“Done well, content can build your brand, close the sale, improve retention, and win loyalty. Done poorly, it will cause you to lose your audiences’ attention and trust.”
– Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web
Businesses’ interest in content is generally tenuous, because it is difficult to create and use effectively, and because it completely breaks down the old fashioned distinctions between content creators and advertisers. Before digital media allowed us to quickly and cheaply create and distribute articles, videos, photos, and social posts, advertising was just the stuff stuck between the content people actually wanted to read, see, watch, or hear.
Now companies can bypass the media outlets to create content themselves, or to sponsor others to create something potentially viral with their brand attached. The overall purpose is generally the same: to increase awareness and gain clout. With a solid strategy and the will to stick to it, content can deliver. You may still need advertising to promote the content, but for many brands quality content is an essential tool in their arsenal.
I once heard an interview where the singer of OK Go compares State Farm’s sponsorship of one of their music videos to the tradition of patronage, whereby a wealthy noble or religious institution acts as the sole supporter of an artist. Companies can self-promote by supporting the creation of art, music, journalism—anything people like to consume but which tend to not make money through sales—and the artists don’t necessarily have to suffer the stigma of selling out.
That OK Go video has had 38,321,143 views on YouTube and only subtly includes the State Farm logo. The advantage is that it is in the actual video I wanted to see, and not in the ad I chose to skip before the video even started. The disadvantage is that the machine in the video cost an estimated $90,000, and doesn’t deliver a pointed message about the company’s services.
But good content is really more of an investment. Every article on your blog and video on your YouTube channel and photo on your Facebook album will hypothetically be there forever. And each piece of content builds on the previous to further distinguish a brand.
Whether you can generate quality content depends on the combination of money, time, and wits at your disposal. I could go on and on about content, but I don’t have the time. But if I’ve done my job well, you should be a little better informed, and think better of Rock Candy Media for it.