Mind The Content Gap

February 5th, 2018

74% of brands could disappear tomorrow and people wouldn’t care. That’s the stark headline from Havas’s most recent Meaningful Brands study. The same research shows incremental return for brands that are meaningful, on average outperforming the stock market by 206%.

In an industry where the tide is finally turning from focusing on clicks and CPA, this validation of the role of brand on business success is important.

It’s not that consumers reject brands per se; 75% of people expect brands to play a more active role in well-being and social good, so there’s a big opportunity there.

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So why do so few brands resonate?

Content, it seems, is key to driving meaning – we note a 71% correlation between brands that create ‘good’ content (in audiences’ eyes) and a growth in how meaningful brands are.

And, let’s be honest, there’s no shortage of brand content out there; and according to CMI, 92% of you reading this will agree its strategic benefit to your business.

But again, a stark finding from our study suggests that 60% of content fails to deliver.

There’s a content gap between brands and audiences.

Whilst there may be some operational issues here (CMI suggests the minority of organizations have content strategies or measurement in place) perhaps there’s a deeper issue.

Too often ‘content’ seems to be seen essentially as messaging by creative and media stealth: Say what we used to in an ad but make it look ‘contenty’.

This works for nobody, it degrades the fine and powerful craft of great advertising and clutters up media with stuff that just makes audiences avoid it.

Since digital revolutionized media a tide has turned – the broadcast age was an anomaly that’s passed. Communication is what flows between people, not at people.

We should have learned this already – how many organizations set up a Facebook site thinking it would be a temple of brand adoration only to then question what to do with it?

New platforms don’t solve old problems, they make them worse.

To close this gap we need to think more about how consumers consume our communication than they will our products; how we can entertain them, or how can we help them, and in what context.

Communication has to elevate the audience experience.

And perhaps this also reveals a content gap in our definition?

Just like digital started as an internet thing and is now becoming a redundant word as it becomes ubiquitous, content may follow the same trajectory.

It’s still often seen as an internet thing, a bit of film or editorial.

This perception is limiting – just like digital, content is not a channel, it’s an approach.

Content is media – it’s why people go to a platform and how media brands have transcended being rooted to one. News brands are no longer papers.

Content finally heals the media vs creative divide. Content is media-creative; to coin an old phrase, content makes the media the message.

We just have to follow the audience; they are the best media planners in the world. Their behaviours and attitudes are the score of meaningful content (sorry, communications).

We start with what they need, what right we have to meet it and then plan the experience we want to deliver – channels and execution flow from there.

Whether it’s letting young football fans see themselves on BBC Sport instead of pundits, or a poster campaign that dramatizes the terrible feeling of a smashed phone screen – these aren’t media or creative campaigns, they’re a new approach, they have meaning beyond what they are trying to convey.

We may call some of it content now, we may call more of it content tomorrow: I call it communication.

It’s time we closed the gap.

Stuart Butler, Chief Strategy Officer, Havas Media

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