Brand Activator/ Branding & Communications

Content May Be The ‘New Black,’ But Please Don’t Turn It Into Merlot


by Mike Azzara
Chief Content Strategist
Stein IAS (Americas)

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It’s fantastic when your skills and experience are a perfect match for an oncoming business megatrend. Who could have been happier than I was when, five or six years ago, it became obvious to the few of us who studied this stuff that the Internet-driven media revolution would demand untold petabytes of authentic, high-value, brand-owned content?

That sure sounds like a job for a former editor-in-chief! So I helped launch SPBA’s content practice; dozens of my cronies--all first-rate journalists--now toil for major brands. But the exemplar sans compare is Bob Evans, former VP, editorial, for InformationWeek, among many other publications. I’m proud to call Bob my most important mentor. He now wields his insights on behalf of Oracle Corp.--check it out. And as best I can tell, he’s as volatile and controversial as ever. Bravo, Oracle!

But I digress.

I just read a blog post rife with statistics about the breathtaking ascent of content marketing. My favorite: “90% of B2B marketers do some form of content marketing, whether they realize it or not.” The post started off by quoting Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, saying, “Content is the new black.” So I Googled the phrase. With the period, and in quotes, it generated 780,000 results.

It hit me then that in their mad rush to drive content marketing value for their brands, marketers run the risk of turning content marketing into the new Merlot. I’m old enough to remember when California Merlot first got hot, thanks to the passion and craftsmanship of vintners who put patience and experience into creating big-but-balanced wines that authentically reflected their land and heritage. Great Merlots are still out there--but good luck finding one among the sea of cheap knock-offs that give Concord grape juice a bad name.

I usually spend my words in this blog extolling the virtues of content that brings value to its audiences even as it delivers for its brand; in fact, that’s the entire point. Posts have been about content that activates the C-suite, thought leadership that caused a major professional services firm to reinvent its go-to-market approach, and another about the power of storytelling for business.

Please, don’t get caught in the trap of rushing out content without thinking through why and how it helps your audience achieve their goals, not yours--even while it does achieve yours. And take the time and care to execute right--it ain’t worth a damn if the message isn’t received as intended. This isn’t easy.

But, like great wine, it’s actually worth it.

About Mike Azzara

The authors of the Brand Activator blog are from Stein IAS, BMA Global Agency of the Year.