Marketers have long distinguished between paid-for, owned and earned media. With the explosive growth of content marketing (brands producing their own videos and shows, rather than paying for conventional ad slots), the latter two have attracted ever-greater portions of ad budgets recently, partly with the aim of achieving that Holy Grail of digital marketing – the viral campaign.
Consultancy EARN Media is a specialist: its work with Castrol this summer was briefly the most-shared World Cup ad of all time. Founder and managing director Jamal Benmiloud tells City A.M. why brands are looking for love, and how content marketing can deliver it.
Why is earned media increasing in prominence?
Companies realise that you need to aim for “brand love” rather than just awareness. You do this by seeking online “shares” and recommendations. You can buy Facebook “likes” and YouTube views, but you can’t buy shares.
What does “brand love” mean, and how does it affect the bottom line?
Brand awareness just means people know about you. You can buy that with media, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into sales. What you actually want is for people to want you, to love the brand. It requires a different type of marketing. Apple is the expert at creating desire for its products, and the primary thing it looks at is recommendations. Creating products and services that you’d recommend to friends and family is the best way to increase sales.
How is this changing the content brands are putting out?
They’re investing more in quality and owned media, working with brand ambassadors with existing connections to target communities. Take our work with [motor oil giant] Castrol. We worked with [Brazilian footballer] Neymar and the rally driver Ken Block. Both have a huge number of Twitter followers [Neymar has 14.8m], and you can almost use them as media channels to create excitement about the brand.
Authenticity is key – no one’s going to share a typical ad with friends. But if it’s an interesting, engaging, authentic piece of content, people will. Advertising used to be about controlling every element of the message. Now it’s about curation – working with ambassadors to get messages across subtly.
Are the days of the traditional ad numbered?
There’ll be a balance. You need traditional ads to communicate product launches and promotions. But it won’t lead to loyalty. It’s almost a distinction between product marketing and brand marketing. You earn brand love by giving people content or tools that they want to share with friends.
Won’t people tire of brand content?
Unless it’s rewarding and entertaining, people will switch off. It’s still advertising, so it needs to work hard to be talked about. But as long as the content is good, people will be thankful for it. If it’s lazy, overt advertising, it won’t go anywhere.
Who else, apart from Apple, is doing a good job of building “brand love”?
Lego is doing a phenomenal job at bringing fans into the company, with The Lego Movie and it is looking to create a “master builders” TV series. It’s evolving into a film, TV and entertainment brand.