Ahead of his session at IPA Campaign Planning, we asked Emotive Content CEO Simon Joyce to explain the fundamentals of ‘always on’ content strategies and what brands can do to keep up.
TCC: Can you describe/define ‘always on’ to someone who’s never heard of it, or a brand that has never behaved in that way before?
SJ: ‘Always on’ is a tactic within a broader content strategy (aligned to business objectives, audience insights and communications challenges). It is the content that satisfies an ongoing need in the key audience, giving the brand an opportunity to engage frequently with the people that matter most to them.
People live an always on life today and if brands wish to participate in that, they need to be available to their audiences in all the right ways at all the right times.
If done successfully, it is the content the audience comes to expect, and that keeps them coming back for more. For some brands, always on is useful content that educates. For others it reinforces the brand’s higher purpose. For others still, it is where the audience can look to find out about the latest product range, or about the company’s efforts. Regardless of what it is, it is the content that never sleeps, constantly refreshed to give the audience more of what they love, more often.
TCC: How do you shift clients to an ‘always on’ mentality?
SJ: An ‘always on’ content strategy, and content strategy in general, is still unfamiliar territory to many. Below are some of the shifts I believe the marketing industry needs to start making:
- Shift content strategy from the peripherals, to the central marketing team as an integral piece of the ongoing brand story.
- Content strategy should become an important consideration in planning budgeting as audience shift attention in this entertainment age.
- Clients need to build a deep understanding of their audiences so that they can learn to engage them consistently over the long term vs campaign by campaign.
- Ensure always on is not just for the sake of it. Having a social manager that merely posts every time the brand has something to say without thinking about engagement or scale of its audience is probably not making the most of resources.
- Always on means frequent creation of content and engagement with audiences across selected platforms – shifting from sporadic to planned and frequent is essential.
TCC: How does ‘always on’ actually work in practice?
SJ: It is aligned to an overarching strategy. There are resources allocated (people, budget) and the right partners are in place. There is an intimate understanding of audience, and the strategy meets their entertainment/knowledge gap/rational/emotional needs. The plan is ongoing and adjusted according to audience needs and brand objectives, with a consistent brand idea throughout. There may be a framework/template in place.
TCC: Why are ‘always on’ campaigns critical for brands and what is your advice for implementing such a strategy?
SJ: Audiences are always on, and their passions, interests and needs don’t switch off from campaign to campaign- they should be able to find these through their favourite brands in their own time. The strategy needs to align to business and marketing objectives, and having an intimate understanding of audience is essential.
TCC: How do you plan for ‘always on’?
SJ: Plan with a publishing mentality. There is lots to consider, so a plan is essential. Ask yourself:
- What are the headlines – what is the story we are trying to tell over the year?
- How does the bank of content we are leaving in our wake look?
- How do all the pieces in the puzzle fit together to make each other more meaningful?
- What will people believe about the brand and product over time, as they engage with the content?
- What is the belief we are building?
- When creating content, how efficient can we be in production? How can we make one shoot equate to many outputs that can work in the long term?
- How can talent/ambassadors play a role in consistency of content?
TCC: Is ‘always on’ only relevant for the entertainment industry, or is it becoming necessary outside of this too? Where?
SJ: It is essential for customer service, which is driven by people and technology via chatbots and real time messaging services. It is gradually becoming the norm for brands to be available for their customers 24/7. Telcos, banks and insurance providers are all beginning to transform their businesses to cater to this type of service.
TCC: How do you manage ‘always on’ versus campaign spikes – what’s the balance both in ideation, execution and interpreting results?
SJ: Part of the same strategy, these are different tactics executed against it. The brand strategy therefore informs all ideation on both parts, however the exact message and benefits communicated will speak to the roles that each of these tactics play in the strategy. The always on role might be to educate and inspire (for example, provenance, history, the people behind the business) and so this is how ideas would be built. This content could be built upfront and then released over the year or it could be built over the year.
Always on measurement tends to look like:
- Attributing audience views and engagement in socials
- Identifying returning audiences
- Adding specific always on content campaigns to brand tracker surveys
TCC: Can you give some examples of great ‘always on’ work?
SJ: Effective always on is usually built around a single minded passion point that the audience loves, and is:
- Aligned to a greater business and brand strategy
- Inextricably linked to the brand
- Posted frequently and meaningfully
- Aligned to key events in the calendar
- Makes use of ambassadors
- Follows a framework
Underarmour frequently releases videos aligned to its ‘I will what I want’ brand idea, expressing the fierce inner will to succeed. They have a number of ambassadors to accelerate audience engagement and attention and also leverage key dates in the calendar. To date, their YouTube channel has 84 million views and 141,000 people. There are 5 million people following the brand on Facebook.
According to Tubular, the NBA is one of the most watched video publishers on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. They’ve posted 20, 800 videos on YouTube with 3.4 billion views – but the impressive part is how many people have chosen to be ongoing subscribers – 6.9 million in total! Of course it helps that the brand’s core is live games with top talent at its fingertips.
The NBA also used playlists to extend the lifespan of its content by packaging older videos with more current videos. The channel is kept live during the off-season to maintain viewership and audience interest all year round. It created playlists that repurposed season and player highlights.
The area is new for some, and old hat to others, and there is still much to be learned to deliver impactful always on content marketing.