C3’s Lukas Kircher on what makes Great Content Marketing

Pro­duc­ing com­pelling con­tent rapid­ly, at scale, and on any channel—what many of us are call­ing ‘Con­tent Veloc­i­ty’— is now a major chal­lenge for mar­keters across indus­tries, so it’s no sur­prise that at the recent Adobe Sum­mit con­tent mar­ket­ing was high up on the agen­da. And who bet­ter to give us the load-down on the lat­est con­tent trends than Lukas Kircher, MD and cre­ative guru at top con­tent mar­ket­ing agency C3. We tracked Lukas down to a great pre­sen­ta­tion he gave at Sum­mit on C3’s approach to con­tent mar­ket­ing and his expe­ri­ence turn­ing top brands (includ­ing Porsche, Volk­swa­gen and Allianz, to name just a few) into con­tent pow­er­hous­es. Con­tent mar­keters lis­ten up! Here are some take-outs from Lukas’s presentation:

Con­tent mar­ket­ing: why, how and what

The ‘why’: Accord­ing to Lukas, con­tent mar­ket­ing has become an imper­a­tive for brands because it meets their essen­tial need (“the essen­tial log­ic”, as Lukas puts it) of con­tin­u­al­ly engag­ing with their audi­ences. Busi­ness­es need to con­stant­ly “show up” with their audi­ences, wher­ev­er those audi­ences sit (and on the audience’s own terms), and they can only meet this need by becom­ing full-time con­tent producers.

The ‘how’: Deliv­er­ing per­son­al­ized con­tent at scale requires a fun­da­men­tal rethink of how com­pa­nies approach tech­nol­o­gy. A flex­i­ble pub­lish­ing plat­form needs to be backed by the abil­i­ty to mine and inter­pret large troves of data on the mar­ket envi­ron­ment and the brand’s customers—and respond quick­ly. It’s a mar­riage of cre­ative tools and data sci­ence capa­bil­i­ties, which in turn has impli­ca­tions on how busi­ness­es struc­ture them­selves and even how they phys­i­cal­ly orga­nize their staff (a bit more detail on this fur­ther down).

The ‘what’: The ulti­mate goal of good con­tent mar­ket­ing is brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion that is ‘always on’ but also com­pelling and accu­rate­ly tar­get­ed. Fun­da­men­tal to this, says Lukas, is cre­ativ­i­ty – great con­tent can­not just be algo­rith­mi­cal­ly produced.

What makes great con­tent marketing?

Many things, but Lukas offered his thoughts on a few basic principles:

First, besides need­ing to be “always on”, con­tent needs to be con­ver­sa­tion­al. It needs to talk to (and with) audi­ences, not at audi­ences. Increas­ing­ly it needs to be hyper-per­son­al­ized. And it can­not be over-cen­tered on the brand. As Lukas puts it: “If you spend a first date just talk­ing about your­self, it’s unlike­ly you’ll be invit­ed to a sec­ond date.”

Sec­ond, con­ver­sa­tion­al con­tent requires con­stant listening—permanent track­ing of news, social chat­ter, com­mu­ni­ty dis­cus­sions, and events – and then find­ing mean­ing­ful respons­es to engage. Crit­i­cal­ly, brands need to invest in capa­bil­i­ties that let them not just lis­ten but also derive pat­terns from the chat­ter that lead to action­able insights.

Brand con­tent also needs to be diverse—across for­mats and dif­fer­ent chan­nels, but also in terms of depth and range of cov­er­age. It also needs to be easy to con­sume (what Lukas calls “con­sum­able expe­ri­ences”) for a pub­lic that is time-starved, with short atten­tion spans, and over­loaded with dig­i­tal enter­tain­ment every day.

Last­ly, con­tent needs to be trans­ac­tion­al: It needs to be tied to mea­sur­able KPIs via intel­li­gent data col­lec­tion and analy­sis, and deliv­er on a busi­ness objec­tive – what Lukas terms “per­for­mance mar­ket­ing through content”.

A new orga­ni­za­tion­al mod­el around content

Lukas also touched on the mas­sive orga­ni­za­tion­al changes being brought on by con­tent mar­ket­ing. On the agency side, C3 has com­plete­ly revamped its team struc­ture, mov­ing away from the tra­di­tion­al agency mod­el hubbed around cre­atives and account han­dlers, to a struc­ture cen­tered com­plete­ly on a data insights team. This team then informs the activ­i­ty of plan­ning, cam­paign, social, tech­nol­o­gy, expe­ri­ence, and con­tent pro­duc­tion teams clus­tered around it.

org strucutres

New times require new orga­ni­za­tion­al structures.

A sim­i­lar approach is repli­cat­ed by C3 on the client side, where the agency embeds its staff among the brand’s own teams to cre­ate a “news­room” struc­ture hubbed around a brand news desk – much like the tra­di­tion­al edi­to­r­i­al struc­ture of news­pa­pers. The news team is sur­round­ed by cam­paign, brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and con­tent mar­ket­ing teams. This is not just a vir­tu­al team struc­ture – it’s the way the team is phys­i­cal­ly orga­nized day to day, right on the client premis­es. Lukas says that most of C3’s job on the client side comes down to change man­age­ment – how to adapt clients to struc­tur­ing them­selves (and there­fore think­ing) in this way. Gone is the old team struc­ture cen­tered on the mar­ket­ing department.

Cre­ativ­i­ty at the core

Final­ly, Lukas remind­ed us that, no mat­ter what the advances in tech­nol­o­gy, cre­ativ­i­ty still lies at the core of great con­tent mar­ket­ing. And it’s bold think­ing and the will­ing­ness to take risks—founded on trust in an idea—that makes for cre­ativ­i­ty. Says Lukas: “Suc­cess requires trust in the strate­gic plan and the orga­ni­za­tion­al mod­el to imple­ment it, because only trust frees peo­ple to be cre­ative and inno­v­a­tive.” Inspirational!

And while you’re at it, be sure not to miss the excel­lent inter­view_ Lukas did with our col­leagues at _CMO.com

Head­er image copy­right: C3