If there’s one thing you can learn…

… about content marketing from Bernie Sanders’campaign, it’s the importance of substance.

Jacob McMillan has written a great, easy-to-read analysis on why Sanders’ marketing campaign was so brilliant. He sums it up in 4 words: “He’s selling the steak”.

Simply put, Sanders showed that he had substance. Style, while present, was of secondary import. This is at odds with conventional marketing wisdom, which typically espouses style or ‘flash’ over almost anything else, says McMillan.

I admit that I did not pay particular attention to the minutiae of Sanders’ campaign during the presidential campaign – my mind had already been made up and nothing would sway it. However, in the few instances when I actually came across Sanders’messages, I was struck by their clarity and their significance. They made sense. They presented facts. They presented (a) truth. They weren’t easily dismissed. They were not mere fluff.

McMillan further argues that Sanders’ delivery was especially compelling, because it reached the target audiences where they are:

Identify where your audience spends its time and what it is they are consuming, then give them content that looks like that. You might have far more success with a few Instagram graphics than you ever had with your 4,000 word blog posts. It all depends on where your audience is.

Right now, our audience is on mobile. Logically, we should be adopting a mobile-first approach, but that has yet to happen. We are still not thinking in terms of what our end-users desire.

And this quote is a gem. I should print it out and paste it on the office walls:

Content” is an incredibly vague term. Youtube videos are “content”, but if your target audience doesn’t watch Youtube videos, creating a well-produced series of videos won’t accomplish anything for your business.

We need to be strategic about the content we are producing. We need to go where are readers are, serve them what they want and need, instead of producing an epic that might be award-winning, but which few people bother to read.

Do read the rest of McMillan’s piece, which talks about other successful content marketing campaigns.


6 Exceptional Content Marketing Examples You Should Emulate In 2016


Moving into the branded content space: Too little, too late?

Moving into the branded content space: Too little, too late?

It seems that some of the most powerful newsrooms in the world are turning to branded content in order to keep their businesses alive. (Link – paywall)

As a former journalist, it doesn’t surprise me that publishers are going down this route. In fact, it could be an overdue move.

Of course, it is not an easy undertaking. Ad revenue from branded content, while growing, is still relatively small. To grow this pie would require concerted effort, persistence, a willingness to make mistakes and the resources to iterate over and over until you come up with a winning product. Followed by more innovation and disruption. Rinse and repeat.

Publishing executives acknowledge that building large, profitable branded-content businesses won’t be easy. The most compelling products—deeply reported, interactive ads that tell stories—can be labor intensive, and some require sophisticated video production. Also, these businesses compete with a plethora of digital media companies such as Vice Media and BuzzFeed that have placed branded content at the center of their business models.


“Advertisers don’t need publishers’ audiences the way they used to; they can get that anywhere,” said [Sebastian Tomich, the Times’ vice president of advertising and innovation].

So we are up against stiff competition, and we are late into the game. Plus, our once-vaunted trump card of being able to command a loyal, affluent, educated readership is no longer as important. This puts us in a disadvantageous position, one which is made worse if the powers that be are not sufficiently decisive in allocating resources to developing branded content.

However, being a latecomer has its advantages too – you can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid costly misjudgments or errors. Ad agencies are in some ways our forerunners, and it will benefit us to reflect on the ways in which we can add value to our clients in ways they can’t. Simply put, what can we offer that ad agencies can’t?

If we want to remain relevant, we need to embrace change and jump in feet first.


New York Times: Publishers Take On Ad-Agency Roles With Branded Content