Brands. Conventional wisdom is that they matter less and less in a world gone digital — that consumer media brands no longer serve as the anchor to media experiences because the tidy packaging that came from a magazine, newspaper or a TV show has been blown up. And what’s been left in its place is an endless stream of content competing for the attention of millions of goldfish swimming in social media.
The reality is that, in a world with a multitude of options just a tap away, the brand is more important than ever. More and more the brand is a proxy for trust, which represents consumer (and advertiser) confidence in value. Do I find this report from the Associated Press credible? You bet. Will I be entertained by this show on HBO? Likely. Will this new car review on The Edmunds help me with my car purchase decision? Will this video from The Onion make me laugh? Does the AccuWeather forecast help me plan for an outing? Yes, yes, yes!
Focusing on consumer needs offers the greatest opportunities in expanding a digital media business. What needs are being left unfilled and how can your brand uniquely deliver on those needs? Meeting these needs in a reliable, ethical manner builds a valued relationship between brand and consumer. This deep relationship takes time and trust. It isn’t measured in the sort of hockey stick adoption rates crowed about in the social sphere. Media brands aren’t a value-add, they are, by definition, valued. Why do you think that so many new social media platforms lead with these media brands? They are building their credibility and trust by leveraging the credibility and trust the media brands already have.
Consider the brand a big pile of poker chips. Each poker chip represents the trust of 1,000 of your most loyal consumers. As you consider new opportunities for your brand, you’re playing those poker chips. If you play them wisely, you’ll build a larger pile of chips and have even more opportunities. If you play them haphazardly, your pile will likely shrink. It’s ok to make some big bets, just make sure you’re aware of the risks.
I’ve been asked a lot about native advertising in the past year. It seems to come up more and more given the growth of adblocking. Native advertising is nothing new. Packaging experiences for advertisers to inform, entertain or engage their targets and customers is tried and true. Your brand equity is exactly why the advertiser wants you to deliver the content for them. The trust in your brand is exactly why the consumer is open to quality native advertising within the context of your content. You’re just playing another hand of poker.
And, as the power of brands allows for native ad plays, strong media brands are able to find revenue opportunities that provide growth outside of traditional advertising streams. Sure, subscription models are terrific, but they aren’t right for every media brand, no matter how loyal the audience.
On December 1st, we’re launching an event for our DCN members called Power of Brands — I encourage anyone responsible for marketing, product innovation, digital strategy or revenue generation to attend. We’ll spend the day hearing from brands who have expanded into new revenue lines. Whether it be experiential marketing, subscription products, licensing into products or digital formats, e-learning or face-to-face events, these opportunities for growth start with a strong relationship between the consumer and the brand. And digital isn’t a simple question of disintermediation. Digital offers endless opportunities for new points of genuine connection.