Vice. Vanity Fair. UBS.
This unlikely trio may seem like the setup to a very geeky “walk into a bar” joke. But over the past three years, financial services giant UBS has been partnering with Vanity Fair and Vice on one of the most ambitious and intriguing partnerships in finance content: Unlimited, an editorial site designed to reach wealthy women and millennials.
The ambitious site was born out of UBS’s realization that there was a huge, valuable audience that would never read the thought leadership from analysts that it published on its owned site. If UBS wanted to reach this group, it would need a property that spoke to them in a different way—even if that meant often not even mentioning finance at all.
Two years into the program, however, UBS had a realization. They were creating great content, but their budget was lopsided. They weren’t spending enough money marketing that content and ensuring that it reached their target audience.
“Everybody believes the content they produce is going to change the world of everyone,” said Theirry Campet, global head of marketing communications at UBS, during the Mobile Marketing Summit. “The truth is, we believed it as well, but if you don’t push your content in the good old fashioned way—and that’s not TV anymore but paid social media marketing—if you don’t push it they won’t see it. That was a huge learning for us—we really thought the content would sell on its own and it didn’t.”
More and more, this is a key lesson that brands are learning as they progress through their content marketing journey. That shift in emphasis to paid distribution may be the biggest trend in content marketing right now—and it’s certainly the most important.
If you build it… will they come?
Content marketing has been one of the hottest trends this decade, one that many marketers have salivated over. Just create great content, they heard, and audiences will flock to you and love you.
As a result, content marketing programs are often silo’d within an organization, cut off from paid marketing programs and advertising budgets. In many instances, these programs are even disconnected from organic social distribution and email marketing efforts. The content is supposed to just work.
But increasingly, marketers are realizing that “content marketing” isn’t some drastic new paradigm. The old rules of marketing and advertising still apply: You need to create a powerful message based on audience insights and then put that message in front of people—usually through paid channels.
You can’t succeed at content marketing without marketing your content.
What content marketing represents, rather, is a shift in the form that message takes, and how you put it in front of people—brought on by forces of the digital age. If you don’t want to be ignored, you need to replace hard-sell advertising messages with valuable and entertaining articles, videos, and infographics. And if you want to reach people, you need to take your TV dollars and spend them on digital—particularly paid social.
UBS adjusted smartly, taking 10 percent of their content creation budget and applying it to paid social distribution. At Contently, we see many of our clients making a similar shift. We’ve even made it ourselves.
Marketers should take note. The biggest trend in marketing isn’t VR or AR or livestreaming your cat wearing an Oculus headset. Rather, it’s the growing realization that content doesn’t exist in a vacuum; instead, it’s the essential element of marketing, the fuel that your marketing and advertising engine can’t operate without.
You can’t succeed at content marketing without marketing your content. But if you get it right, you can leave your competitors in the dust.