Content marketing and marketing channels are on every single marketer’s mind. It has become trendy to shift our thinking from assets to overall content and its creation process has led to an emergence of creative departments additional to brand managers.
However, the key question is, when is the right time to start thinking about content? Marketing budget allocation between content creation and channel activations depends on marketing departments structures, P&L and headcount (profitability). The budget distribution in most occasions is organised as a top-down approach and is tied to a set of performance indicators to be met throughout a financial year.
The truth is, how can you guess in advance whether your budget is best placed in content marketing strategy, social media activation, traditional PR or offline media until your overall marketing plan and activation concepts are defined? It’s a classic case of chicken and egg.
Every disciplined marketer should follow a simple step-by-step process from company vision and mission to business objectives, brand and marketing objectives and marketing strategies.
And it is, at this stage that talented agencies should come to the rescue, before the content marketing or channel activation budgets are allocated.
Aligned with the business and marketing challenges and objectives, a competent agency will translate a brief into a possible activation plan, which can involve many marketing channels and content creation. However these should not be decided upon until concept stages have been reached.
Indeed, the agency will pin-point the key challenges, unique selling points, highlight facts/observations and insights (to be validated by market research ideally if there is any doubt on potential assumptions) and will provide overarching concept ideas in line with the target audience and the brand identity/tone of voice.
A competent agency will translate a brief into a possible activation plan, which can involve many marketing channels and content creation.
This process tends to focus on one element of a user journey (pre-purchase/pre- activation, purchase/activation, post-purchase, loyalty/repeat use) since the marketing objectives need to be quite tight (either the focus is on awareness, consideration, purchase or retention) but it’s very hard with budget constrictions to launch a campaign/concept that covers most steps, as it would simply dilute efforts.
Once, and only once concepts are brought forward, an activation plan can then be fleshed out along with a content and messaging strategy.
Then come the questions:
- What content (asset/format/messaging) would bring this concept to life best?
- Which channels are most adequate/pertinent to seed these assets and ultimately create awareness/engagement/reaction/action?
For example, when a brand launches a TV commercial, it shouldn’t be based on the fact that they are actively in need for mass-audience reach to gain awareness or top of mind. It should be based on the fact that the lead concept they are adhering to would be most engaging in a video format to a mass-target audience.
When dealing with a multidisciplinary agency that can tackle integrated campaigns, it makes the whole concept creation unbiased, which means the activation won’t be skewed towards their area of expertise.
When a brand launches a TV commercial, it shouldn’t be based on the fact that they are actively in need for mass-audience reach to gain awareness or top of mind.
Take for instance Lexis’ work with Harley Davidson. Lexis created an experience that encapsulated Harley-Davidson’s spirit and passion for personal freedom and the open road, aimed at the touring audience.
The outcome was the creation of a storytelling platform that was tailored to each and every European market through media relations, influencer & stakeholder engagement, social media and customer engagement.
Often, it is all easier said than done however – consumers and corporate entities are heavily targeted via different channels and unless a concept and its content are engaging and resonating with individuals and decision makers, there will be a lot of wastage in attempt to just release content for the sake of it.
Times have changed and it is no longer the marketing manager, but the concept itself, that should be leading the budget allocation discussions. So let’s prompt the creative teams to wear their thinking hats ahead of any commercial and budget discussions and let’s let the content drive the channel strategy.
Virginie Luce is head of Digital at Lexis