I worked at an ad agency and then an apparel company in San Francisco during the gigantic dot-com wave. It was a glorious time. Optimism abounded. Employment was rampant. New ideas and companies sprung up like oxalis on parking strips. And then it all crashed. At first there was disbelief. We wiped our eyes and said, “Whoops, now what?” To be sure, there were a lot of casualties when the tsunami collapsed on itself. But a lot of good stuff survived, because, well, it made sense. Stuff like jeans and t-shirts in the office, a belief in ideas over showboating, business agility, stock options and damn good coffee.
The other good thing that survived was a shift in what customers expected from companies, and how they wanted to interact with them. In a nutshell, media-cynical gen-xers and millennials who were used to conducting business on beanbag chairs began demanding a more honest, more transparent, conversation with companies. At the same time, new social and CRM platforms codified a framework for social engagement that become more transparent, genuine and targeted.
Forward-leaning companies saw an opportunity. They realized that their audiences wanted access to thought leadership and, in many cases, entertainment. Some positioned themselves around social giving. Others pulled back curtains to reveal a more honest, humble brand. Aside from just creating products or services, they also became creators of content. They became publishers. And customers ate it up.
Redbull (http://www.redbull.com/us/en) is the model brand publisher example, of course. At their core, they make caffeinated sugar water. But they’ve become a multibillion-dollar lifestyle brand that’s equally well known for its epic adventure videos and live events. Now “Redbull gives you wings,” means a lot more than a caffeine buzz.
It’s easy to see how brands in industries like apparel, beverage and automotive can align with a publisher mindset. But what if your company makes something more utilitarian, like air conditioners? Should you adopt a publisher mindset? The answer is yes. And therein lies the rub. If your company provides a benefit, then you have something to share beyond just ads and websites.
To get your head around your own branded content opportunities, it’s helpful to ask yourself a few questions:
Can your company improve your customers’ lives, or even society’s?
Since you should have answered yes to the above, how can your brand demonstrate that benefit via blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine, etc?
As a savvy air conditioning company, then, you should think of yourself as a brand ecosystem where engaging, relevant, thought-leading content is published on a regular basis. Which means…
You could write white papers about energy efficient ways to stay cool.
You could create Facebook posts about the health benefits of filtered air during pollen season.
What was life like before A/C? Is there a funny video opportunity there?
Maybe you could donate A/C units to people in need.
Today’s customers are fickle. They sniff out disingenuous pandering. But if you embrace the content producer mindset, you’ll do more than merely sell to customers. You’ll make them trust you, like you, and remember you, for the long-term. You’ll be less likely to perish.