The rise of the content brand

July 14, 2014Uncategorized


“67% [of senior marketers] are actively shifting money out of paid media into their own channels”
– Megan Brownlow, PwC’s Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2014 – 2018 webcast

One of the most interesting things to come out of the content marketing boom (not my favourite description, but it’s appropriate here) is the rise of brands developing secondary owned assets or, as our friend Andrew Davis coined them, ‘content brands’. These are brands that are developed around a content marketing strategy – they are created to engage with the brand’s audience yet sit external to the brand’s main website.

Like content marketing, these types of assets have been around forever and probably started with custom publishing – back in the days when magazines needed to develop mastheads that didn’t mirror the umbrella company’s brand. In my old business, we had some great mastheads that worked really well for the brand and, at times, took on a life of their own. The B21C (business in the 21st century) content brand that UTS Business School came up with was brilliant. It took off and ultimately positioned the school in a new and very different light from how people had previously perceived it. Moving away from the constraints of the broader university brand also enabled UTS Business School to be much broader in its messaging and content.

Breaking the ties that bind

This freedom is key to why many brands opt for a content brand. It enables them to try something different, to target a distinct audience or to avoid the just-too-hard task of changing existing owned assets. Most importantly, these content brands are taking on a life of their own – they are engaging with new audiences and driving leads from different segments of the marketplace.

Over the years, we’ve seen some great content brands developed both here and abroad. The poster child among these is OPEN Forum, the largest small-business site on the planet, attracting millions of visitors each month. BabyCenter, owned by Johnson & Johnson, is another great example.

Content brand contenders

Closer to home, we’ve adopted the tactic ourselves and have been working on content brands in many shapes and sizes since the business started, both to broaden the market and, of course, to drive leads.

Locally, we’ve had ongoing success with NRMA’s Live4Lenovo’s Think Hub and Think Conversations, and most recently, Canon’s Fast Business. All of these brands have launched their content brands for a multitude of reasons, but at the crux of these decisions was a focus on developing a strategy that used content to engage with a new audience.

They’re not the only ones in Australia thinking about developing content brands. The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report The Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2014-2018 reports that the majority (67%) of senior marketers are moving away from traditional advertising and towards owned assets.

“The reorientation of marketing spend will have the greatest impact on the media, entertainment, and advertising industries, with deteriorating spending on traditional platforms prompting greater urgency to embrace new revenue models,” said Megan Brownlow, Editor of PwC’s Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook.

“Digital and social media channels have driven this trend by diluting the reach of traditional platforms and making it easier for brands to access their audience directly. In response, established media companies are creating new income streams and building new distribution channels to supplement their threatened advertising revenues.”

In PwC’s live webcast, Brownlow added, “The smart [media agencies] are recognising the shift from budget to owned channels, and they’re providing content for their clients’ owned channels – it’s this version of custom publishing that we expect to expand over the next five years.”

So if you’re thinking of launching a content brand, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Know the market – why aren’t you currently targeting this audience?
  • What is the story or message you wish to convey to this market?
  • What are you going to do once you’ve attracted these new customers?
  • What is your lead-management process?

Another factor that all of these brands have in common is a willingness to think outside the box. In doing so, they gain access to a new audience that will, in turn, drive their bottom line. Judging by the success of the content brand, I’m thinking they’ll earn the title of primary sites rather than secondary assets sometime very soon.

By Craig Hodges – CEO