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The Jury Is In: Create Content, or Else
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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In today's climate, brands cannot rely solely on the main media. Besides TV, print, radio, and magazines, there are a multitude of ways consumers can obtain and pass on information. It is important for brands to place information where they know their target customers are going to be. We all know this, but how do the brands do it? Easy — create your own content.

The number of brands (especially big brands) creating and pushing their own content has increased dramatically during the rise of online video and content sharing across the Web. Web videos, e-zines, newsletters, etc. have become the norm for many organizations. David Edelman of McKingsey & Company, and blogger for the Harvard Business Review blog network, wrote about four strategies of publishing your own content.

First, Edelman explains, is the "Mass Publisher." These brands basically attempt to push out all types of content to their audiences in an effort to cover a broad range of interests. He mentioned Sears, Macy's. and Target in particular as examples of brands implementing this kind of strategy. Brands that have a more specific focus may not fare well with this kind of strategy, since they may not have the depth of product and service offerings required to cover a broad range of topics.

Next is the "Problem Solver." These content creators try to provide information that helps solve problems for consumers. Not problems that consumers are not aware that they have, says Edelman, but problems that these consumers are actively searching for answers. For example, do-it-yourself and what-to-wear videos are great ways to give solutions to customers and provide insightful glances on products. In the article, Home Depot and Williams-Sonoma are brands providing that kind of content. 

After these two, the other strategies get more "engaging." The third strategy is the "Social Engager." This means providing deals, contests, and actively engaging on social networks with consumers. Edelman provides L.L.Bean as an example of this kind of brand. One that we have experience with is the Spartan Race. The company provides daily workout ideas, promo codes for its obstacle races, and more. This strategy requires a dedicated mission to interact with consumers and a team of people who are emboldened to speak as ambassadors for the brand.

Finally, the fourth strategy is the "Personal Concierge," where the content posted is customized based on the preferences and behaviors the consumer decides to share. Of course, Amazon is the benchmark for this strategy. Behavioral targeting online (and offline) also falls into this category. Consumers and consumer "advocacy" groups will bitch and whine about this, but as Facebook continues to prime us all, they'll deal with it and end up wondering how they bought stuff on the Web without it.

So what does this all mean? Clearly, there is more than one strategy to create content for your brand. You could do one of these or combine them. We're sure that there are more strategies than just these four, but Edelman did a great job making content creation simple. But what didn't Edelman cover is the issue techies and others continue to step over: getting your consumers (and potential consumers) to look at the content. Unlike Field of Dreams, just because you build it doesn't mean they'll start flocking to your brand.

You know the answer to that problem. It's advertising. You can pull out all the stops — the "new media," the "social web," — yet good advertising and creativity will be the best way to drive attention to your content. 

Deal with it. 

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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