Media brands -- like brands across other sectors -- are dealing with fundamental shifts in consumer behavior and challenges from companies that use new technologies wisely. But are they ready to act like successful brands?
Consider most major non-media brands' marketing efforts and what's behind them.
Leading brands invest significantly in gathering and analyzing data from multiple sources to understand more about their customers and ensure their product lines and communications resonate. They spend on ad campaigns and embrace social media to interact with and develop communities among target audiences.
Many brands employ socially responsible efforts and cultivate partnerships to extend their brand promise. In fact, their willingness to evolve marketing programs is proceeding at such a rapid pace that multiple agency leaders have privately expressed concern that clients are experimenting faster than agencies and the media can keep up with them.
Media brands buy syndicated research and conduct custom studies. Few, however, are leveraging the potential of multiple consumer data streams as intensely as most major brands do.
Media brands promote to their audiences, but in a more limited manner than leading non-media brands. TV networks speak most loudly to their existing audiences, taking a chunk of every half-hour to inform you of upcoming programs, but their promos reach smaller audiences, as ratings continue to erode.
Most magazines and newspapers rarely promote upcoming content, instead focusing on direct mail, email and the Web to encourage subscribers to renew and give gift subscriptions.
When media companies advertise, their campaigns tend to be tactical vs. strategic. For example, TV networks' cross-media advertising generally runs during the short window when a program first airs. Local radio stations' usually advertise only during ratings measurement periods.
Sure, every media company is evolving its outreach in the current environment. However, consumer behavior continues to shift even more rapidly. Media companies might review this checklist to speed their pace of change:
1. Aggressively mine digital data streams alongside existing research to understand how consumers are relating to their offerings. Often the efforts remain in silos, or data are not tapped, inhibiting the ability to get the greatest learning.
2. Beyond the big changes that garner headlines, regularly experiment in small ways with strategically sound uses of emerging digital technologies to provide audiences with helpful solutions beyond just distributing content. Daily Candy recently announced a mobile program that alerts consumers who download their app to nearby Daily Candy features, using the geographic tracking ability in cell phones. This allows its audience to visit hot spots while it's convenient and provides a new ad opportunity, in this case with Starbucks.
3. Look at new ways to expand the reach of current brand programs digitally. For example, how can the successful food festivals held by the various food media extend to virtual festivals to reach interested consumers who cannot travel to the extravaganzas?
4. Revamp organizations to listen and reach out to consumers more effectively. Meredith's National Media Group recently named an EVP, consumer relationship management and digital media, to do just that.
5. Continue to leverage what consumers reveal about their interests and needs to create new lines of business beyond media. Rodale's broadening its health franchise by selling online fitness plans exemplifies the potential.
6. Think of how you can promote your content across platforms, even with partners involved, as with the Conan-AT&T blimp tour that had a Foursquare component.
Media brands have double the reason to emulate the practices of leading consumer brands. Their efforts can increase the odds that consumers will seek their content, and, if they succeed, ad dollars may follow.
For media brands in this commentary, there's a big dose of practice what you preach to marketers. The media industry in general doesn't promote its products nearly as much as the marketers with whom they do business.