Fall '13 Infocus

September 8-11, 2013 | Coronado, CA

The future of brands as content creators

articles

As the industry continues to shift, the pressure is on for every brand to become a publisher. Here are the trends and innovations shaking things up for marketers.

Marketers are well aware that the industry is growing and changing at an alarming rate. But even though people are talking digital, the money is still going to traditional. Content is the latest hot topic, and more than half of brands say it's their top priority this year, yet brands are still getting their footing to implement a strategy.

During the keynote presentation at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, Calif., David Shing, digital prophet at AOL, explained that just as an artist must work with the three primary colors red, blue, and yellow, marketers must work with a palate that includes tech, content, and distribution.

Shing captured attendees with his energy, style, and bite-size insights. He presented information and commentary on almost every front a marketer could think of. The whirlwind presentation in a way mirrored the new climate marketers have found themselves in: an overwhelming flurry of new platforms and content, creating a new generation of constantly distracted consumers. "The battle is now over consumer attention," said Shing.

With attention being the new currency, Shing explained that content is not competing with advertising but with popular culture. Thus, when it comes to content, it's all about putting it in the right context. In this way, we can help consumers filter out the noise and the garbage so they may discover what they truly want to discover.

Here are some more remarkable quick-hit insights on all the trends marketers keep hearing about, including the ones that are complete "rubbish," as Shing would put it.

Mobile

Forget about the second screen. Shing emphasized that at this point, marketers should always start with mobile, as it is now truly the first screen. He also warned, "Don't think you can build an app, and they will come." The average number of apps on a smartphone is 40. How many do people actually use? Only five or six. This is why on mobile, it's key to target the "power users."

Social

Shing emphasized in his talk that "likes" are total rubbish, and marketers need to stop obsessing over them and start thinking about other verbs. He called social media less important than conversation and connectedness. People are influenced by their peers; this hasn't changed. But technology has made it even easier for people to communicate quickly, from peer to peer and from brand to consumer alike. Shing cited Uniqlo's Pinterest takeover as a truly clever use of social media, highlighting that the campaign used the platform to stand out among the rest -- and with a campaign cost of virtually zero dollars.

Video

"Video everywhere" is where we are headed (and fast), so mastering this medium should be top-of-mind. Unique video campaigns are now key to brand awareness. Shing cited Honda's impressive "See what curiosity can do" video and a very successful Jack Daniel's campaign, as well as a viral video with brand placement for Mini Cooper. This video of "The Driving Dogs" captured more than 10 million YouTube viewers, giving both Mini Cooper and the SPCA priceless exposure.

Partnerships

Partnerships, like the one between Mini Cooper and the SPCA, can be instrumental in creating and sharing great content. Shing pointed out that brand placement can be either very blatant or more subtle, and both strategies can be effective. He cited an Adidas campaign featuring David Beckham surprising his fans as the blatant approach, in a video featuring logos galore. However, in a home video style clip of a band performing a song solely with their iPhones as the instruments, the nod to Apple is much more subtle. In a way, Shing claims, it doesn't matter if Apple was in on this to begin with or not.

Shing also touched on augmented reality, retargeting, the growing importance of location, and more, even calling out native advertising and big data as "rubbish."

What marketers must focus on is connecting with digital natives, or "the connection generation," he continued. These are the consumers of the future as well as the present, and marketers must also take into account the shift toward a sharing economy, where the goal becomes to "rent everything and own nothing." Marketers will have to step up and remember that interest and context are the buzzwords that will come next, as internet users continue to value tools that help them sift through the clutter.

After leaving attendees with so much to think about with regards to growth, change, and innovation, Shing also highlighted the takeaways that stay true. As Leonardo da Vinci taught us, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." And according to Shing, when it comes to content, it's all about the art of storytelling. That hasn't changed since the caveman.

Chloe Della Costa is an associate editor at iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.