I remember when I first interviewed with the three Quest founders to join as the head of marketing. I laid out a plan to earn their first million fans, and explained that, to do it, the company would need to create a content studio. They thought I was joking.
Back in 2011, a branded content studio was a pretty crazy idea, especially to three guys who just put their houses on the line to bootstrap a protein bar company. A content studio? To sell protein bars?
Cut to three years later where we had a 10,000 square foot soundstage with 20 full time content creators. We were working with some of the biggest YouTube creators including Cassie Ho, iJustine and Matthew Santoro. Following in the footsteps of Marriott and Red Bull, we were creating scripted series that could stand on their own, and judging by the millions of organic views, fans loved what we were creating.
We also generated nearly half a billion dollars in yearly revenue.
Branded content has since become table stakes. Every agency claims to be a content marketing agency. Content farms pump out low value, high volume images and videos so that even the smallest brands participate in
noise generation content marketing.
Value comes from scarcity. High value content is scarce. It is the giving of value that makes content marketing effective. While most brands are doing it, few are doing it well. And that noise is taking the entire category down.
When done right, branded content can be a great way to show the world who you are and create meaningful engagement. I still love the technique, but content is no longer enough to truly stand out. Effective technology products, however, are hard to make. They are scarce. Technology can add a lot of value to a customers life when done correctly.
Technology products can help consumer brands create a moat, increase their valuation, and deliver something extraordinary to their fans. The high barrier to entry in creating a technology product means few are using it as a marketing technique. It’s like 2011 all over again!
Technology, in this case, is not upgrading from Excel sheets to an ERP for resource management. Yes, that is technology, and it even ends up improving your customers’ lives. Instead, consumer technology products that exude your brand values and help your customers can unlock huge new brand building benefits.
Take IKEA’s augmented reality app that enables you to place furniture in your room to see how it will look. That’s an amazing value-add to the customer. While AR Kit made its creation easier, it certainly wasn’t easy to make. The IKEA experience brings customers down a fun engagement and purchase funnel, incentivizing them to download the IKEA app and potentially make a purchase.
Similarly effective, the Starbucks App allows you order ahead of time, then skip the line and pick up your coffee. This is another huge consumer value add that was a logistically and technically complicated experience to create. This experience is so valuable that Starbucks is the largest mobile payment platform in the US. Talk about win-win!
Creating technology is getting easier every day, so as hard as it is to imagine, these technology products will also soon become as common as content is today. But for now, it represents a great opportunity to stand out, add value to your customers, and do something special.
How can you use technology to build your brand?