14 Nov 2008

Content is king. The age of persuasion is dead

One message to all audiences does not work. That’s no big news, of course, but many companies still keep delivering the same story to all their audiences, over and over again, in the name of consistency – and probably because it’s easier. But it’s not very smart, is it? When you think about it, it’s quite obvious: you can’t tell everyone exactly the same story because people have different reasons for buying something or buying into something.

So what about consistency if you start telling different stories? The answer really is that you tell different chapters of your story to different audiences using different channels. The message is the same but the story has to be told differently. This, by the way, is exactly what Obama did. He managed to gather groups of people around a set of ideas by telling them the part of the story that mattered to them.

So it’s time for custom publishers like us to do something about this, if we want to ensure that our customers actually reach their audiences in the right way, and if we want to make sure that the money spent on communications becomes an investment rather than a cost.

We are facing a recession and with that marketing budgets will shrink, which means that both print ads and TV commercials will go. The reason is that they are expensive and ineffective. General Motors is spending more money than any other company on mass-market TV commercials, but it keeps losing market share – the advertising is taking it nowhere.

So advertising as we know it is out the door, at least according to Kirk Cheyfitz of Story Worldwide. His company was originally a custom-publishing company quite much like Citat Journalistgruppen, and in many ways we do exactly the same thing today: we publish content on behalf on brands. But the big difference is how we think about what we do. We would never say that we’re in advertising, but that is exactly how Kirk sees Story Worldwide. He describes his company as a content-marketing agency in post-advertising. “We have gone from publisher to ad agency, but we differ from other agencies in the way we use the story.”

Well, that sounds cool and all, but what is he really saying?

He says it’s the content that counts. The story is the message. Persuasion in the traditional advertising way is dead. And custom-publishing companies should become the new marketers, the new ad agencies. Why? Because we know how to tell a story in a genuine and credible way.


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