Is this man the Father of modern content marketing?

Content marketing is essentially non-interruptive marketing. Interesting, relevant content (in pretty much any guise) forms the basis for engagement, with the brand message laced within or around it. It isn’t a new concept by any means, but perhaps the earliest and purest example of modern content marketing was pioneered by a lawyer-turned-musician named Oswald Nelson.

Oswald Nelson 1906 -1975

Oswald (Ozzie) Nelson conceived, wrote and performed in ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett,’ an American sitcom featuring the real-life Nelson family.

The show (and here’s the content marketing bit)  didn’t just broadcast an initial sponsorship message as many such programs did, it laced the message throughout, making it an integral part of the show.

You might think this would be annoying, perhaps even the opposite of non-interruptive marketing. You might think the show wouldn’t stand a chance. But, having first launched as a radio show in 1944, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett moved to TV with ABC in 1952 (with Ozzie having negotiated a 10 year deal whether the show continued or not – unprecedented at the time) and continued thereafter until 1966, 4 years more than the contracted period!

To this day the show is the longest running live-action sitcom in TV history. Is Ozzie Nelson the Father of modern content marketing? I reckon he’s surely a contender. Take a look at this fantastic Christmas episode from 1956. Can you spot the ‘subtle’ product message?

Advertisements

You can’t have your privacy and eat it

Amid the furore over the bungled EU Cookie law there seems a real hysteria over ‘Online Privacy,’ with some effectively suggesting the term constitutes an oxymoron (a bit like ‘English summer’).

Take a few minutes to watch the below TED video featuring Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla…(article continues below the video)

Ostensibly, Kovacs’ points are alarming. But before we get all ‘Outraged of Surrey’ about it, isn’t this what the Web was meant to be all about? Wasn’t it all about providing content relevant to the individual rather than generically to the entire online population? Without some form of identification associated to the individual, how is any Web mechanic supposed to provide relevance? You can’t have your online privacy cake and eat it.

I think the problem here is actually one of definition. Privacy is black-and-white. A lack of privacy implies an invasion, therefore a Bad Thing. However, if instead we talk about (and provide) transparency, then things change fundamentally.

If the language around this emotive issue was based upon providing transparency as opposed to removing privacy, then I believe attitudes would change entirely.

My Collusion profile after a day at my desk.
(If you watched the video, this would make sense)

Cross-device platform publishing doesn’t exist. Not yet anyway.

Having recently been commissioned to carry out a study of the digital publishing platforms1 currently available, one aspect has become abundantly clear: everyone is chasing the dream.

The dream, depicted as a kind of candy wrapper in posters on the walls of so many publishing exhibition booths, is of a mechanism by which source content is input (one side of the candy wrapper), some magic happens (the candy itself) resulting in packaged experiences available seamlessly across desktop browsers, tablets and mobile phones (the other side of the candy wrapper).

Aspiration?

Sure, platforms exist that cater well for specific devices, and some that cater well for multiple devices, but none by using the same original, designed content, played in a form that works cross-device.  Maybe this is an unrealistic expectation. The tablet user interface for instance, inherently differs from the desktop interface. Swiping makes no sense on the desktop, whilst mouse-over makes no sense on a tablet. Purely from a design perspective then, surely it is impractical to cater for both? And what about differences in format? A page/window/panel/screen (delete as inappropriate) on one device will have a different aspect ratio on another.

In design resource alone, brands looking to publish across as wide a gamut of devices as possible are faced with an expensive undertaking. Cost pressure alone is driving demand.

It may be that initial releases require compromise in design. Alternatively, compromise may be in functionality. Either way, platforms will exist because demand dictates. And whoever caters for the demand, and does so well, is likely to do very nicely.

1Where ‘platform’ is used to describe a mechanism by which source content is input, edited, transformed and published to multiple devices in a format sympathetic to the high design value of a glossy magazine and capable of harnessing the interactivity of digital media.

Why Facebook Stores Are Failing

Content, audience and engagement. Facebook has it all. So why are brands apparently struggling to sustain a business case for their Facebook Stores?

In the past year alone, Gap Inc, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and Gamestop have opened and subsequently closed Facebook Stores. How can this be? All the ingredients for a successful online retail venture appear to exist, yet in practise the result seems half-baked. Why?

To find the answer, we should first remind ourselves why Facebook has become such a phenomenon in the first place: Quite simply, it’s a great place to hang out, meet, and interact with likeminded people. Its a round-the-clock party, hosted by friends, in a familiar venue, with constantly changing decor. (No surprise it was originally called Faceparty).

The fact is, people party to socialise, not to buy stuff. How many parties do you attend where suddenly, an uninvited guest buts into your conversation weilding a pop-up store? Almost certainly none. And why? Becuase it’s a social faux pas. It’s a turn-off. It’s party pooping of the highest order. And it’s a real challenge for Facebook.

“We just didn’t get the return on investment we needed from the Facebook market, so we shut it down pretty quickly. For us, it’s been a way we communicate with customers on deals, not a place to sell.” – Ashley Sheetz, vice president of marketing and strategy, Gamestore.

A perfect place for people to converse and recommend stuff, it seems Facebook has yet to resolve the natural aversion its users have to bridging the apparently logical step between recommendation and transaction. The problem is, since when has logic figured in socialising with mates? A party based on logic? Be there to be square…

Batman's cape had seen better days

Content [is/is not] King (delete as appropriate)

An interesting debate was sparked within LinkedIn’s Chief Content Officer group today. It centred around the (now rather tiresome) adage that ‘Content is King.’ It began when Ben Dorsey, a VP Marketing and Communications in Indiana, suggested that if Content is King, the organisation of that content is Queen. Disagreeing with this viewpoint (and struggling with the premise that organisation of anything can be particularly regal) I waded into the debate and aired my view that content isn’t ‘King,’ and that in fact, as suggested by the writer and activist Cory Doctorow, content is just something to talk about. It is actually the conversation triggered by the contentthat actually wears the crown. (continued..)

Who wears the crown?

(By way of warning, the liberal use of metaphors in this debate only gathers pace from this point on).

Stephen Berner, a content creator in NY, believes there is no King or Queen. Rather, there are multilple plates to be spun, ‘at the same velocity,’ and ‘incrementally dialled up.’ ‘Content is useless,’ he says, ‘unless it can be found..’

Margot Carmichael Lester, a content strategist from North Carolina, suggests that ‘..regardless of who wears the crown, CCOs and other content managers need to be the power behind the throne..’

King, Queen, Throne, Crown, Plates, Power, whatever, it seems to me that Ben’s original comment, his original content and the ensuing conversation, confirms that relevant content, made available at the right time, in the right format, for the right audience, inevitably triggers all-important conversation..

Have a read of the exchange in context in the LinkedIn CCO group.

Holidays mean Facebook games right? Wrong.

An interesting article posted by Tricia Duryee on AllThingsD today, appears to confirm, if confirmation were needed, the need for businesses of all kinds to ensure they take mobile into account both for product and for engagement.

The article, entitled ‘Americans Played Anything but Social Games During the Holidays,‘ explains that during the Christmas period, when people are away from work and no longer spending prolonged periods in front of a computer, participation in online games via Facebook dropped considerably.

Whilst it’s no surprise that a great deal of social interaction via Facebook takes place at the workplace, the scale of the apparent dropoff during the holiday period may well raise some eyebrows at Facebook.

Contrast the drop with the gains made in mobile and there’s a clear case to ensure mobile is part of the marketing mix for the coming year. A statement of the obvious perhaps, but the AllThingsD article is the first time I’ve seen activity contrast so markedly during a crucial period for measuring and guaging social attitudes.