Does Your Content Really Need Your Big Brand?

Would you be more likely to read People Magazine if it was rebranded as “Human Magazine” and was distributed only in fancy bookstores at twice the price?

Of the classic four P’s (product, place, price, and promotion) – the core of the marketing practice that we love so much – it’s the last three that makes brand such an important component of today’s marketing.

Last year, Unilever conducted an experiment with its shampoo brand Suave, a standard discount hair-care product distributed through pharmacies. They renamed the product Evaus (Suave in reverse), repackaged the same shampoo in a slick, minimal design, and doubled the price. Then they went out to a group of beauty influencers and asked them to test the product.

You know where this is going. The beauty influencers gushed. They called good ol’ Suave “edgy,” “modern,” a “game changer.”

Unilever isn’t the only brand to ever do this kind of brand trick or at least use the trick as a basis for a commercial. One commercial set in a fancy Italian restaurant in New York City shows Pizza Hut serving its pasta to stunned and delighted patrons. Thirty-five years ago, Folgers created a commercial set in the famous New York City restaurant Tavern on the Green, where Folgers crystals were supposedly used to make the coffee that was served to two supposedly unsuspecting diners. “I would buy it!” “It’s delicious!”

The latest experiments, alongside the rise of the microbrand, say a lot about our increasing bias against big brands these days. In the book The End of Big, author Nicco Mele describes something that we can all feel happening around us: “Radical connectivity is toxic to conventional power structures. Today, before our eyes, the top-down nation-state model as we’ve known it is collapsing.”

There is a lot to unpack here, from the fragmenting ways that we get news, to the eroding trust in our biggest institutions, to the declining value of some big brands.

Still, because many companies look at content marketing as a simple extension of their brand marketing campaigns, some argue against launching a standalone content brand. They argue that the platform needs the big brand in order for people to trust the content that will be there. Launching a new brand is seen as too risky, too time consuming, or pointless – like pouring a vase full of water into the ocean. The executive says that if the content doesn’t reside on the corporate web site, with a big ol’ logo front and center, consumers won’t trust it.

But is that true? Can’t we apply the same logic to content programs as many enterprises now apply to the launch or acquisition of microbranded products?

The answer is yes. When we think about launching or acquiring a content brand that could deliver value and build trust with our consumers – a brand for a resource center, say, or a digital magazine or email newsletter – we have an opportunity. Some companies are taking advantage of that kind of opportunity, detaching certain content from their big brand just as they would detach certain product lines.

Your marketing organization may choose to design and launch its own content brand, such as SAP’s Digitalist Magazine or Intel’s iQ. Or your company might acquire a content brand, as in the case of Johnson & Johnson’s Babycenter.com or finance company Stripe’s IndieHackers.com.

If you aren’t even considering microbranding for your content, your big brand may be the very thing that prevents you from creating the value and trust you want to create. Of course, launching or acquiring new content brands come with challenges. I’m not saying that you should do either of these things without considered thought.

Just don’t let anyone automatically rule them out.

Here’s my point. The default argument – that a content program is doomed without the big parent brand front and center – is flawed. In today’s market, microbrands can provide differentiated value for content just as for anything else your company produces.

At least that’s what I’ve learned at ICM, the Institute of Content Marketing.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.

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