Brand content consumers notice and remember: The Content Marketing Roundtable [Extended]

Brands with truly resonant content think like media companies. They embrace emotions, take risks, and recognize what audiences value most - those were key tips from industry leaders who met in Chicago for an Olson Engage-hosted roundtable. Gideon Fidelzeid reports

Top row (l-r)
Tom Bick, former senior director of integrated marketing and advertising, Oscar Mayer
-Kathleen Henson, CEO, Henson Consulting
-Doug Meffley, athletics director of digital and social comms, Northwestern University
-Erica Swerdlow, US EVP/Midwest market leader, Burson-Marsteller
-Matt Montei, senior marketing director, Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc.

Bottom row (l-r)
-Matthew Hutchison, SVP of corporate comms, Tribune Publishing
-Josh Lohrius, executive creative director, Olson Engage
-Pete Marino, CCO, MillerCoors

The key link

Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): What is the most important factor in creating content to which consumers will positively respond?

Josh Lohrius (Olson Engage): It starts with value. I heard Twitter’s marketing head discuss how to do commercial work Millennials don’t view as a commercial. He said as long as it has value to them, it ceases to be a commercial. That inspired us. That is the filter we put everything through. Is it entertaining? Is there actual news they want? What value can they get out of this?

Pete Marino (MillerCoors): When I started in the beer business 20 years ago, there were basically three competitors. Within the last five years, there are literally 5,000. A lot of small brewers have done a great job using social and word of mouth to extend their brands and make people familiar with them. In turn, we had to re-architect a lot of what we’re doing around face, place, and story. We need to deliver authentic brand messaging that uncovers some of our heritage.

For example, Leinenkugel's is a six-generation family-run business we bought in 1986. We’re using our craft brewers, the heritage and authenticity they have, and really showcasing the family. Blue Moon was a brand created 20 years ago in the SandLot Brewery, which is in Coors Field in Denver. Now it’s the largest craft brand in the country. We’re using Keith Villa, the creator of that brand who has inspired countless other craft brewers to get into that space, to make sure we communicate the story of how that brand was created, where the inspiration came from, and how it has become a gateway brand for so many other craft beer drinkers in this country.

Erica Swerdlow (Burson-Marsteller): Content needs to delight the recipient. That means entertainment, authenticity, and value. For older brands, there is certainly value in their history, but it must be told in a relevant way. With Millennials, you can’t assume they know your brand’s great tradition.

Matt Montei (Wrigley, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc.): Value and delight are good starting points. The next thing is the brand voice and character. Those are important distinctions because how you become relevant is a lot about how authentic you come across to the consumer and then ultimately how you end up returning back to value and delight. Consumers need to know and recognize that brand voice in every piece of content you produce. You will never break through without that.

Lohrius (Olson Engage): Once you get to the point where people look to your brand for entertainment and value, you’ve really gotten somewhere as a content producer. You’re no longer trying to convince people they need to listen to you. You’re no longer forcing messages on them. You’re on your way to success.

Tom Bick (Oscar Mayer): I’m asking for something very important from consumers – their time and attention. In today’s day and age, that’s asking for a lot. When I finally get their attention, I need to deliver.

However, brands should never apologize that our messages are really advertising. You must be up front and not be duplicitous. This is advertising in some way, shape, or form. Let’s make sure we do it right and not jam it down people’s throats. Consumers are smart. They will recognize brilliant content, but fully understand it’s still trying to sell something. And when I say "sell," I don’t mean, "Here are three things you need to know about this product and why you should like it." It’s the brand. Don’t hide it. Make sure the brand is associated with great work.

Kathleen Henson (Henson Consulting): Content must resonate with the consumer. It’s not just about reaching them. People are taking in content on their phones more than ever. It’s those brief moments in time where people are not snowed under and have time to look at their phones. And in those moments, they want to be entertained, educated, surprised, or all three. And I can tell you, I don’t mind being "sold" a brand if the content accomplishes that for me.

Swerdlow (Burson): If content is king, distribution is queen. You have to understand the platforms to get your content out there.

It’s also about protecting our brands. The only way you do that is to collect data from all those different platforms and listen to what it’s telling you about what consumers think about your brand. That’s the only thing that matters.

Matthew Hutchison (Tribune Publishing): I come from the media side, so consumers want us to help shape their opinions that shape their worlds. It’s informing them when they enter the voting booth, where they decide to eat, when they choose what movie to see, and so on. We also help them shape their opinions in ways they can quickly and easily share with others. We’re not pushing products. We’re pushing ideologies.

Doug Meffley (Northwestern University): We’re marketing to a group of people who already have a passion for our product, but we want and need to expand that passion, especially being in Chicago. We have a small alumni base, so we need more people to engage with our content that may not have that affinity.

With athletics, you’re dealing with very obvious results – game by game, season by season. When you struggle on the playing field, you are really challenged to come up with content that puts your best foot forward. You have to be self-aware and willing to poke fun at yourself. That’s the only way you can be authentic.

One thing you see many sports entities do with great effect is behind-the-scenes content. Fans love their teams and crave that kind of access. We align quite heavily with the Big Ten Conference and really focus on content that draws fans from other schools to our games.

Hutchison (Tribune): When [Tribune property] The Baltimore Sun was covering the recent unrest in that city, a lot of reporters took to social media and talked about what they were seeing on the street. The community was talking back to our reporters, telling them what they were seeing, and that shaped some of our coverage. Our reporters went to some of those hotspots based on what people were sharing with us over social channels. It not only shaped the narrative in Baltimore, but the subsequent national and international coverage, too.

Swerdlow (Burson): One of our sister agencies, Mindshare, has spoken about how 80% of your content is developed by people outside your organization. That’s a big number.

Hutchison (Tribune): I can’t speak to the accuracy of that number, but the fact is increasingly true across all our platforms. We’re listening to what people want and expect from the dominant news and information brands in their markets and it’s helping to shape our content. It has to.

Media mindset

Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek): How can brands most effectively behave like the media companies they increasingly need to be?

Henson (Henson): Brands have to adopt an editorial calendar of sorts. Know the major upcoming events your brand can play a part in. Such planning allows you to be nimble enough to react right away in a manner that hits into a current trend or something happening as part of the breaking news cycle.

Marino (MIllerCoors): When social media was just starting to evolve, there was this whole race to be a daily news channel. The brands doing it best now are thinking about it as must-see TV and doing it episodically. In the pursuit to stay relevant, too many brands only add to the white noise. Strong brands realize they need not feed into that. They want to disrupt at certain times when they can really make hay.

Swerdlow (Burson): Brands need to set guidelines and not just insert themselves into dialogues because they feel the need to be there. And with guidelines – read: rules – you’ll spend your money more wisely, too, because people will pay attention.

Hutchison (Tribune): The ability for brands to participate in social movements is supercharged by content. Brands, much like traditional media has always done, can help shape the broader collective thinking of where we are as a country and what our culture is saying about certain critical issues. Consumers respond to this and can often be empowered to join a movement that matches with their own personal belief systems. And it helps them buy into a brand in the process.

Meffley (Northwestern): When the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage came down, we felt it was a subject that fits with our brand image as a progressive institution. We simply placed a rainbow flag on the side of a Northwestern hat to show our support. We put that picture out with no words, simply within the context of the ongoing dialogue. It was one of the top pieces of content we’ve ever had across all our social platforms.

Bick (Oscar Mayer): We’re really cautious about jumping on things. We must feel as if we have a right to play in that space. We don’t want to overplay that hand. It can be damaging. You need to show restraint on certain things or run the risk of lazy pandering to an audience. Does that mean you might miss some things? Yes, but we have enough things in the hopper. That filter is crucial.

Swerdlow (Burson): I heard an interesting statistic: 45% of Millennials think they market better than the companies themselves. They see right through a lot.

Hutchison (Tribune): In my industry, editorial restraint is very important. Brands will find themselves increasingly having to act like editors. You must think about what’s best for your community.

Montei (Wrigley): First off, the screen we use for all of our creative is whether or not it will be noticed and remembered. If you can't get there, your content just sails through.

But do we view ourselves a bit more like a media company than we once did? Yes. Take our Skittles brand. It has one of the biggest, most well-developed Facebook pages. We’re very active on Twitter. We have an installed user base of 25 million people who are expecting us to say something and have opinions. That can often be a tough tightrope. You want to put enough content out there to keep people engaged and coming back, but you can’t overdo it or you start landing in an inauthentic or uninteresting way.

Marino (MillerCoors): Millennials today want to be marketed to in the right way. They won’t stand for being beaten over the head. There is a time and place for deals or product benefits you need to communicate about – and you can be very overt about it. However, I see way too many brands overdoing it and just begging people to look at them. That doesn't work.

Lohrius (Olson): PR agencies have a leg up when it comes to content because we’re used to telling stories a reporter will take and run with. If you were too ham-fisted in a press release, a reporter would never bite. That translates today, whether it’s reporters or Millennials or whomever your audience is. That’s a media mindset all brands must adopt.

Moreover, the traditional relationships PR firms have long had with media companies translate well to content. A key reason: we know how to get press coverage. You want your content to get views. Media coverage is the way there. When you create content, it’s OK to lead with media coverage and you can communicate a message with that.

Impressions on impressions

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): In many circles, media impressions are valued highly. However, I’m getting a different sense. Are media impressions still an important outcome for the content you are creating?

Lohrius (Olson): It starts with the story first, meaning the headline. No matter the content type, you want headlines to tell the story you want told. Then we use impressions as a broader scope giving us a sense of where the content was. A former boss used to tell us if we ever gave him a report that had impressions in it, we’d be fired. It’s a delicate dance.

Marino (MillerCoors): Impressions are a barometer of interest, though.

Swerdlow (Burson): That’s right. Clients still ask for it. "Impressions" is not a dirty word. It’s obviously not the only measure, but it is still an important factor.

Marino (MIllerCoors): Matt just spoke about his framework being noticed and remembered. Media impressions are a barometer of noticed.

Lohrius (Olson): The reason "impressions" became a dirty word is because the agencies would lean on it too much. They focused so heavily on it, they forgot the message.

Henson (Henson): I’ll focus on cause efforts for a minute. A PR team’s efforts to generate impressions for a cause-related program help raise money and awareness for those causes. Impressions in that case are very helpful.

Let’s look at sales now. It’s hard to track how PR can move sales on a day-to-day basis. However, I have certainly been involved in programs where a client has come back to me and noted that a particular hit with a certain outlet a year ago certainly seemed to help when sales of that particular product went up year on year.

Relationships are the currency of PR, whether with media or consumers. In terms of media, you have to be selective in the stories you tell and make sure you don’t blast the same editor with the same message all the time. If you respect that relationship, you’ll find editors will be very receptive and thoughtful in sharing the story. And remember: Editors and PR pros need each other. In fact, we’re probably getting more respect now because we’re providing good, unique content for their evolving newsrooms.

Hutchison (Tribune): When I get reports back from our agencies, I ask that any references to impressions get stripped out. It’s not a measure I’ll want to take to my CFO or CEO. And I’m in the news industry. A good effective campaign, no matter how it originates, should serve and touch every single audience your brand represents, whether it’s the street, employees, current or potential consumers, and so on.

This might be a bit off topic, but I will say this about content and investors: What publically traded companies do in terms of social campaigns and content definitely excites investors.

Bick (Oscar Mayer): Impressions aren’t everything, but every great content idea that sells product for you or moves people to be more positively disposed to your brand typically gets a lot of impressions. It’s not your stated goal, but when I see impressions going up on a certain campaign I’ve worked on, I know, in theory, I’m doing my job. I know it has a shot of being noticed by the people I want to notice it. I know it is worthy of being talked about. If you look at impressions that way, you’ll never say they don’t mean anything.

Navigating obstacles

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Budgets aside, what are the biggest obstacles to doing content well within companies?

Marino (MillerCoors): It starts with a good brief and making sure all your people understand the brand voice and character so you can do something relevant and authentic. Brands too often fail to establish that trustworthy contract with the consumer base they either already have or hope to draw.

Montei (Wrigley): Bureaucracy is a major obstacle. To create great content, you need an environment that engenders creative freedom. That is especially true in an age where things go much faster. It used to be you would take months to develop, filter, test, and retest content. Those days are gone. The way you set up an infrastructure within your company both procedurally and culturally will play a key part in whether or not you can move quickly enough to be there at the right time with the right content.

Meffley (Northwestern): Matt is talking about an environment that fosters being nimble. But the ability to be nimble effectively is also a challenge for many. In athletics you have to build on things that are happening in the moment, perhaps more so than any other field. You must be able to plan for all foreseeable events and even some that are not foreseeable.

Henson (Henson): From an agency perspective, the lack of trust can be a major obstacle for content creation. Clients need to trust their agency partners know them so well they can create that great content. Of course, the firms need to earn that trust. And in an age where you have to be nimble and in the moment, agencies will have to do things immediately. That trust is essential to enabling that.

Swerdlow (Burson): A lack of bravery and risk-taking is certainly an obstacle, but so is the still-too-common propensity to stick with an idea that isn’t working. With all the new platforms coming out, if something isn’t working, dump it and move on. Unfortunately, many still don’t do that. If you take risks, calculated ones, sometimes you’ll get a big reward and other times you’ll get in trouble, but you have to reinvent the way you go to market with your content. Failure to do so is a disservice to the brand you work with.

Bick (Oscar Mayer): In the past, marketers could survive for a while by doing paid media and a TV campaign. You got a ton of impressions and you bludgeoned people to death with "Squeeze the Charmin." That doesn’t work now, but a lot of companies still have that mindset. In many ways, it goes back to how marketers are being educated. They are still being taught an old model focused on an old selling proposition in which, maybe, you barely wrap in an emotional message and call it a day.

There are two types of brand people – those who market on the offense and those who do so defensively. With the latter, it’s about not taking risks, peeling it back, bringing things back to product, and just taking a pedestrian approach. You can’t do that. Too many marketing models today are built on a very outdated way of thinking. They are based on a direct sales approach from the 1900s.

We’ve learned so much in the last 20 years from neuroscience. Take Antonio Damasio’s book Descartes’ Error. One of the world’s leading neurologists, he demonstrates how emotions are essential to rational thinking. You have to engage people on an emotional level. Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." Damasio basically said, "I feel, therefore I am." Science is proving the latter correct – and marketers and content producers must heed that.

Swerdlow (Burson): This is so true. My son, a psychology major who is interning with us, emphasizes this all the time. The way he talks about emotions brings a new dimension. People can’t make decisions without emotions. That’s a huge factor in marketing and we need to study these sciences even more.

Montei (Wrigley): This only underscores our "noticed and remembered" content philosophy. Getting noticed requires some kind of emotion. All our brands have different voices and we entertain in different ways, but it also leads to some kind of emotion. For us, it’s often laughter. In truth, we are now trying to avoid blatant persuasion because we find it doesn’t lead to your brand being noticed or remembered.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): For the longest time, many felt emotions should be taken out of major decisions, but you are seemingly turning that around.

Marino (MIllerCoors): It’s no longer either-or. There can be a role for persuasion. There’s certainly a role for emotion. But bringing it back to reinventing the marketing practice, marketing arms and agencies need to be given the freedom to take risks and explore. It’s really all about being comfortable with failure. You will fail sometimes, but the freedom to do so will make the successes so much greater.

Bick (Oscar Mayer): Why are so many big brands in this country suffering? Because there are alternative choices and people on the fringes saying, "I can do better. I’m going to take a risk. I’m going to do something that actually has meaning." Average today will kill you. You just don’t know you’re dying.

Video perspective

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): An increasingly prevalent part of many brands’ content offerings, what are the keys to creating effective videos?

Bick (Oscar Mayer): Video has always been one of the most powerful ways to communicate – whether a 30-second ad or the other ways it’s used today. My principles haven’t changed. Video has to engage. It has to be treated as a high-leverage asset. But whatever you come up with, you have to sweat the details. Great ideas. Great scripts. It pays to have a good director. A-level acting talent, too.

I understand that equates to spending money. Budgetary concerns are very real for many brands. But there are certain pieces of video content that simply should not be created on a dime. They won’t work. Of course, some ideas lend themselves to being shot on a hand-held and produced inexpensively. That kind of video has to match the idea in order to work.

Lohrius (Olson): For agencies creating videos for clients, it starts with intimately understanding the branding. At the same time, you need a client willing to let go of some stuff. It truly is a meeting in the middle that allows agencies to accomplish for a brand what is necessary to be authentic and entertaining.

It is also important to try and deliver beyond the brief. If you’re an agency worth anything, you’ll have the brand messaging down. Then it becomes about building video content that speaks to you as a person. As you shoot the video, ask yourself: Is this funny? Are we laughing while we’re shooting this video? Is this moving you? If the answers are yes, you very likely have a video that will do the same to the audiences you will be targeting.

Henson (Henson): Being your own barometer is often a really effective idea in video content. I certainly get a lot of ideas from my own personal situation as a mom with five kids. I work with a lot of brands that cater to moms, so that perspective is invaluable.

Going back to Tom’s point about identifying situations where quickly produced videos work, I have a great example. Giordano’s Pizza, a local pizzeria with national renown, is a client. A couple years back, Jon Stewart famously mocked Chicago-style pizza, saying New York pizza was far superior. We saw a great opportunity to respond, but knew it had to be immediate or it wouldn’t have the desired impact. We also knew other local pizza chains would likely jump on this, too.

We got a local comedian to do some quick, on-the-street interviews with customers on their thoughts about what Stewart said. The mocked him as he mocked Chicago-style pizza. It was hilarious – and it got 60,000 shares over the weekend. Totally organic. It was great bit of content for the brand, done on the fly.

Lohrius (Olson): I have another example of a quickly produced video that worked very well. For Skittles, we sought to put something together where Marshawn Lynch held a press conference conducted by Skittles before the Super Bowl. It was a sound idea because Lynch’s love of Skittles is well known and it would take place right around Super Bowl Media Day, with a big story going around about whether or not he would actually do any interviews. Lynch is also known as a bit of a loose cannon when it comes to talking to the press.

A quick decision had to be made by client and agency on whether or not we wanted Lynch to do this. And once we decided yes, it had to be done very quickly and homegrown. The content was great because Marshawn was great. He was himself. It was fun. However, serious thought was given to upping the production value of the video – add music, put up slates to better communicate the brand, and so on. Our younger teammates were adamant we should not do that, fearing the content would lose its rawness and feel like a commercial.

The client gave us the freedom to run with the ball. Our young staffers gave us a very valuable perspective. And we were able to jump on an opportunity in the necessary timely manner.

Henson (Henson): That trusting client relationship is the common denominator in effective video content. When the brand knows the firm gets it, the agency can be trusted to produce content because the brand knows it would never propose something that will put it in a bad light.

Montei (Wrigley): I look for the simple story, which every example given thus far illustrates. In fact, simplicity is probably becoming more important. While you have so many more options with video content today, attention spans are shorter. Complex ideas get lost. Brands have to connect the dots for consumers – and quickly. Through entertainment, we’re actually connecting those dots in ways consumers often don’t think about themselves, which is what make a video entertaining. A good idea should not take long to explain. This is all becoming increasingly important for great video content.

Meffley (Northwestern): Distribution has to be a key consideration, too. Certain videos work great on YouTube, but when you upload them to Facebook or put clips on Twitter, they don’t quite work the same. For certain platforms, you almost have to re-edit video so the action starts immediately. It’s all about keeping eyeballs. If people don’t watch it the whole way through, what’s the point?

Hutchison (Tribune): In the media realm, the episodic nature of how more and more videos are getting created is notable. It’s what Huffington Post does with videos that go viral. All the major media players are stepping up their video offering. When Twitter first came along, it excited so many entities because it gave them a voice in the social sphere. Videos are generating similar excitement now.

Shining examples

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Please highlight one piece of content you worked on that was particularly effective and explain why it worked.

Marino (MIllerCoors): About two years ago we created MCTV, a channel designed for employees and distributor partners. We took text-laden emails and turned them into 90- to 120-second videos with a lot of graphics and direct interviews, 90% of them done over FaceTime. It provides a very rich conversation that educates and informs the audience about various goings-on in our company. It’s been a great content tool. It’s not really designed for external audiences at the moment. However, it’s important to note that great content needn’t always be consumer facing.

We’ve also recently hired someone from the Chicago Sun-Times to take a deep look at our blog, Behind the Beer. We are looking to really use reporters’ skills and sensibilities to educate and inform people who want to learn more about the company. We’re doing a Meet the Brewmaster series where we try to provide background on the great passion and artisanal qualities of our own brewmasters. It is a direct reflection of how beer-forward consumers want to learn about the brands they consume.

Broadly speaking, we intend to do more faces, places, and story type content that provides depth and context to our company message. We will also combine some historical assets we have with current storytelling mechanisms to bring people in behind our company, learn more about our values, and hopefully humanize these big brands of ours.

Meffley (Northwestern): A unique challenge we face is we are a Big Ten school, but don’t have the national profile of some of our conference’s bigger universities. So when ESPN’s College GameDay was set to broadcast live from our campus before a game against Ohio State, we wanted make sure to showcase Northwestern and our fan base. And remember: a key to that show is making sure you have as many fans present around the set as possible.

So, we created a video born from an idea given to us by an intern in our football office. It was Paul Revere riding around campus saying, "GameDay is coming. GameDay is coming." And it was yours truly dressed in the costume riding around school on a Segway – at night, of course. GameDay is also all about the signs students make, so we interspersed some video with our coaching staff making them, showing how the entire school body was getting excited.

We debuted the video on the local ABC affiliate because ABC and ESPN are part of the same company. We figured it would give the video some reach outside the school. And it did. Views piled up to the point where I was walking my dog one day and someone yelled at me out of their car, "GameDay is coming." And it wasn’t my mom.

When the day came, people were forming a very long line at 3am to be part of the broadcast. The objective was met, but that piece of content had a broader impact of really showcasing our school, the football program, and our campus.

Henson (Henson): Crystal Light tasked us with developing content to resonate with women during awards season. We devised a very integrated idea that started with a partnership with Variety, a very credible, third-party organization that was obviously well positioned in the entertainment space. They had the connections with celebrities and we were able to provide tweetable and postable content. It was a year-long relationship.

We gained access to parties with major brands such as Mercedes-Benz and so many famous female celebrities. The attention gained by Crystal Light was invaluable just from all the pictures of stars posing in front of its signage and branding. And this all came from a very strategic, content-development partnership with the perfect media outlet.

From all that, we gained enough credibility for the brand to where we could go to other celebrities, such as Kristin Chenoweth, who really likes the product and use that relationship to create new content. The access we gained from the Variety partnership allowed us to be nimble for the brand.

Hutchison (Tribune): The Orlando Sentinel, one of our properties, created an interactive campaign on its site where you could determine where bears were. I honestly didn’t know there were bears in central Florida, but they indeed were showing up in people’s neighborhoods. It was fascinating. Within six months, we had so many local citizens consumed by the idea of looking out for bears. Unexpected bit of content, but it really gained traction.

I can also go back to 2008, when I was at Dell. We were working on programs in support of the new Inspiron family of laptops as part of the broader You Can Tell It’s a Dell campaign. We borrowed a concept from Cash Cab and got people to get into London taxis decked out in Dell branding. We opened the cab doors and invited people in to check out the new computers. And inside the cab was a popular reality-show star who would show everyone the laptop’s features. This was all captured on video, of course. Great content fodder on Facebook and Twitter.

Montei (Wrigley): A fake press conference we did with Seattle Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch ahead of the Super Bowl, where he was interviewed by Skittles, was a huge hit for us. We earned more than 2 billion impressions over its lifetime. Lynch is not known for being the easiest media interview, so this really resonated. And there were two elements that really made it successful.

The right culture that fosters quick movement and risk-taking enabled this. It was the first year the brand really invested in the Super Bowl, so we were kind of the darling. Of course, we didn’t know Seattle would make the Super Bowl until two Sundays before the big game. Obviously, any plans around Lynch could not be finalized until we knew the Seahawks would be in it. But once we knew, we could act quickly.

Then there is the quality of the content. It was relevant. The timing was perfect. It was the day before Super Bowl Media Day. There was a lot of buzz around whether or not Marshawn would even talk to the media. That made his famous quote, "I’m here so I don’t get fined" even better. In fact, on actual Media Day, that’s basically all he said.

The day after, reporters were so annoyed at Lynch that one of them wanted everyone to boycott Skittles. We got even more attention. The video was also very authentic because Marshawn genuinely loves the product. And, as noted earlier, it got noticed and is still remembered.

Swerdlow (Burson): This is for our client [TGI] Fridays. Most everyone recalls the catcalling video of the woman who walked down New York City streets getting catcalled. We had just launched for the second time our Endless Appetizers. We decided to do an AppCalling video with some of our new appetizers walking down the road with men "app-calling" them.

We were ready for backlash stemming from people thinking we should not be making light of this. We made sure to release this on earned channels so we clarify our message that we categorically oppose the objectifying of women, so put it on objects such as our appetizers. We were able to set the stage.

Women’s groups immediately came out, as expected. But Friday’s is working hard to bring fun back to dining and it was reassuring to see people coming to our defense. We received a lot of feedback along the lines of, "You guys are funny. I haven’t visited a Friday’s in a long time, but I will now." Just what the client wanted to see. It was timely, relevant, and it got people to talk about the product without us blatantly doing so.

Bick (Oscar Mayer): Wake Up and Smell the Bacon remains one of my favorite ideas. There is a definite craze for everything bacon and we tapped into it. But because of that craze, we were really challenged to cut through all the clutter, including some pretty great content others produced.

So we thought of an idea based on technology. It would combine the smell of bacon, which most people love, and the cellphone, which is everyone’s favorite piece of technology. And then we borrowed a bit from an industry that does marketing for scents – perfume and cologne makers. So we shot an elaborate 60-second video. It was a very well-produced, bit-over-the-top, dramatic video of a person falling in love with the scent of bacon.

Of course, we had to develop the app that would create the bacon scent. Enter a Japanese vendor to do that. It was crazy how much back and forth there was to get to the perfect scent. And those things do cost money. And we only did 5,000 devices. We knew we couldn’t do more than that, but the fact we created such a device at all was the key.

This was truly an intersection of creativity, technology, clever marketing, and consumer understanding. It really worked well.

Lohrius (Olson): In the FRIQ video we did earlier this year for Oscar Mayer P3’s Original Protein, we pranked a bunch of workout fiends thinking they were trying a new workout craze. They wrapped themselves in bubble wrap, rolled around the floor and everything. The point was seeing how far people would go to keep up with the latest fitness and protein trends. It was fun, original, and well received.

I’ll go back to 2009 and Miller High Life. At the time, it had a very successful Common Sense campaign. However, they felt it didn’t make common sense to spend millions on a Super Bowl ad. So, to stay in the conversation, they created one-second ads. We managed to get a spot buy in Wisconsin during the Super Bowl broadcast so we could claim it was a Super Bowl ad. Talk about a piece of content that makes sense for the brand at the right time. It also shows you can get an idea across very quickly.

Looking ahead

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): What advice would you give marketers as they survey the evolving content landscape in the next six months to a year?

Lohrius (Olson): With all the discussion on content, the story has to be – and stay – in the center of everything. Length, platforms, and the like are all key considerations, but none of it matters without a real story behind it, preferably one you can get in one sentence.

Bick (Oscar Mayer): Don’t fall in love with a platform. Think of your content as being more liquid. Platforms will come and go.

Swerdlow (Burson): Personalization. Mobile apps are really getting pushed now, of course, but new technologies continue to emerge where brands can personalize to smaller groups and even down to you personally. I’d also mention gamification.

Hutchison (Tribune): The upcoming election will provide all brands a unique opportunity to engage. It’s also an opportunity to turn people off on your brand value or sentiment if you’re not savvy. With the political environment we’re now in, attention is high on brands, too.

Henson (Henson): Never lose sight of being authentic to the brand in all content. Don’t try to retrofit a trend into every brand if it doesn’t make sense.

Meffley (Northwestern): This isn’t necessarily new, but I do think the crowdsourcing of content will rise in prominence. You can’t be much more authentic than if your fans or consumers create the content for you.

Marino (MillerCoors): A platform I will be watching with interest in the next six months is Vessel, created by Jason Kilar, who came from Hulu. It is a subscription online video platform. It pays video content owners more than they can get on YouTube for exclusivity for a certain amount of time. It will be interesting to see if it breaks through and disrupts the power of YouTube.

Henson (Henson): I’ve been watching Glassview Media. It’s very hyperlocal, zip-code-specific content. Hyper-local is very big with clients right now. People are taking videos and embedding them on Glassview. It can be very tailored to specific clients and, as such, could be a potentially powerful PR platform.

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