Welcome to the age of brands as broadcasters

Channel Us: McDonald's has launched a new YouTube channel for 16-24-year-olds
Channel Us: McDonald's has launched a new YouTube channel for 16-24-year-olds

With so many brands producing their own content to reach consumers in innovative ways, they will need to up their game significantly as expectations grow, says Mindshare's Adam Fulford.

So, according to the intro video, "the day is finally here": McDonald's has launched ‘Channel Us’, a YouTube channel to increase engagement with 16-24 year olds.

Whilst I can’t say this is a day I’ve been waiting for with any great anticipation (though admittedly I’m just above the target age bracket), it is a reflection of the way the industry as a whole is moving. Aldi’s YouTube Channel launch and heavy investment in high profile guests is another testament to this, and a nod to the importance of producing content that people actually want to watch.

More branded content is consumed today than ever before, through more channels than ever.

Whether consumers realise it or not, the proliferation of in feed opportunities to see content means potential reach has exploded, elevating content to its most prominent place on the media plan ever.

Today a brand’s YouTube channel sits at the heart of a syndicated content ecosystem – pushing content through to news feeds and Twitter streams, where increasingly, content is consumed in its entirety. In itself, this means brands need to up their game.

Until now it’s been enough to just be producing content. Now they need to manage it, distribute it, test what works, and most importantly remove what doesn’t. I believe we are truly at the dawn of an age where we should consider brands as broadcasters.

Whilst the likes of Red Bull and Lego have behaved like this for some time, they’ve either designed their entire business around content or made it a product in its own right. For most brands it’s still an add on; content is produced by a number of departments across the business (departments that don’t necessarily talk to each other) and then pumped onto YouTube in the hope that it’ll be found by someone.

The net effect of this is YouTube page after YouTube page populated by what can only be described as content landfill. Finding anything interesting feels like sifting through the remnants of campaigns past, rather than a finely managed editorial experience.

At Mindshare, we ran a behavioural study across many of the brands we produce and manage content for, together with their competitors. It revealed some startling differences in performance for branded content depending on how it was managed and supported. Three core themes emerged for brands to succeed as Broadcasters.

Firstly, brands need to think beyond the hub. Both traditional and new school media brands have realised that the majority of content impressions happen off site. Jonah Peretti’s keynote at SXSW this year showed the scale with which this is happening, a trend reflected when you talk to both The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. Consumption happens in feeds and streams with less and less click through. This move alone makes management of content as important as its creation.

Secondly, this shift in consumption patterns means brands should change the way they measure success. For years we’ve focused on click through rates and volumes of traffic to a site as a KPI.

Today this focus discounts the true value of content. If we can accept that an impression of a TV ad drives sales then we should be able to accept that a full or partial view of a piece of content performs the same role.

Finally, we found that brands that were known for consistently producing a certain type of good quality content showed a higher level of engagement overall. Brands should build for the long term rather than from one campaign to another, working to a clear strategy that supports core brand values.

It’s here that I begin to question ‘Channel Us’. I struggle to see the connection between "72 hours to put on a fashion show" and a Big Mac, unless McDonald's wants to become an entertainment brand. That would truly be thinking like a broadcaster…

Adam Fulford is a managing partner at Mindshare

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