In marketing, as in every discipline, there are micro changes and macro changes. Micro changes are small, frequent, and don’t drastically change the day-to-day work marketers do.
By contrast, macro changes happen far less often but have a profound affect and the potential to completely flip a discipline or industry on its head and make non-adopters obsolete.
In the world of content it’s not a case of a single technological change that’s shifted the market, but rather several, all of them conspiring to rip content creation and delivery out of the hands of the few who guarded it’s gates for centuries and into the hands of shock, horror, the consumers themselves.
So what are the changes that have led to the democratization of content… Devices are infinitely cheaper and more portable. 10 years ago this shot would have required Tony Monks Gyro fitted Helicopter at $10,000 a day, today, anyone could shoot it on a $1,000 drone, and those smart phones Nokia so famously avoided these days are effectively DSLR cameras capable of shooting at broadcast quality.
Editing, once the difficult domain of industry experts is now a breeze and app features like Instagram Stories have even changed the way we edit, and engage with content encouraging layered, text, Giff and Emoji rich imagery. It’s easy and it’s interactive, you can ask your audience a question, or have them ask you one. The constant, instant feedback and validation or lack of validation means you can iterate adjust and hopefully grow, producing more content that your followers want. But the biggest shift has been in distribution
The number one youtube earner on the planet is an 8 year old, named Ryan. Over the last 4 years he’s amassed 19 Million subscribers, he has had over 25 billion views. Billion. And last year he earned $33 million dollars. An 8 year old is, without a shadow of a doubt the most important person in the toy industry. Why? Because he is a consumer creating content.
Here in New Zealand we have content creators whose instagram story views for a day rival a primetime television show. Last year, for a great majority of the season more people watched Shaun Johnson’s Instagram stories than watch the Warriors pre-game show and At WeAreTENZING we’re lucky enough to represent over 50 over the country‘s top content creators and together more people watch their stories every day than watch 3 news.
Content has been democratized. It’s a far cry from 10 years ago when I presented Target and content decisions came down to one or two network heads guessing what we’d want to watch.
So what does all of this mean for you, those entrusted with curating and carefully managing a brand? Well, the result is that your brand is in the hands of strangers, people you’ve never met, commenting on a decision, applauding a CSR initiative, uploading a photo of a product. Reviewing, and hopefully recommending.
And a question I often ask brand managers is what part are you playing in that public conversation? How much of that user generated content are you a part of? How many advocates are you engaged with? This shift also means the sheer quantity of content you need to produce, or co-produce as a brand has increased immeasurably.
We are consuming more, across a wider variety of platforms, a recent study in Australia, for instance, found people spend an average of 9.7 hours a day consuming content, up from six hours a day four years ago, and where they are consuming it is changing, more than half that time is on the internet, in an increasingly fragmented landscape. As such there’s no such thing as a one size fits all campaign anymore.
So what have we learned from Stephan Elop, and our good friends at Nokia? We’ve learned that the losers in this shift will be dismissive or complacent. Whatever you think of what’s been termed influencer marketing, it is not a fad. It’s a symptom, an organic result of a significant change in the way we create and consume content. Dismiss it at your peril because there is every chance your competitors are utilizing it and utilizing it well.
So what’s changing, why is “influencer marketing” growing so fast?
Initially brand managers treated “influencers” as simple information distribution networks. They used agencies to create the idea at the heart of a campaign, distributed it through traditional channels and used PR companies to add influencers to the mix, with set briefs, or even pre-made content as a sort of afterthought, a bolt on.
But the last 2 years have seen a significant shift to co-created content that forms the centre of a campaign, or NPD. Content is distributed to the influencers audience, then promoted to a wider audience, then shared through the brands channels, organic and targeted social, mailers, then paid and earned media.
We’ve just finished a national campaign for a US brand with How to Dad where his content forms the heart of a campaign that will run throughout the United States across web and TV.
And it makes sense, as I’ve already said, the creators have a real understanding of what works for their audience, so why not take their content and use it beyond their channels? Especially as they are often able to produce it at a fraction of the cost of many production companies.
Jordans Kiwi Burger Video just came in 3rd on Youtubes best video ads of 2018 with every other top 10 video an agency production in the hundreds of thousands. Jordan’s video has over a Million of view, thousands of shares, press, and all at a cost of under $40,000 including writing, shooting, editing and distribution.
It’s affordable, sometimes just contra or a few hundred bucks, and it needs to be. Constant, timely and authentic content requires a completely different mindset to the old days of a single massive idea, planned for months, shot at great expense and disseminated to one and all regardless of their context or interests. Short and timely content that responds to context and current events is what will sustain an always on presence in the digital domain today.
There was a time when reach was everything. When TV was black and white and everyone you reached believed the medium and the message. Today we don’t just live in a world with democratized content, it’s also a world of democratized distrust.
There’s a great study where researchers asked participants to name the 4 brands they trusted the most then they gave them statements from those brands and conflicting statements from a total stranger they’d just met. 92% of them believed the stranger over the brand.
Many people no longer trust brands , and more worryingly, that place you’re currently advertising, traditional media, they’re even worse off when it comes to global trust ratings. People trust people.
If you want to nurture trust begin with people. It’s why I tell brands when they ask who the perfect influencer for them is I always start with their stakeholders, employees, customers, suppliers. Their content is is an amazing starting place. From there external advocates are incredibly powerful. We build our relationships around shared beliefs between content creators and brands, making the ambassador more than just the face of a brand, they become the heart of a brand.
Think Jess Quinn, Dove and body image, Amber Peebles, Westfield and Dress for Success or Ricardo Christie, Phoenix and Sustainable coastlines. Trusted advocates, experts in the room who are able to say I’m proud to be teaming up with X because they share my belief in X
Reach + Trust = Message
Another fantastic side effect of the democratization of content is a brands access to often well curated target audience groups. This is my amazing wife, most of what I know about this stuff I learned from her. Her following is hyper targeted. Mostly 18-34, 81% female, high disposable income, urban and interested in fashion and home styling. The ability for a brand with a similar target market to access that database as a 30,000+ strong focus group is immeasurably valuable.
And brands are listening, Jess’ quest to redefine how we see beauty is a part of a global movement that’s having brands like Calvin Klien shift the way they are presenting themselves, they are choosing more purposeful advocates nd campaigns are being inspired from the ground up. This billboard in Soho is a perfect thermometer for the direction of a global fashion brand. Models, to reality stars and now to Chika Oranika. Content like this, that more accurately reflects the world we live in, often created by consumers driving engagement expressing a belief or purpose.
Despite what you may have heard, people also want quality content. Yes the sheer quantity of content being produced is unimaginable, an hour of content is uploaded to Youtube every second and so if you want to cut through you need to either shock, inspire, educate or entertain and more and more people are aiming for the educate and inspire outcomes, in quality ad speak this movement a shift away from delicious content towards nutritious content. This generation more than any other in history believes in a purpose, they think of themselves as being purposeful and they want their content to be the same.