Content governance: brand 2.0’s secret weapon?

It’s time to completely rethink your content as well as the marketing production and promotion process, both internally and externally.

Emmanuel Vivier

The explosion of advertising avenues in the digital age

Does your brand already have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, post photos on Instagram, videos on YouTube, publish a blog and circulate a newsletter?

That’s great… but is it also on Snapchat, Vine, Periscope, Pinterest, WeChat, Line and Tribe? And does it moderate all these different platforms and make sure it responds to comments from ever-more-knowledgeable and demanding users? That’s not including advertising through conventional media, your website, emails, SEO, advertising banners and the new display panels and multimedia screens at sales outlets…

In short, we’re a long way from the days of Mad Men, when a team of advertising executives would spend months coming up with a billboard or radio ad. The race to grab consumers’ attention has become a contest that’s getting tougher year after year. It requires a constant in-your-face presence over a plethora of media and formats, and continuous efforts on an almost daily basis to win over a target market that is becoming increasingly fragmented, demanding and indifferent.

Fortune favours the bold?

Instead of giving up, a minority of brands have adapted to this chaos, reinventing their marketing to engage with their audiences and benefit from the ripple effect of social media. High-end snacks brand** Michel et Augustin** spread the word on Facebook about their venture into the US to partner up with Starbucks and what happened when they sent their HR director to recruit on the Paris metro.

Carambar made headlines by announcing they were going to stop enclosing jokes with their caramel bars. Burger King is deliberately becoming cheekier in its posts in an attempt to go viral among its young fans. Fruit drink manufacturer Oasis is now part of pop culture thanks to some clever newsjacking, as is Oreo, the real-time marketing pioneer. The DC Shoes streetwear brand is way ahead of the competition on YouTube with its impressive driving and biking videos. Ikea has revamped its production line, making 365 TV ads in a single year, and even Volvo Trucks have managed to create a string of viral hits. The 2.0 marketing leader Red Bull is now also a media outlet that sells cans of energy drink, publishing so many high-impact videos that it’s breaking the hit counters…

For the majority of brands, this all seems like too much effort

Of course, these few successes certainly don’t tell the whole story. The majority of brands are still way off the mark. Some are missing out through ignorance, some deliberately dismissing this brave new world and others playing the game but lamely, with self-promotional posts about as exciting as a 1970s magazine ad.

Out-of-touch senior marketing executives not interested in these new ways of writing and new media tactics come up with endless excuses, claiming with predictable regularity that they are too costly, too complicated, too transient and too difficult to measure. In short, without a guarantee of winning an Olympic medal the first time they venture out onto the track, most brands are refusing to get into shape, complaining, “it’s too much hard work!”

But it’s not really about budget or effectiveness…

If you take a step back, it’s easy to see that the accusations levelled against the digital world, social media and mobile media – in a nutshell, all marketing innovations – aren’t very plausible. Most of these innovations are much easier to measure and much more effective than conventional media, if and only if you equip yourself with the right skills and workable budgets. But the elephant in the room is not the budget; it’s all about rethinking your organisation. What makes the pioneering brands referred to earlier stand out is much less the size of their budget and much more their ability to be super-agile, capable of quickly creating high-impact content over multiple contact points, and consistently! The customer experience may have become a key success factor (think Airbnb, Uber, Tesla, Apple and many others), but content and marketing are among the most important elements.

No content governance, no salvation!

Now more than ever, brands need to establish their own content governance. It’s time to get stuck in and completely rethink your content and marketing production and promotion process, both internally and externally.

This is certainly no easy task, and it means first and foremost re-jigging your organisation and knocking down the walls between marketing, media, press relations, CRM, sales outlets and social media! Be prepared for a few hefty power struggles between the tycoons heading up these different departments, who won’t be keen on the idea of pooling their teams, resources and budgets and giving up their precious power, hard won over many years… Without the willingness and strong support from management (particularly in internal disputes) this kind of reorganisation won’t get out of the starting blocks.

The second key change needed is a change in processes and tools. Becoming agile is about enabling people with different profiles to work together and quickly approve your campaigns at each stage: conception, promotion and production. Unless you’re using the same tool and language, you won’t be able to take action quickly. It’s going to be essential, particularly in large organisations, to rethink your IT, to enable you to compete with ultra-innovative and agile start-ups. How long is it going to take you to approve a Facebook post? Launch a press campaign? Release a viral video? Respond to a customer’s tweet? The best way of knocking down the walls is to make your employees want to talk to each other, by making it easy for them and using tools as good as the platforms they themselves use (smartphones, Gmail, Dropbox, Skype, Facebook etc.). If every employee can be part of a project at every stage and contribute to it easily, if an idea can become a reality without requiring a superhuman effort in internal politics, then your entire business will become more involved, more efficient, faster and more effective. Right now are you able to exchange files easily, internally and with your agencies, suppliers and partners? Are you able to keep tabs on the development of a document or approve the variations in different international versions?

Then there’s the cultural change required. The days of extensive mass-media campaigns put together over months are long gone. Today it’s all about quickly using your data to create thousands of personalised micro-campaigns tailored to the different formats and compared in real time using multivariable testing. Instead of consulting a guru to come up with the right creative idea or message, a more effective method is to test out and assess your different hypotheses out there in real time. Instead of working for months to find the approach that will prevent failure, the answer is to identify what failure means as quickly as possible so you can avoid it. This is Silicon Valley’s much-vaunted ‘fail fast’ approach, which isn’t about failure as an aspiration but on the contrary, is a way of eliminating failure as quickly as possible through testing in the real world.

Lastly, you have to allow for the evolution in measurement methods. You no longer have the option of waiting until the end of a campaign to find out how it has performed (and even then only if the media agency gets round to sending you a report…). Content governance is about connecting content creation with promoting it, and measuring its effectiveness. It must be possible to use analytics to build control panels for every level of the business (from operations to strategic management) to analyse in real time and correct or refine along the way. Measuring enables you to be more effective, spend less money and spend it at the right time, with the right content, in the right format and in the right place. In today’s complex economy, saving money on ineffective marketing expenditure will be a real plus.

In short, with this exponential growth in the number of media platforms and amount of content, it’s more important than ever to steer your own course and not just go wherever the tide takes you! Brands must urgently reorganise and equip themselves to keep up with the demands of Consumer 2.0 and hold their ground against start-ups and brands that already have the requisite agility. Governing your customer experience is also about managing your content flow, which you must keep consistent without reducing its impact. So avoid fruitless discussions about which social media to focus on and instead ask yourself how you can get the right platforms to create the kind of content your consumers are going to want to share everywhere it works.