

MR: Content affects how things are marketed by the deeper stories that brands can tell and participate in, its ability to increase frequency, and deliver more of the story. This starts with a clear story overall and then adapting the story to the channel and situation.

Content marketing and creation dramatically increases the volume and specificity (to audience) of assets needed. We’re no longer in the time of one ad, article, post or video speaks to all attributes or benefits of a brand.

Without giving away your secrets, what are some things that are integral to your internal checklist when creating content?

DJ: Will it earn impressions? Will consumers care? Has the content been designed and placed in a way the consumer will gravitate to it and want to share it? Has it been adapted to make the best and take advantage of the channel or platform it’s running on?

Is the brand voice coming through in the right way? Has it been made in such a way that isn’t overwhelming the entertainment or purpose and turning people off. Does it add to the story?

How do you strategize for the way audiences will want to interact with content in virtual realities, Web 3.0, and the metaverse? To what extent do you involve influencers and consumers in creating the brand narrative?

DJ: First, regarding strategizing for Web 3.0, VR and the metaverse, we start by recognizing people don’t want ads as we think of them, and we need to invent new formats. Every marketing innovation of the last 25 years is built and paid for with the assertion that it will destroy the traditional models.

This shift is no different, yet we seem to have trouble learning you can’t apply old models to new mediums.

Today our strategizing starts with what is the scale and what is data ownership potential. To warrant participation in these spaces, whether it’s a build in Decentraland, an AR activation on Snapchat or something we invent requires time and money, two things in really short supply right now.

To the second part of the question. We’re concepting with influencers in mind with everything we do, not just the newer mediums and platforms. Influencers are now an integral part of the advertising value-chain.

The content industry and marketers have been slow to react to how best to take advantage of this and make the engagements creative. It’s a sea of sameness. For us, influencers are just the digitization of the most powerful form of communication, word-of-mouth.

And, more and more, we’ve come to realize that working with Influencers is just what we’ve always done with the added upside of more fans and a built-in audience to get people talking. Our relationship with creators is more transparent and the creators are benefitting differently, but it’s still just leasing talent, making something together, and making sure fans care.

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