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These are defining times for brands. Advancements in technology like interactive video, wearable tech and even 3D printing have rocked the status quo and are fundamentally changing what it means to interact with the world today. It’s the continuous nature of of these changes that are evolving the brand-consumer dynamic.

The brand on the shelf is merely one dimension. Companies have to be more, do more. To win market share, they can’t just out-school a competitor with advertising. Instead, brands have to be “relevant.” Who thought a word so benign would become so pervasive?

That little word means brands have a huge content marketing problem: social media, video content, infographics, articles, newsletters, mobile content, webinars, white papers, case studies, ebooks, testimonials, demos, branded content. And that’s not to mention the important role of data and analytics,  SEO and SEM, or even distribution strategy.

So complex is this issue that some agencies and brands have hired editorial directors from big publications to steer the content ship.

Still, as the recipients of this, it can be an assault to our sensibilities. While we’ve come to accept that brands are often a part of our content experience, it’s not always comfortable. For instance, as an avid runner, do I really want my trusted content coming from my favorite shoe company? I have mad love for my brandof choice, but maybe I’d prefer it from a less biased source.

Refocusing on Damn Good Content

Let’s think about just one aspect of content for a minute — the quality. A friend of mine, Josh Beane, is a producer. He started his career outside of the agency world where the only thing that made you successful was damn good work. He then dipped his toes in the agency world for a few years, then left to pursue more damn good work with his new company Idea Farmer. In the years that I’ve known him, he consistently demonstrates something — what matters is the content experience. Make it damn good and people will care. And they’ll come back.

It’s when brands lean too hard on the advertising tactics they know that it goes wrong — uncomfortable overlaid ads, a blatant and awkward use of the brand, or even a redirection of content to suit their own purely selfish pursuits.

This is not to suggest that good, quality content and branding are mutually exclusive. Rather, if brands want to reap the benefits of excellent content and the people that it draws, they should accept the terms that content is built on.

Josh’s most recent project is a cooking show called Saucy. While his intention is to eventually make this platform open to brand integration, right now the effort is exclusively centered on building content that people love.

He found a dynamic and talented chef to host, filmed it beautifully, sourced great material and built a functional and attractive website to view it in. Many in the marketing world would consider the antithesis of how things are done. And that’s the point. Lead with damn good content…dammit. Make people love it. And then, let brands in. Go Like them on Facebook to follow the shows. You’ll be glad you did. Especially if you love food. And who doesn’t?

There is another example, albeit a lot less homegrown. Cupcake Wars on the Food Network has a guest judge on each episode that is invariably a brand. That guest judge is the one the contestants are designing their cupcakes for. Brands are then integrated into the construct of the content, so it’s not a distraction. And I almost always remember the brand that was profiled. And not in an icky way.

So get out there brands. And make some damn good content.

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