Taking branded content to consumers at portals or on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has emerged as an answer to the problem of finding or aggregating the perfect audience. That's because the audience already exists and it gives companies one-on-one conversations that provide an opportunity to fundamentally change how they market themselves.
The portal Yahoo in the past two months launched destinations for three top brands: American Express: Business Solutions; Ram Truck: Ram Country on Yahoo Music; and State Farm: Ready, Set, Dance! And, updated new features on Bank of America: Financially Fit. Then in April, Toyota launched Who Knew? on Yahoo News.
The American Express sponsorship, the latest in a series, offers small business owners access to tools and content aimed at helping businesses grow. New features will give Yahoo small businesses access to SearchManager, a platform to manage pay-per-click campaigns in one place; AcceptPay, an online payment and invoicing solution; and InsuranceEdge, a new way to do real-time quote comparisons and purchase customize business insurance. On the site visitors will find interviews with entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Diane Von Furstenberg.
Years ago, brands built microsites, but not anymore, according to Mitch Spolan, Yahoo's VP of North American field sales. "It's all based on the insight that when consumers look for something we must fill that need on Yahoo," he says. "We took the formula and repeated it several times because it works."
Within the first four months, Toyota's sponsored destination Who Knew? recorded 40 million streams, Spolan says. The sites leverage an existing audience. The brands know what that audience seeks. And the experience is enhanced through content from the brands and original content through Yahoo.
Brands can take content to consumers wherever they go across the Web by following consumers to places that interest them most. It's no longer necessary to drag consumers back to branded Web sites, according to Andrew Solmssen, managing director at Schematic, an interactive ad agency. "Because guess what, they're not coming," he says.
Brands shouldn't care where consumers experience content, but many still do. "The brands want you to go to mybrand.com because they can count the consumer as a unique visitor, but are those old metrics?" he says, suggesting it brings up the point of whether consumers really experience the brand or the content. "You don't need to worry about where they experience it."
The "widgetization" of the Web, and the ability to plant content anywhere but retain branding, will support campaigns, Solmssen says. While brands can't necessarily control the stuff that surrounds "their stuff," they can control their stuff and give the user an experience that mirrors what happens on their site so it feels familiar when visitors come across it. Not many companies do it well.
The National Hockey League began living that mantra earlier this year. They not only meet fans on their turf, but reward them for allowing the NHL to do so. The latest uses Foursquare check-ins during the NHL Face-off, where fans got a chance to win free subscriptions to NHL GameCenter LIVE, jerseys, and t-shifts.
No one suggests that brands don't need a Web site. They need a great site because in the world of floaters, swimmers and divers, the floaters experience the content in passing, swimmer will grab it on the surface, and divers will jump in to learn more about Lady Gaga. So, brands better make sure the Web site experience supports amazing content.