Think Like a Brand, Act Like A Publisher

Building purpose-led content, and an SEO strategy to match, was the theme of Green Park Content’s latest event, held at London’s Haymarket Hotel and attracting a packed audience of marketing professionals from big name brands including Britvic, Unilever, Just Eat, Boots, Holland Barret and many more. 

Sven Lung, Chairman and CEO of Green Park Content, welcomed the audience with an introductory talk on “Content and Today’s Consumer.”

Kicking-off with the thought that, in order to own an audience, a brand needs to share its purpose, Lung outlined his own vision of content and brand publishing, developed over a distinguished career that has included founding online fashion retailer BrandAlley and then Green Park Content.

He described Green Park Content’s growth into a business that has a presence in 15 markets and employs more than 100 content writers globally, based on being “driven by data to produce meaningful content.”

Describing the impetus behind brand publishing, Lung said: “I was intrigued by what happened with Kraft when it lost 30% of its share value in one day. That was because the auditors, supported by the company’s board, decided that its brands were overvalued by $4.3 billion. Why was so much value smashed in one day? Because there’s a brand illusion effect, people aren’t seeing brands on TV anymore. My kids watch Netflix, and they’re learning from videos on YouTube, and they go on Amazon, while they’re saving to travel the world. It’s difficult to reach them but there are multiple platforms such as Amazon and Netflix craving content so there’s a huge opportunity for marketers.”

Lung then described Green Park Content’s work for Unilever Food Solutions – creating the UFS Academy for chefs, and meeting the “need for purposeful content to engage your audience and build the case for purpose-driven brands.”

He also showcased the activity for Unilever Personal Care in developing the All Things Hair digital hub across nine markets, in six languages, and covering 64 hair brands. “We’ve published thousands of articles, delivered exceptional SEO results, and captured the necessary data to help Unilever become a brand publisher.”

“What’s next?”, asked Lung before handing over to the next speaker. “Connecting the dots between content and commerce, by launching Green Park Commerce, and we have two direct-to-consumer initiatives with Unilever that will work as an ecommerce and content enabler.”

Helene Henderson, the LÄRABAR Brand Manager at General Mills, then spoke about the European launch in January 2019 of the natural fruit and nut bar as an “ambition-led brand”.

She outlined how General Mills is looking to progress from “purpose-driven brands to purpose-led strategies” and how LÄRABAR was launched with this purpose-led angle “to connect authentically with a mindful consumer” despite having a relatively complicated product message and a small, albeit dedicated, launch team.

Henderson talked about first understanding the consumer, and then moving on to think about brand purpose and how to connect authentically with the audience through content-led strategies: “Start with your consumer and values, understand where you need to show up – talk to consumers, they have the solution, then define the topics your brand can, and will, talk about. And be honest about it – we won’t talk about plastic for instance, because we’re still wrapped in plastic – but we’re a vegan brand and gluten free, so we can own that and develop a tone of voice.”

The resulting “Less is Moreish” campaign showcased the LÄRABAR brand values and stood out in a sea of competitors: “It drove awareness, then consideration, loyalty and repeat purchase. It’s a great example of starting with your brand purpose and this leading to purpose-led content strategies that can help your brand really win.”

Kim Morgan, VP Sales at OneSpot, Green Park Content’s strategic global performance partner, then took to the stage to focus on “the impact of individualism” through examples such as L’Oreal Paris.

In terms of meeting customer expectations, she said, “many brands miss the mark.” They’re facing “the risk of content irrelevance” due to high bounce rates, losing subscribers to their newsletters, and then missing out on the resulting data collection, and share of wallet. “What we strive to do is break that cycle and individualise the customer experience across digital channels for anonymous and known audiences.”

Morgan explored OneSpot’s work for L’Oreal Paris in the US, highlighting how “relevance, engagement, and relationships” were the governing principles behind a content programme to ensure “everyone has an individual experience – site, mobile, and email. As a result, people are clicking and buying more, we’re empowering content to deliver your ROI needs.”

She then hosted the first panel session of the event, which tackled the subject of “Creating Purpose-Led Strategies.” Joining Morgan and Helene Henderson on stage, were Eva Bojtos, the Senior Manager, Social Media, at John Lewis, and Martin Jaskolowski, Global Brand Communications, Digital & Influence at Pernod Ricard. 

The wide-ranging discussion embraced using influencers, what to do when things go wrong with content strategies, measurement, and reaching audiences with an authentic message.

Eva Bojtos talked about her organisation’s rebranding to John Lewis & Partners and the role social media played when she established the “#wearepartners” initiative that used hundreds of partners within the business to post content: “ It was scary because most people think they’re great content creators, and they’re really not. We needed a training programme, and encouraged social media enthusiasts who knew how to build communities. We launched initially across 51 shops with partners who could create good content and build communities, and it worked because customer sentiment was so positive and the partners have grown communities by unpacking their expertise and their passion.”

The #wearepartners programme now involves 600 partners and John Lewis is “putting arms around them and fine tuning content into the second half of 2019.”

Martin Jaskolowski spoke of his blended whisky brand’s intent to build a purpose-led strategy: “At Chivas, we’d not really had a purpose previously but we worked on this recently and on championing a world where blended is better. We’re a blended whisky so there’s some self-interest there but because of the way we were founded by two brothers giving back to their community it’s important to be credible and not shout too hard about it. And that comes to life with the content you produce.”

In terms of the brand’s Influencer marketing, he said: “It’s about being authentic. We do this in a two-fold way. Working with influencer agencies as content creators, finding what the influencer does, and creating interesting content that resonates with the brand. And, also, we just look at Instagram ourselves and find people in the right space. So we’re building direct relationships by sliding into people’s DMs, working directly with them on content for our channels, and you get a lot more through a genuine honest relationship. Sometimes, just go out and have a look.”

Following a coffee break, Jonathan Fink, the Head of Search and innovation at Green Park Content, addressed the audience on the subject of SEO and “Aligning Content with Your Audience”.

His early theme was that brands “tend to start with an internal view of world – asking ‘Who are we?’ ‘How did we come about?’ And then communicating this with the world. But that’s not necessarily the best way to go in the digital world, which is more about aligning with your audience and when, and why, they need you.”

Fink spoke about developing taxonomy, a system to classify things, as part of a necessary framework for the delivery of a content strategy. Otherwise, he warned: “It’s not that you’ll just have problems on your website but you’ll be stuck with a bunch of assets with a limited life span that you’re then trying to align teams behind. The idea is to give a framework and structure to these assets, to re-use them across channels with a different spin and tone.”

He then spoke about the dangers of content fatigue, and how brands can cut through a “noisy” world in which 90% of its data was created in the last two years: “Consumers are changing, agencies and brands are struggling to keep pace with this and individual demands. Search, and SEO in particular, are at the crossroads of solving problems, because it helps you to get all the data sources on how consumers are behaving, providing a nexus, an organisation to this, so that you can structure to your benefit.”

Fink explained that developing brand taxonomy and user ontology – reaching out into people’s lives to add value – helps to turn “brand purpose into high performance assets.” Using data and insights “to exactly tailor content creation to the need. You might have a limited team size and budget and the brand purpose might be expansive and the ambition endless. So how do you maximise the opportunity? Put all your insights into taxonomy and your content will be high performing and measurable.”

The talk concluded with the point that SEO expertise is developing to help brands confront content conundrums such as frequency, formats, and locality:

“Brands must be ubiquitous at the point of need – with the right messages, at the right time, on the right device. And it gets more complex in anticipating a user’s different intent on different days and times, you have to reach people in different phases, places, and moods to keep things relevant to your brand.”

Green Park Content’s event concluded with the second panel session, “Think Like a Brand, Act Like a Publisher”, hosted by Caroline Marshall, the marketing industry consultant and former Executive Editor of Campaign.

Joining Marshall and Jonathan Fink on the panel, were Michelle Wilding, the Former Head of SEO and Content at The Telegraph, and Matt Stockbridge, Growth Analytics Manager at Mondelez. 

Michelle Wilding talked about how brands can embrace the actions of publishers: “Brands and publishers are blurring together because it’s all about audience. Publishers used to get all this natural traffic from search and now Google and other search engines really care about what people are doing when they click through and are concerned about delivering a quality experience. So it has to be about relevance and delivering what people want through investment in planning.”

Jonathan Fink spoke on the issue of blending creativity and science: “Inspiration and creativity helps connect with the audience but it has to be measurable. Our writers get passionate about stories and angles, but when we examine the SEO performance we see that the audience is perhaps temporary or it’s a punt. So we have to almost pull them away from exciting trend-based stuff – we say ‘your play pen is perhaps 20% of the stuff, and 80% has to have a hook that’s based on SEO patterns.’ We can’t afford to create assets that have a one in five chance of working.”

Matt Stockbridge built on this: “Algorithms are good at showing which content to share, now we can buy well and efficiently but the next growth will come from the quality of creative and being relevant to everything else people are talking about.”

The discussion then moved onto environment, context and brand safety.

Jonathan Fink said: “If we create content and then work around regulations then it’s already too late and you’ll waste money. Instead, we do deep semantic research and surface this to the brand, then go through all the necessary compliance and that tends to filter out risk.”

In terms of measuring ROI of content strategies, Michelle Wilding said: “Some people get caught up in measuring traffic but in isolation that can’t tell you anything. It’s all about conversion, which shouldn’t be a dirty word, and if it’s someone reading content, then look at engagement. Yes there’s dwell time but is it true? What percentage of people scroll down to the bottom of the page, or three-quarters down? And what was their next action? Did they subscribe or sign-up to something? If you look at this then you’re measuring the funnel all the way down. If you create really good content, know your audience, and show value then you can’t go wrong.”

Caroline Marshall ended the session by asking the panel to describe, in three words, how brands can act more like publishers.

Jonathan Fink: “Think like customers.”

Matt Stockbridge: “Just publish something.”

Michelle Wilding: “Audience, plan, [be] reactive”