Building Instinctive Trust – Part One

January 10, 2014

Content Marketing vs. Advertising

by Bruce Nickson

This is Part One of the report on the most recent event of BCAMA’s Evening Speaker Series: Content Marketing vs Advertising.

Marketers are constantly looking for ways to de-commodify the ordinary. Let’s face it: zillions of dollars are spent trying to brand/differentiate products that are as dull dull dull dull as: insurance, internet domain services, banks, big data… (it’s a long list).

Some – believing that their brand story has been maxed out, so they can’t go further down that road – try to sell their way out of the commodity problem: “The magic will be in sales! We need a sales genius! A guru! He, she [or increasingly “it” (sales automation)] will save our bacon.”

Others feel that their story is known or engaging but attempt to fancy-brand their way out of the commodity conundrum. Others are late in understanding that they are a commodity and just fade away. Commoditization occurs at the speed of light.

But one thing all marketers have in common is that they are human, and as such, like us all, they are slaves to novelty. It’s all about the next Big Thing. And the question at hand is “Is Content Marketing the Next Big Thing?” Is content really king?

This leads to the subject of BCAMA’s most recent Evening Speaker Series event: Content Marketing vs. Advertising. Despite apparent bonhomie amongst the participants, if you were listening, you could discern some cracks in the consensus.

That said, Tom Gierasimczuk, the charming and talented Vice-President, Editorial at Canada Wide Media started us off by stating that content has traditionally been the domain of media companies. The press, radio, television, etc. is where we typically expect storytelling to occur. If properly targeted, the media complements what the audience is doing and thinking already, and hence the audience/content relationship is developed, and loyalty established. Remember the days when people defined themselves as loyal readers of one or another daily newspaper?

As Tom pointed out, “for the first time in history”, Content Marketing is Googled more frequently than SEO. Now that’s a change. And an important one, as Google algorithms reward honesty, transparency and… ummm… content.

So now, from media companies, we have this:

  •  The Creative Newsroom
  • The Brand Newsroom
  • Brand Journalism

Which might have Walter Cronkite flipping around in his grave.

Heidi Worthington, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at BCAA, stated that when it comes to content:

It’s About Business Objectives

Unfortunately, an insurance company has its deepest interactions with the customer when things go badly: a tree falls on your house, your teenage daughter is in a car accident. Therefore, the BCAA seeks positive ways to talk to customers.

Pages from Heidi Worthington_Content Marketing Vs Advertising De c5_pptxThrough Westworld, BCAA’s quarterly, the BCAA has been providing relevant branded content to members for over 65 years. One the other hand, retail giant Walmart started a print magazine that is only a little over a year old with a circulation of over 2 million.

Heidi’s insight regarding Content Marketing? Behaviour and Attitude:


Heidi states that some marketing tools are better at changing behaviour, and some are better at changing attitude. Which tools are best used to affect these, content marketing or advertising?

Decide which business problem are you trying to solve now, and then choose the right tool from the toolbox.

A Tale of Many Screens

Bob Dunlop, CEO of KCTS, says when it comes to Content Marketing, pay attention to risk. The opportunity for the audience to feel that there is a lack of transparency and sincere dialogue is huge. If you’re selling, sell. If you’re entertaining, entertain.

screensKCTS distributes content. Bob is intensely aware that television viewing is no longer single-screen behaviour. We all are on the couch, at the desk, or in bed with our screens.

 Let’s look at our habits. We’re curled up on the sofa with our screens. In my case, the flatscreen TV, my laptop, and my tablet. My attention flips back and forth between the three. (I’m working on perfecting my ADHD.)

Media companies know my habits. I watch Downton Abbey, and Fast & Furious 5. But – and here’s the insight– Bob can’t get any more granular than that with traditional media metrics. He wants – no, he needs –greater measurability. And viewership.

Bob can’t get this through typical viewer metrics, but can get it digitally through the other screens, like my tablet and my phone. For example, Nielsen and Twitter introduced a partnership, allowing for greater insight into our viewing habits.

So much of the marketing they do is an attempt to encourage digital engagement through social media with television properties such as Downton Abbey or The Oscars on the second screen. The idea is to build community around content.

A Final Caveat (again): Risk

Bob was adamant about the risk associated with branded content. If you push too hard, risk is created and the instinctive trust you are hoping to develop is gone. If the content is about you, the relevance to the consumer goes “poof”.

To circle back: Is Content Marketing going to usurp Advertising in the branding battle? Is it the new best thing since the concept of infinity? Well, actually, branded content has been around since pretty much forever. Therefore, we have to keep with the fundamentals:

First, focus on your business and financial objectives. Is there direct and measurable correlation between your marketing efforts and the number at the bottom right of your P/O statement? That is, it’s not about a blind adoption of of content as your only communication strategy.

Second (need it be said?): Don’t lie. The reason that all of the speakers at the Evening Speaker Series event cautioned about this, is because the line between information/content/entertainment and plain old sales, because of ubiquitous media, is becoming increasingly slim.

The second installment of Content vs Advertising will be along soon, but in the meantime, check out the next BCAMA event.