Four Key Branding Factors
My last article asked four important questions about your content's brand and how it's positioned. Let's build on that with four critical factors you need to consider as you look to extend or reinforce your brand:
Community - I believe this is the most important element of all and it's become even more critical in the digital content world. Most of today's biggest publishers built their brands in the print era and didn't worry much about community. Books, newspapers, and magazines have been, and largely remain, one-way communication vehicles. Author speaks to reader. End of story. Yes, there have always been "letters to the editor" and other ways of providing reader feedback, but those were always secondary. Highly engaging content brands of the future will feature community at their heart. Readers still want to hear from frontline reporters and subject matter experts but they're increasingly more interested in also hearing from others in the community as well.
Directly accessible - Digital content represents a new opportunity for publishers to engage directly with their readers. Retailers still play a key role but they no longer represent the only way to reach a consumer. If your content relies exclusively on someone else to get it in the hands of consumers you're marginalizing your brand. You remain secondary to the retailer's brand and risk becoming invisible to the consumer; a good example is how consumers don't know (or care about) book publisher names. Community and direct access go hand in hand, by the way; community needs to be a core ingredient of your direct channel.
Platform and device agnostic - Most content can be consumed on all of the major platforms (e.g., iOS, Android, Windows & Mac) but is the user experience the same throughout? The industry has gotten too hung up on native apps to supposedly leverage the unique capabilities of each device. Does an ebook rely on whether the reader's phone has an accelerometer or camera? Of couse not. And yet we see the various stores bursting with custom apps supposedly designed with the consumer and their specific device in mind. Ugh. HTML5 is the future, folks. And going with a browser-centric viewer model means your content is less dependent on retailer channels.
Highly discoverable - A wise man once told me that discovery is a problem for publishers, not for consumers. In other words, even though publishers are fretting over how to get more eyeballs on their content no consumer is sitting around saying, "Gee, I wish I could find even more content to read." So true, but it still doesn't solve the problem of obscurity and undiscovered content. This, of course, is one of the reasons publishers are flooding the app stores with products; they figure that's where all discovery happens. But again, if you build a direct channel with community at its heart you control your brand's destiny.
So how does your brand stack up on these four factors? Have you built a strong direct channel focusing on community and offering easily discoverable content with a consistent user experience across platforms and devices? My consumer experience says that almost every brand fails on at least one of these and most miss the mark on all four. The content brands that survive today's industry disruption will thrive in part by scoring well on all four of these elements.
Joe Wikert is Publishing President at Our Sunday Visitor (www.osv.com). Before joining OSV Joe was Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software. Prior to Olive Software he was General Manager, Publisher, & Chair of the Tools of Change (TOC) conference at O’Reilly Media, Inc., where he managed each of the editorial groups at O’Reilly as well as the Microsoft Press team and the retail sales organization. Before joining O’Reilly Joe was Vice President and Executive Publisher at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in their P/T division.