Content Marketing
Why Brands Need To Act Like Publishers

Why Brands Need To Act Like Publishers

March 31, 2014
3 min read

I was recently interviewed by News 360 on Why Brands Need To Act Like Publishers?

This is a huge question on the minds of many marketing leaders and practitioners alike. So here are some excerpts of my views on why brands need to think and act like publishers.

Why Content Marketing?

The reason brands have begun to think and act like is publishers is reflected in the growing cost and increasing opt out rates for many types of marketing. 99.9% of banners are ignored. 95% of emails are never opened and 99.95% never receive a single click. Cold calls go unanswered by more and more of us. And of course most of us fast-forward through TV ads.

Pushing promotional messages at consumers today just doesn’t work. We scroll right past the content we don’t want to see. So the only solution is to become the information consumers want to see. And that is why brands have started producing content people are looking for. Whether it’s news or helpful tips and tricks or even entertaining videos, brands that aren’t creating content their audience wants are just wasting their marketing dollars.

Following The Leaders

The results speak for themselves. American Express’ Open Forum is one great example of a brand acting like a publisher. They created their site “to help small business owners get more business.” They did this by hiring professional writers and experts in small business who wrote about the things that would be helpful to small business owners – to give them the information they needed. As they grew their target audience, they invited readers to open an account.

The site quickly became their largest source of new card members. Not because they beat their readers into submission. But because they added value first. They earned the attention of their future customers. They provided helpful information. And their own business grew as a result. New business has to be earned. Publishing is the cost.

At SAP, we modeled our own site Business Innovation after this. It was launched in 2012 to provide a platform for internal and external thought leadership. It quickly grew to our 3rd largest platform after our corporate website and our customer community network.

And we are taking advantage of all the new channels and content types that our audience is looking for such as videos, vines and more. One example, our 99 Facts On The Future of Business was one of the top business publications on Slideshare last year and is now been seen by more than 230,000 people.

Biggest Mistakes Marketers Make

The biggest mistake brands make when making the shift to publishing is to think in terms of “campaigns.” Being a brand publisher doesn’t mean you create an e-book. And it’s certainly NOT about making “viral videos.” It’s really a cultural shift away from the “campaign brain” and towards continuous content development, curation and distribution of content that results in conversations, community and ultimately conversion.

As marketers we often over-estimate the importance of our company / product / solution in the minds of our buyers. We need to truly think in a customer-centric way.

I have found that there is a direct correlation between our ability to provide value online to our ability to gain an audience’s attention offline. All of those interactions have to be real and authentic. That’s what builds trust.

Is Content Marketing Just A Buzzword?

Some people in marketing and some business leaders think content marketing is just a buzzword. Or a fad or trend that will go away in a few years. I believe it’s become the most important aspect of marketing and the best way for businesses to gain new customers because it is the biggest gap between what our customers want and what brands currently publish.

The business leaders that reach for a higher value and truly seek to help their customers, these are the business cultures that will find success in content marketing and brand publishing. The others will have to fake it before they make it. And frankly, today’s consumers are too smart for brands that are insidious in their brand publishing efforts.

Content Marketing Ground Rules

I believe in a couple of content marketing ground rules:

  1. You want to take the brand out of the story.
  2. Make the reader or your customer the hero of the story.
  3. Storytelling. Create content that is interesting or compelling.

What Is The Future of Content Marketing?

Where is all this going? I think the future will see brands putting customers first in everything they do. The outwardly self-interested companies just won’t survive.

I think brands also will need to collaborate with publishers to reach their audiences and also to learn how to tackle the toughest challenges in publishing.

Finally, I think brands will move beyond publishing and into full blown entertainment. In a way, we’ll go back to the days when P&G sponsored “soap operas.” You’re already seeing this with Netflix and Red Bull and Amazon and I think we’re going to see a lot more of this as brands battle for customer attention with television producers and movie studios and musicians.

6 thoughts on “Why Brands Need To Act Like Publishers

  1. Chris Young

    I agree with you, Michael… Wholeheartedly…

    I am concerned that there is a rush to put content out there for the sake of putting content out. There is a lot of crap content out there. Good content takes time and experience to base it on.

    Ultimately, if a company is really committed to helping their Customers then they need to provide real content with real advice based on real life experience.

    I know of so many blog sites with content written by freelancers who borrowed ideas / content from other freelancers who borrowed ideas / content from other freelancers but do not actually have real life experience to back it up. I think this is the same as lying.

    I am often amazed that some of the biggest names are allowing people fresh out of college to write content that passes them off as experienced when they are not. Big brands with crappy content can cause harm.

    Now I look at the backgrounds of writers to understand their perspective (if they have one).

    There needs to be full disclosure about perspective. When I read blogs written by people sharing their perspective about a particular stock, they often begin or end with a disclosure statement saying something like, “I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.”

    I would like to see bloggers say, “I wrote this content myself and I have 15 years of experience in sales management…”

  2. Michael Brenner

    Thanks Chris, I appreciate the support and totally agree with your thoughts. Content has to be effective, fill a need and be from a trusted author. I’m not concerned as much with the amount of experience people have, just that they are honest about it. Some driven, young writers are very crafty at research and curation in a way that adds more value from some professor-approach to content as well.

    For me the bottom line is: does it add value? Does it come from a place of passion or interest? Is it interesting?

  3. Jim Burns


    The “marketing” direction may be toward entertainment, but there may also be a “selling” direction to consider.

    This may become “content selling” sooner than we think.

    Look at past trends where transactional sales moved online, but even complex sales activity has shifted to content marketing and inside selling teams. As companies become more adept using content to inform decisions, along with online access to customers for unfettered referrals, this may further reduce direct selling roles for even more complex offers.

    Marketers that don’t focus on developing later stage “selling” competencies may deliver great early stage, brand building entertainment, but miss the holy grail.

  4. Michael Brenner

    Great point Jim. Once we tackled the early-stage content problenm, we exposed he middle-stage and conversion content problem. I agree this is all part of the evolution.

  5. Justin Belmont

    Wonderfully said, especially your point about being “customer-centric.” That’s very true – as content marketers, we have to deliver content that our audience needs or wants, or we’ll soon have no audience at all.

  6. Michael Brenner

    Thanks Justin. I think that’s exactly what’s happening to many brands at the macro level. They just don’t know it yet.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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