Historically, marketers were the sole publishers of a brand’s content, having full control of their story and who was telling it. However the rise of digital, in particular social media, has since armed consumers and creators around the world with the ability to interject themselves into a brand narrative and publish content they create to their own audiences.
This has led online consumers to develop an appetite for unfiltered and authentic communications with, or around, the brands they love. If they don't receive the transparency they expect from the brands themselves they can turn to other respected voices online such as influencers, bloggers or creators who actively publish content online.
Rather than keep up the fight to control their digital brand presence, many marketers have embraced the desire for more diverse voices and actively partner with content creators to help tell their brand story. This collaboration helps brands produce content that is more relevant to their audiences and native to the platforms it's appearing on.
While it sounds like a simple solution, this fusion of the brand's vision and a creator's interpretation of it is not always a successful partnership. When both parties struggle to find the right balance between their independent goals, the resulting content can lose the sense of authenticity that attracted audiences in the first place.
This has led to a divergence of what is traditionally a brand dictated creative direction, a tightly controlled brief and specific execution requirements, to a more fluid creator-led direction. With creator-led partnerships, brands invite trusted voices and creative minds to help direct the overall concepts and execution of campaigns and branded content.
The idea of handing over the keys to creators in this capacity can be unnerving for marketers who are accustomed to tightly control every aspect of how their brand is publicly seen.
So how should marketers approach this challenge without compromising their brand identity? Finding the right balance is dependent on firstly finding the right creative partners and giving them enough artistic freedom that they are actively partaking in telling the brand story, rather than just producing it.
Pushing a pre-written script, or detailed brief, for how creators will produce their content can do more harm than good. Why? From their voice to presentation, every creator has a unique style of creating content, and imposing strict brand guidelines on top will risk making the output appear unnatural and blatantly promotional.
The rapid pace of change in marketing continues to accelerate, as does the evolution of consumer behaviour and expectations. What resonated with your customers previously on one channel, may no longer connect with them today on another.
Rather than having a unified omni-channel approach, complete with a matching set of advertising luggage, brands must tailor a personalised approach for each platform and audience. The people that are best placed to help brands succeed on individual channels are the creators that are native to it, having already mastered the art of creating content specific for that placement.
Content creators are writers, photographers, videographers, or artists who are experts and have plenty of experience in a certain niche. Unlike influencers who “influence” their audience on a point of view of a certain topic, content creators do much more by serving audiences with content that is entertaining and educational.
Even content creators that aren't actively building their own audience are experts at producing content within their domain. Most active creators are subject matter experts when it comes to creating native content optimised for individual channels. This expertise can be easily translated into helping brands create effective content tailored for specific placements online.
Ad targeting is more sophisticated than ever giving brands the ability to deliver ultra-personalised communications to individual audiences. While the targeting is improved, the success of these promotions is still dependant on the insights, variety and quality of the creative being delivered. A one-size-fits all approach, where marketers reshape the same creative for each audience, is never going to resonate with everyone.
High-level brand research and marketing insights don't always capture unique cultural nuances and diverse perspectives of their customers. Brands that wish to be hyper-relevant to their audience segments need to involve local creators from different backgrounds and communities to help tell their brand story.
Creating a variety of content from different sources gives brands the power to test different variations of visuals and messaging with individual audience to see what resonates most. Analysing the data from these tests can divulge powerful insights for brands and provide more accuracy about how their brand is perceived and consumed in different markets.
Just like any marketing strategy, you must do your research if you’re looking to partner with content creators. Successful partnerships are dependant on the individual brand objectives and marketers must firstly answer the question - are you after content production or content production and distribution?
Having a creator publish the branded content on their own channels gives marketers the opportunity to tap into their audience, as well as leverage their creativity but it will also be a more costly exercise to pay for this distribution. Most pieces of content will be priced according to a creators reach and audience size.
In this instance, it is important to not confuse a content creator with an influencer. While an influencer may have a huge following online, a content creator may not necessarily have a large audience. Content creators may have a smaller, niche community that is seeking value in the expertise of the content they produce.
Other creators may not have an audience at all but will still have the subject matter expertise and artistic ability that a brand can leverage to resonate with their own audience segments. Brands can collaborate with these creators to simply produce native content for their channels. This method of production is more cost effective and can often yield more creative and diverse results.
Content production platforms like Creatively Squared exist to help brands manage these collaborations with creators and ensure they are producing content that is resonant with their target audiences and optimised for the channel its being published on. With thousands of pre-vetted creators all around the world, Creatively Squared can match brands with the right mix of creative talent to help them succeed online.
When enabling a more collaborative creative approach with content creators, you’re supporting a value that empowers creators to produce the type of content that they know resonates best in their niches. Leveraging creator-led direction is an incredible opportunity for brands to get even closer to their audiences with content that's proven to engage.
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