Big content has been incorrectly defined as “unstructured data,” the fuzzy data that doesn’t neatly fit into databases. While this definition helps to capture the complexity of storing and analyzing largely text-based digital data, it limits marketers because it binds our understanding of content and makes it seem like static data by-products that cannot be shaped in any way.
This thought is unsettling because digital content, in all its variety, plays a crucial role in shaping consumer experiences across a seemingly infinite number of digital channels. What’s also unsettling is that by applying this definition, we inevitably restrict our thinking on how we should be creating and distributing content for the consumers we engage with across all of these digital channels.
We should think of big content as branded content that exists in multiple channels, across devices and -- this is important -- is no longer controlled solely by the brand. This perspective helps to redirect the spotlight squarely onto content itself and the various ways it is produced, distributed and consumed.
The evolution of big content parallels the evolution of modern mass-media communications. As media evolved from one-to-many communications to many-to-many communications, branded content grew concurrently. In older media, branded messaging was limited by the medium itself. Advertising messages could be pushed out to mass audiences on a scale supporting the media budgets of the time. The reach of this messaging was thought of in terms of location and geographic boundaries. Expanding reach meant pushing the messaging to a larger audience in a greater number of geographic markets with the hope of stimulating demand. The pieces of content produced exceeded the number of channels that existed at the time.
With digital media, reach is more complex. No longer do we think about it in strict terms of physical boundaries, but also by channel/device accessibility and through customer segmentation. It’s not just the number of consumers we can reach but the extent to which we can engage with increasingly targeted consumers. In the case of big content, we must also consider the extent to which consumers can engage with the brand and its content, and as a result, contribute to the creation of big data.
Additionally, digital technology has increased the number of channels that play by their own set of rules (for example, email vs. social marketing), but perhaps more significantly, it has created a new set of expectations that all brands must now try to fulfill.
For example, Mini Cooper showed that content ecosystems cannot rely only on brand-created content. Its multichannel “Not Normal” campaign tapped into the company's owner base for relevant content. Using Twitter campaign hashtags, Mini then “designed” marketing content with the intent of content amplification. Recent data from Automotive News and Kantar Media indicate that Mini’s measured media ad spend per vehicle sold was a minuscule $224, vs. Jaguar’s measured spending of $6,000. Using its active user base, Mini expanded the reach of campaign content, and also added to its authenticity through user-created content, also decreasing the brand’s need for paid media.
As digital evolves, brands will have to figure out what content is most valuable to consumers within these evolving content streams. Brands that can develop and deliver relevant, engaging and sharable content will win and will likely find themselves awash in meaningful consumer insights: big data. Those marketers who can’t evolve their content will fight to maintain relevance and market share.