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Okay, maybe you won’t get whacked, but the point is, relevance is everything if you’re going to succeed with your content marketing strategy.  With “over 39% of marketing, advertising and communications budgets dedicated to content marketing”, content campaigns, or STORIES as we like to call them here at Markerly, have become a major topic of conversation. Brands, agencies, and publishers are all brainstorming how to hop on this measurable and  lucrative bandwagon. I was interested in speaking with a veteran, so I reached out to Drew Neisser – the guy who helped set the foundation for the content world we are all building on today. Drew is the Founder and CEO of Renegade, a Social Media and Marketing Agency based out of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Their agency manages campaigns for companies like The Empire State Building, Vonage, MAGIC by Magic Johnson and HSBC. Read on below to find out more about what Drew feels is lacking within current company marketing strategies, who sets the standard for content marketing and why knowing what content resonates with audiences throughout these pushes is so necessary.


What’s the biggest weakness you see in organizations when conducting the Renegade Social Media Audit?  

It really depends on the company and their social media maturity.  That said, we tend to find weaknesses in three buckets: organizational, content and channels:

  • From an organizational standpoint, the challenge is to not isolate social in one department, thereby making it a slave to that perspective.  The old saying, to a hammer everything looks like a nail, applies here.  Customer service will want social to focus on listening and responding. PR will want to push out “stories.”  Marketing will seek mass scale and leads.  Since social can do all of these things,  an unfortunate turf war could ensue.
  • From a content standpoint, the biggest weakness we see across the board is the boorish tendency to talk mainly about yourself.  This limits the opportunity for conversation and other forms of engagement.
  • From a channel perspective, companies tend to spread themselves thin, jumping into each new channel as they learn about it, without necessarily committing the resources to both understand how to participate in the channel and to maintain a strong presence.  Social is definitely not a case of “if you build it, they will come.”  This same thinking applies to the number of “handles” brands create within these channels.  Many times we find brands with multiple Twitter handles that have small followings and deliver little value. 

How would you summarize Renegade’s approach to “Marketing as Service?”

The basic idea behind “Marketing as Service” is that no one really likes to be marketed at or sold to or disrupted by communications.  On the other hand, we all welcome things that add value to our lives or meet a particular need.  Sometimes we need information about a product or service or category and an unbiased video or well-written blog post answers our questions.  Or we just need a charge for our laptop or cellphones at the airport and a Samsung charging station comes to the rescue. Or you’re standing on the streets of New York trying to hail a taxi, when along comes the HSBC BankCab to provide a free ride.  These last two examples are classic cases of Marketing as Service in which the marketing is actually a service first.


When did you first realize that advertising through content campaigns would be the future of advertising?

Renegade coined the phrase “Marketing as Service” back in 2007, though we had been operating under this philosophy for many years prior. For example, we built our first website for a client back in 1996, a website that was rich with useful content.  Blogs followed shortly thereafter, which, if done right, continue to be a powerful form of content marketing.


What was your most successful content marketing campaign and what about it have you been able to reproduce for other campaigns?

One of my favorite Renegade content marketing programs was for Panasonic a few years back.  They were looking to “coolify” the brand, especially their Lumix digital cameras, among a younger audience. We created a program called “Share the Air” which had multiple service and content generating components.  At action sports events, we had still and video camera loaner programs and encouraged fans to capture action sports stars in mid air.  Online, we ran photo and video contests featuring both the shots/videos captured at the events but also ones contributed from action sports enthusiasts from all over the country.  In addition to this, we had two action sports stars posting pictures they took with Panasonic Lumix cameras onto photo blogs. At the end of the program, which ran multiple years, Panasonic saw a huge perceptual shift as a “cool brand” among the target audience.

More recently, we developed a program for the MAGIC by Magic Johnson prepaid MasterCard called “What Inspires You?” that had some similarities to the Share the Air program.  It also involved event marketing as a means of capturing user-generated content, in this case videos that answered Magic Johnson’s question, “What inspires You?”  Over the course of one summer, we received over 400 video responses which were posted online.  Participants in the online video contest were encouraged to get their friends to vote on the videos, and the winner got to meet Magic Johnson in person.  The stories were terrific and generated a lot of interest and good will for the MAGIC card.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Renegade‘s own content marketing program which has been highly effective for us.  In addition to maintaining two blogs and multiple social channels, we publish 3-4 articles a month on other sites (i.e. FastCompany, MediaPost, SocialMediaToday, iMediaConnection and PSFK) AND we have a much appreciated and well-subscribed monthly newsletter.


The first brand that comes to mind when you think of a successful Content (Marketing) Campaign? Why?

American Express OPEN is the gold standard for content marketing programs as far as I’m concerned. They have great contributors, and the articles are almost always useful for the target (small businesses) and cover a broad range of important topics. They have also done a really good job of integrating social sharing, ensuring that the content finds its way to a broad audience.


Is there a significant difference in overhead or initial costs for running a traditional display ad campaign versus a content marketing campaign?

Yes. Content marketing programs are much more labor intensive.  In addition to all the planning time, starting first with objectives and strategy, you need to think through an editorial calendar, and last but not least, you have to create all the content and plan on doing so for a long time.  Content marketing programs rarely provide a quick lift.  More typically, they take time to become effective, especially when it comes to driving organic search traffic and blog/newsletter subscriptions.  AmEx has been in the content marketing business for 25+ years!


Why is it so important for content providers to understand what content resonates with audiences?

Relevance is everything.  If your target doesn’t care about your content, game over.  That said, it would be a mistake to only evaluate your content based on the quantity of eyeballs that read and share your content. Quality and timing matter here too.  When you are first learning about a category, pithy general information will usually do the trick. But as your purchase journey gets more serious, you might be willing to read a more in-depth story or watch a longer product demo.  In both of these later examples, the quantity of readers/viewers will drop off, but the quality is definitely superior.  In all cases, the issue is relevance.  Serving up the most relevant content to the individual at their particular point in the journey on their particular platform/channel (desktop, mobile, social, event) is both the art and science of content marketing.


What metrics do you see as being most important for content providers to watch as they run campaigns?

Most marketers want metrics that show a direct path from content to sale.  Sophisticated marketing automation systems like Marketo and Eloqua are making this quest a lot easier for B2B content marketers.  These systems will help you differentiate between tire kickers and those ready to buy, just based on what content they are reviewing and when.  They can track the customer journey and after a short period of time can see which pieces of content drive the most quality leads and ultimately the most conversions.

B2C marketers, of course, want the same clarity between content presented and sales, but this type of attribution modeling is much tougher.  Figuring out the role a highly entertaining video might ultimately play in the purchase of an everyday item like a deodorant is quite tough given all the other brand noise and purchase decision factors (like point of sale discounts).

Given all of that, here are some metrics we like to use.  First, we start with qualitative metrics like quality.  Is the content quality on par with the quality of the brand?  Shoddy content, whether written or in video, can potentially have a negative impact on the brand.  Then, we look at basic engagement metrics such as views, likes, +1s and comments.  If no one bothers to read or view the content, that’s bad!  If at least a small percentage of the readers/viewers don’t offer an opinion, that’s not good either.  From there, the real critical metric is sharing.  If a reader/viewer shares the content to a broader audience, then you at least know that your content is worth sharing, which is a minor if not major victory. After that, if the viewer subscribes, then you know you’ve won over a fan of your content and will get another chance to share more.  And of course, the ultimate metric is one that leads to a transaction, whether it’s clicking through to an e-commerce page or picking up the phone and calling a sales agent.