Move From Branded Content To A Content Brand

Our most recent Future of Marketing interview explained Nick Kellet’s suggestion that we focus more on our Customer’s Brand than on our own.

Previous interviews covered Marketing Creativity, Big Data, Big TestingCustomer ExperienceThought Leadership, creating a Content Culture, the roles of Content and Technology, the Future of Search, the Science of Marketing, the rise of Content Brands and we asked whether the customer or the Content is King.

Today’s interview is with Andrew Davis (@tpldrew), the Author of “Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships”. You can also find more about Drew at and on Google+.

What do you see happening in Content Marketing today? How is it changing?

As I’ve watched digital content evolve over the last decade three monumental shifts have occurred that will shape the way we create, distribute, and promote content in the future.

Quality over quantity

First, the most successful content creators are focusing on delivering quality content over a high quantity of content. We all live in a world where we’re overwhelmed by the amount of information available to consume. Smart content marketers are cutting through the clutter by creating high-quality, “smart” content that builds a valuable repeat audience (think like Gary Vaynerchuk and his Wine Library TV.) Cut through the clutter and create content people actually want to build a relationship with.

The power of subscribe

Second, we all have the ability to garner, maintain and grow an audience for the content we create. In the past, magazine publishers, television networks, newspapers and radio stations owned “subscribers.” Today, your fans on Facebook, your followers on Twitter and your subscribers on YouTube or iTunes are a valuable audience. Hell, even your e-mail database is a content subscription opportunity. Smart content creators will start to focus on building highly-valuable subscription-based audiences, instead of just looking for passing readers, listeners or watchers.

Content as an asset instead of an expense

Finally, brands are creating content designed to actually drive revenue, instead of thinking of content as a marketing expense itself. In fact, I heard earlier this year that Red Bull will generate more income from its entertainment properties this year than from selling energy drinks! Other brands are creating content so valuable that consumers are purchasing their content as books on Amazon. The more valuable your content is, the more likely you can transition from seeing your content as a marketing expense to an actual intellectual asset.

What about the longer-term? Do you have a provocative prediction on the future of marketing?

Content Brands instead of Branded Content

I believe that there’s a big difference between treating your content as a marketing asset and treating it like a product. In the future more and more marketers will focus on creating content as brands themselves. Brands that increase demand for the products they sell. Here’s a quick anecdote:

Selling powdered milk…

Defiance, a powdered milk company, was having a really hard time penetrating a crowded market against 300 other brands. They’d tried advertising, but it didn’t seem to sell more dried milk.

The advertisements did spark thousands of consumer inquiries on how to take care of a newborn baby. Instead of ignoring those inquiries, the CEO Joe Nathan hired Nurse Kennedy to answer every consumer inquiry on behalf of the company.

Word got out that Defiance would answer any infant health-related question, and before they knew it, Nurse Kennedy’s staff of 11 nurses answered hundreds of questions a day. They also started selling more and more powdered milk.

That’s when Defiance got smart. They published a book (treating their content like a product) for new mothers that answered every single question they’d been asked. (Only one question was related to powdered milk, by the way.) They scaled their internal knowledge and the people who powered their brand by turning it into a book – a content brand. Powdered milk sales skyrocketed and they distributed millions of copies of their baby book.

That company went on to become Glaxo and that book was first published in 1908. That’s right, Glaxo Smith Kline, the third largest pharmaceutical company in the world (worth more than $73 billion today), owes its century-long success to Nurse Kennedy and the Baby Book.

Treat your content like a product and you’ll cut through information overload, build a valuable audience and create quality content that drives demand for whatever you sell.

Tell us about yourself

As a child actor I wanted to be the next Kirk Cameron. It turns out, I’m not a great actor. Instead, I focused on working behind the scenes, producing, writing and managing everything from local television programming to the Today Show. In the late 1990’s I landed my dream job at the Jim Henson Company in New York working on movies such as Muppets From Space and iconic television programming like Sesame Street.

It’s at the Jim Henson company where I realized how powerful content inspired people to buy stuff. The merchandising and licensing teams at The Jim Henson Company drove millions and millions of dollars in revenue by leveraging the success of the content, characters, and brands they’d created for products ranging from books to lunch boxes (and everything in between.)

In 2001, I co-founded Tippingpoint Labs with Jim Cosco (a television producer himself,) and we built a content marketing firm focused on creating valuable content that drives demand for whatever it is you sell. Last year, I sold Tippingpoint Labs, wrote a book called Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships, and bought a bigger boat.

Today, I travel the world preaching the power of content marketing, teaching marketers to focus on quality over quantity, and helping others embrace the lessons I’ve learned over the last twenty years.


Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

9 thoughts on “Move From Branded Content To A Content Brand

  1. Michael,
    Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to air my perspective and share it with your audience (a Brandscape by the way.) 🙂

    I’m actually heading to Austria tonight to present at a global conference of Ad Agency executives where I’m planning to present this idea of building content brands and owning an audience as the future of the agency business.

    Thanks for helping me shape my perspective.
    _ Drew

    1. Thanks Drew, So honored to have your thoughts and perspectives shared here. You’re one of the best authors and presenters out there and I’m sure you’ll knock ’em dead in Austria. Safe travels.

  2. I like the attitude adjustment to “product brand” rather than “branded content”. Treat it as an asset.
    We work in the industrial market and I think this metaphor can help, rust-belted, industrial marketers to understand the value of generating great content as digital marketing continues to invade their shores. As “asset” makes more sense to them than “content. Thanks Michael.

  3. Thanks Michael – you got me thinking on this Friday morning…thanks a lot 🙂 Thinking about the what content we create, when we publish it, where we publish it, to whom the content is targeted, why we created it in the first place, and how it will be measured, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are more than enough, but is it of the best quality? Is it simple to consume? Does it cater to the audience’s consumption preferences? I’ve got some content soul-searching to do this weekend, and perhaps a blog post to remind me of what we need to do…thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks Mark, you just made my day! Inspiration is more than I could ever ask to help do for someone. I think you are right, there is definitely enough content, we need quality content to reach our audience and also to distinguish us from the rest of the noise. But we also need to produce enoug to not be overwhelmed by the noise that’s out there. Tough challenge!

  4. Interesting article, Brennan.

    I do think that content brands will shape the future of marketing and lead generation. If we think about it, a branded content seems to have an artificial or ‘pushy’ feel into them. It’s like creating a content and peppering it with our brand.

    On the other hand, a content brand goes the other way around. We create a brand through the content we share. The latter seems more natural (not to mention more effective in getting the attention of people).

    1. Thanks Belinda, I think you are right. When we focus on creating content our customers want, they benefits come naturally, the brand reaches new levels of awareness in a positive and authentic way and everyone wins.

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