Strong content needs a flexible best friend

“Why are you so crazy about this Twittering thing? I don’t get it,” claims Simon Clift, global chief marketer for Unilever, in the extended online version of his regular column (page 11) on Marketingweek.co.uk. While I suspect he knows more than he is letting on, he poses this question to set up a debate about the value of the microblogging service to marketers.

From the media coverage it receives, you might be forgiven for thinking that Twitter was about to usurp all other media channels. Normal methods of communication are in danger of falling away and human beings will only be able to use messages of 140 characters.

Luckily for Clift, he is able to debate his concerns about Twitter with Babs Rangaiah, his vice-president of communications planning, and Laura Klauberg, his VP of global media. You can respond to the views of the Unilever executives on our website.

Rangaiah argues that Twitter’s usefulness comes from the ability to see news occurring in real time and run new ideas past consumers. Twitter’s flexibility is undoubtedly its strength, says Rangaiah. You don’t need to plough through tweets like emails. You can simply access the service from your phone when you have a spare minute or two, fitting nicely into a time-pressured lifestyle.

But keeping things short and sweet only works for brands if something more rigorous lies behind the speedy updates. Content is more important than ever these days and companies need to associate themselves with significant ideas and messages that support their brands.

Our cover story on page 14 looks at how brands are lining up to get involved in documentaries. From acting as distributors and providing marketing support to actually creating the films, we set out a variety of business models for how companies can get involved with factual films.

This isn’t just standard branded content. There are no cans of soft drink sitting in shot or clumsy mentions of products; this is about a strategic programme to associate brands with certain ideas, causes or information. It is a more imaginative, subtle style of marketing.

With the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales claiming this week that the “economy is on the way to recovery”, the key to success for brands in a post-recession era may be finding the right balance between being nimble and leveraging in-depth content. Definitely two areas to watch.

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