Why creating audience-first content really matters

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Why creating audience-first content really matters

12 September 2018

Okay, “audience-first” isn’t a great descriptor of content. But it will suit our needs for now. For me, “audience-first content” needs to have the attributes of “genuinely entertaining/informative content”, “content I would seek out” and “content I would actively share with my friends”. As a marketer, the content that you’re creating - be it video, written, visual, aural, immersive, I don’t know … telekinetic – needs to have strong elements of the aforementioned or it simply won’t matter. You will create it. You will send it out to the world in a flurry of anticipation. And it will die a lonely death, with less than 10 people in attendance. Unless you’ve paid for more attendees! And even those paid attendees won’t dwell for too long.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, the bulk of content that brand marketers create is not audience-first content. Even if we start with the greatest will in the world, the same, conservative safety-in-brand-mentions mindset will kick in at some stage of the process and ruin the whole thing. It’s really hard to invest creative energy and resources in content for your brand that is created with the intent of truly entertaining your audience, rather than shifting units of whatever you’re looking to shift.

Even when marketing managers consider creating content with their audience in mind, the question is often of the variety “what about my product/service is interesting enough to create a story around?” rather than “what content is my audience really in to?” or, more specifically, “what content is my audience really in to, that they are currently not being served?” 

In writing this piece up, Steve (our Creative Director) made the point that “branded content shouldn’t be a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. It doesn’t need to be content that’s masquerading as editorial, but not quite as good as editorial. It should be brilliant, engaging and proud of it.
Red Bull are brilliant at it. They have owned the world of extreme sports by creating content that their audience could not get elsewhere. They have looked at a whole content genre that resonates with their brand and decided to own it, without pushing their products/services. It’s great brand marketing; leave the direct-response marketing or in-store offers speak specifically to the product.

In Ireland, AIB have done similar in their sponsorship of GAA. Vodafone likewise in their affiliation with the Irish rugby team (it does help, of course, that our national rugby team is flippin’ brilliant at the moment). Paddy Power have done it by creating irreverent content (sometimes with us) that their audience loves. Regardless of odds.
Creating audience-first content does not necessarily mean sacrificing the product/service. Where the product fits and is editorially justified, use it. The Lego Movies are great examples of this, a series of wonderful, branded movies with the product front-and-centre. And closer to my childhood, the He-Man and Transformer cartoons were created to sell toys. But they were brilliant!

Brand messaging can be incorporated around or throughout any audience-first content. If a brand is creating something of genuine value, viewers will naturally have more goodwill towards the brand and will be more open to receiving brand messages. You shouldn’t need a skip button when it’s done right.

As marketing evolves at break-neck speeds, the winners will be those who invest in audience-first content. It might be providing audiences with unforgettable experiences through event sponsorships or creating incredibly useful tools to make people’s lives easier. Whatever it is, if you are treating your audience as the savvy consumers they are, giving them what they really want and doing it well, the future looks bright.