What One Thing Do The Best Brand Publishers Have In Common?

It’s no secret that many brands struggle to figure out this whole publishing strategy thing. Their ad agencies are racking up massive bills on market research and complex content strategies, and lots of marketing executives are screaming things like “We need to be more like Oreo!” without knowing what they’re actually trying to achieve.

But when you look at brand publishing’s true success stories, you spot a pattern: brands seriously owning a single subject.

Let’s start with the most famous example: Red Bull. Red Bull has become a “publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage” because they followed a simple three-step process:

1. Choose a topic that your core consumer is passionate about (extreme sports).

2. Commit to that single topic.

3. Own that topic better than anyone else (by doing things like livestreaming a daredevil jump from space).

Just about every other brand publisher to hit it out of the park has taken the same approach. With OkTrends, OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder dished out dating insights in a hilarious and analytic way that no one could match. American Express’s Open Forum has owned the conversation around the challenges facing small businesses amidst a terrifying economic climate. And GE has seduced science geeks across platforms, with everything from a celebration of Pi Day on Buzzfeed, to its witty ‘Hey Girl/Thomas Edison’ Pinterest page, to its #Iwanttoinvent Twitter campaign, which brought consumers’ ideas like this scuba-diving horse to life.

All too often, brands try to cover five different topics at once — probably because their market research tells them that their core consumers are into five different things. But if brands are going to compete with more traditional media outlets for readers’ attention — and the examples above show that they can — they need to choose a single subject and create top-notch content around it.

And this shouldn’t be so hard. Brands have the money. The market, flooded with elite freelance journalists and filmmakers, has the talent. What this adds up to is opportunity.

Image by Rui Ferreira /

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