The Economist: ‘Brands do not need to become publishers’

Content Marketing Association Summit 2013: Brands do not need to become publishers, a common piece of advice given to marketers, but instead they need to get better at creating strategic content plans, according to Nick Blunden, The Economist’s senior vice president and global head of digital and content strategy.

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The Economist magazine claims brands need to get better at creating strategic content plans.

Speaking at the Content Marketing Association’s Summit in London today (27 November), Blunden said: “It’s about marketers getting better at creating content with a consistent narrative in the context that creates a conversation around brand stories. They don’t need to be a publisher, they just need to understand how content does that strategic.”  

He pointed to best practice examples such as Red Bull’s Stratos edge of space jump and Nike’s most recent “Just Do It” 90-second ad, but he said not every brand needs a LeBron James or a spacesuit.

He added: “Almost every brand has some sort of story at its heart. All you need to do is unlock the story at the heart of your brand.”  

Blunden admitted outside of “breakthrough ideas” such as Volkswagen’s famous Darth Vader Superbowl commercial, it is harder to engage audiences with advertising alone – something he dubbed the “advertising apocalypse”.  “The whole concept of the reach and frequency workhorses of advertising we’ve known for so long is fundamentally broken. But just replacing advertising with content is no panacea for the attention deficit issue,” he added.

Instead of becoming publishers, brands must become “great storytellers”. Blunden pointed towards JK Rowling as an example of a “great storyteller” who also knew how to connect with a specific audience, as despite selling more than 450 million copies of her books, her stories were polarising to some audiences.  

He said: “Great storytellers understand that great stories polarise people and we have to learn that lesson that when it comes to content, you create a great sense of community when you polarise people. That community transcended anything JK Rowling could have created.”  

Later on in his session, Blunden discussed the idea of native advertising.  

He said: “What fascinates me about native advertising is it can be good or bad depending on how you do it. I say as long as you’re totally transparent it’s hard to argue that it’s an interesting idea to make advertising sit in the flow of the exprerience – it makes advertising much more interesting.   

“Where there’s a problem is when you’re trying to hide that commercial content under the guise of editorial.”

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