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The great content debate: Creativity vs. measurability

The great content debate: Creativity vs. measurability Jacqueline Lisk

Marketers discussed their approach to social media, emerging platforms, crisis management, and content creation in a candid, spirited debate at the iMedia Brand Summit in Amelia Island, Florida.

“How can brands create effective content that drives conversion?” asked Carlos Gil, digital strategist and the moderator of the content-focused master track. What ensued was a lively discussion, with plenty of audience involvement.

Some conclusions proved rather universal. Brands are strapped for resources -- time, money and talent. To create content, they rely on a combination of in-house talent and agency partners -- partners being the key word. “I see the agencies as an extension of my team,” said Billie Goldman, partner marketing manager at Intel.

Doug Robinson, CEO of Fresh Digital Group and the panel’s only agency representation, noted that an agency partner will challenge brands’ notions of creativity and help push the envelope.

Other topics proved more polarizing.

Real-time marketing

The panelists and audience members were divided on the effectiveness of real-time marketing. Kasey Skala, head of digital and social at Solo Cup, declared it’s often poorly executed and unnecessary. “Brands are trying to score in these short spans. It’s lazy marketing,” he noted.  “We as an industry love to talk about it, but I don’t want to talk to marketers -- I want to talk to consumers.” (This sentiment scored him a hug from audience member Adam Kmiec, senior director of mobile, social, and content marketing at Walgreens.)

Others argued that when the right moment strikes, a brand can benefit from joining a real-time discussion. “Real-time marketing, when done correctly, allows you to engage with a larger audience,” said Amy Rose, director, integrated media, at Brown Shoe. But this doesn’t mean brands have to comment on every cultural happening, she noted.

“To be effective, marketing needs to feel genuine,” said Goldman. “We’re campaign-centric. If something happens that is relevant to my current campaign, I am going to take advantage.”

The practice isn’t without risk, though. The need for speed makes it easier to err.

When to say, “I’m sorry”

The panelists discussed the best way to handle negative feedback, or worse -- outright backlash. When we invest millions in a well-intended message, the notion of scraping an ad because of a few outliers feels extreme. Panelists suggested creating a plan for potential crisis in advance -- and remembering that the customer isn’t always right.  Sometimes it’s best to ignore the issue and wait for it to blow over. In other situations, you may need to take ownership of the gaffe, apologize, and move on.

Emerging social platforms (i.e., the Snapchat debate)

Robinson maintained that brands targeting Millennials need to be on Snapchat. “Win loyalty now because Millennials are going to grow up,” he said.  He argued that brands should get in on the ground level because the platform “isn’t going anywhere.”

Other panelists argued that there’s not enough data to support investing in Snapchat just yet, and that brands shouldn’t feel pressured to have a presence on every emerging social platform.

“I’m OK with being second to market if that means I’ll do it better than the person who was first,” said Skala.

This doesn’t mean that marketers should shy away from trying new things. The panelists maintained that they are open to taking risks -- creatively and strategically, as long as those risks can be measured.

Jacqueline is a journalist, editor and consultant who specializes in content marketing. She believes brand journalism can be high-quality journalism and has helped some of the world’s leading companies create and execute their content...

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