Content and Device Separate

The papers have come through and the divorce is final.

I know. This is a bit of a shock, but really, I’m sure we’ll all agree that the two parties will be much happier separate from each other than they were together. This is one of those cases where, separately, each one will be able to grow in new directions and achieve new things. Things that, I have to say, they never were able to do together.

I’m talking, of course, about content and devices. I know. You thought this was going to be another article about Ashton and Demi. I’ll save that for Twitter.

No, the big split that has happened that we in the world of online advertising and marketing need to be concerned with is that content – sound, movies, documents, and so on – is no longer necessarily tied directly to the devices that we use to view and listen.

The last few months of this year have seen a real growth in technology and services that are fueling this split. Apple introduced iTunes Match, a pay-for service that allows you to have all your music and movies up in the cloud, and accessible on your laptop, connected iPod, or television. Google introduced Google Music, which offers much of the same functionality (but also tied to the Google+ social network).

Earlier this year, Amazon shifted the concept of the Kindle toward being more of a service: buy a book and you can read it on your Kindle device or any other thing (such as a smartphone) that has the Kindle software installed. I can start reading a book on my Kindle, place a bookmark, pick up my HTC Sensation 4G (a very cool phone, btw), launch the Kindle app, and find myself in the exact same spot that I left off.

This is, of course, the next evolution in cloud computing, which, more than a simple technology, is a redefinition of what it means to be “online.” Long ago (in the 1990’s), going online meant finding a computer that was able to dial into the Internet and spending time sitting there. Today, it’s more like we live inside a bubble that allows us to connect to content and functionality anywhere, anytime.

Marketing With Content

The trend in technology of separating content from devices is running smack into another major trend in marketing: the consistent communication cycle. Consider the work of past brand marketers. They would have the chance to encounter their consumer only a few times a week, at most, since the nature of the media they had to work with moved so slowly. People would only read a few magazines a week and would only do so in the evenings. Or they would just listen to the radio as they drove to and from work.

Today, consumers are connected constantly and brands have the opportunity to speak far more frequently. Which means that we need to find more things to say. The closest analogy we have to what is happening inside advertising right now is the massive disruption that occurred to the news industry when CNN burst on the scene. When news went from being something we got in 30-minute doses, once a day at 11 at night to a constant stream of information that never quit, it changed not only the news industry, but also politics, business, and more.

Advertisers now find themselves in much the same situation. A consumer no longer simply encounters your ad as they flip through a magazine. Rather, they have connected to you on a social network and now…expect you to give them stuff. As a result, a great many marketers have invested in developing content that is relevant to the brand but also seen as valuable to the consumer.

But, as we do this, we need to be aware that we are stepping from one spinning disk to another. Content consumption patterns are going through a dramatic shift from download-and-enjoy to open-up-access.

This actually creates a great set of opportunities for marketers, if we operate within the media channels correctly. In particular, we need to:

Build a Library

Brands that are going to invest in content should put a significant amount of their overall budget (that is, more than 60 percent) toward creating a high-quality, long piece of content. This could be a film that describes your product. Or a set of recipes that complement your product. Or a series of interviews with thought leaders in the field where your product is relevant. Build a very solid library of content, way more than you think you might possibly need.

Break It Up

Once you have created your content library, break it up into a bunch of small pieces and group those pieces in new ways. Find all of the recipes that use a particular ingredient. Identify all of the times in all of the interviews where a certain topic is mentioned. Catalog all of these pieces so that you can quickly find and group them.

Spread the Content

Once you have all of these content elements, begin to place them in strategic spots. Bundle all of those recipes with the particular ingredient into a downloadable PDF and tweet links to it. Place all of those quotes about the particular topic, create a PowerPoint, and place it on SlideShare. You can have a single place where the full-length content lives, of course. But you can also split that content into new pieces that can be mixed up and redistributed in new ways.

The result of all this is that your consumer will go from being someone who has to be driven to content to someone who is consistently surrounded by your brand. When you achieve this, you are in the exact same place where people want to be.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.