Here are four steps to consider if you want people care about your perspective
What do you call the content brands produce that shares information from a unique point of view, but is not specifically about their products or services? We call it brand marketer thought leadership but whatever you call it, showcasing expertise and positioning yourself ahead of the competition is an essential strategy for any brand marketer.
The best brand marketer thought leaders continuously build their brand through stories and events, breathing life into their brand’s value across a vast ecosystem of paid, owned, and earned channels. Having expertise doesn’t mean you get it right the first time. Take what Apple defined as their brand finally in 2014. “We simplify, we perfect, we start over, and until every thing we touch enhances each life it touches.” What I get out of the statement is that Apple understands that to experience their brand you need to understand that they want to achieve simplicity and perfection but are willing to start over if they haven’t until they can enhance each life the brand touches with simplicity and perfection. Apple realizes the most powerful marketing and advertising insight is through their users experience.
That ubiquity doesn’t happen naturally—it’s earned through telling great stories and not being afraid to admit to a mistake. Here are four steps to establishing a successful brand marketer thought leadership presence.
FIND A TOPIC YOU CAN OWN.
What does your brand know best, and more importantly, better than most? Find exclusive areas of expertise within your company that your brand can legitimately claim. Take for example that a bank or credit union that deals often with mortgages knows more than most companies about the state of the housing market.
What do you want to be known for? Your brand may have expertise across a range of interesting topics, but not all will be appropriate for establishing thought leadership. Companies who sell life insurance have intimate knowledge of how people die, but that’s not exactly how they may want to present themselves to their customer or potential customers. In contrast, Under Armour knows the environmental impact of all the materials its design team could use in manufacturing their products, and sharing that knowledge in an app for designers fits their brand’s identity as the foremost innovator in sportswear.
Find the intersection of your expertise, your brand’s core values, and how you can make customers’ lives better.
Survey the marketplace and find the unmet customer need that your competitors refuse to or can’t help them with. What anxieties do these customers have, and how can you offer reassurance? Find that intersection, make your customers’ lives better, and you have a winning strategy that will be hard for others to emulate.
PARTNER WITH LIKE-MINDED PLAYERS.
Even with a topic you can own, chances are there are like minds already working this territory. Every field has established rising stars that are also trying to build relationships with the customers you want to reach. If you can’t beat them, then join them and own it together.
Find influencers and give a hand to the up-and-coming challenger brands. Unite them with your own experts. Collaborate with them and sponsor them. Make them your ally and they’ll be your best advocates. Choose wisely but let your brand strategy and partnership be a little promiscuous to achieve ubiquity.
Look for connections to the audiences you want to reach, feed, or even buy. Find connections like GoPro did with Red Bull. GoPro doesn't just sell portable cameras, and Red Bull doesn't just sell energy drinks. Instead, both have established themselves as lifestyle brands—in particular, a lifestyle that's action-packed, adventurous, fearless, and usually pretty extreme. These shared values make them a perfect pairing for co-branding campaigns, especially those surrounding action sports.
If other experts in your field are going to rally, then make sure they rally around you. Go find your rallying partner.
FLOOD THE ZONE.
An old marketing adage is that you have to say something five times in five different ways before you can break through. To succeed at brand marketer thought leadership, you need to go out and dominate the topic to a point that no competitor can come close to match. Flooding the zone requires a significant investment of resources; it can’t be an ad hoc initiative.
GoPro built a team of 50 producers to select, enhance, and curate insanely amazing videos of base jumpers and snowboarders. I’d bet that more than half of the extreme sports videos you’ve seen in the past month came through GoPro. They’ve since gone public as a media company and are producing original content. They’ve gone so far to step up their content game by hiring Charlotte Koh, who used to lead Hulu’s original content initiatives. She joined GoPro in a newly created position as head of features and series.
To flood the zone you also need to pull your big stories apart and create smaller pieces—individual moments that are interesting enough to stand on their own—that feed your ecosystem of owned, paid, and earned channels. Look for pull-quotes, data, and profiles of people who created the story or are featured in it, glossary items, and maps. Look for background information that can supplement the story or provide context. Share the story with key influencers to get their quotable reaction. You need to find the story behind the story, and link to it.
WE ARE GIVING YOU AN IMPORTANT BONUS STEP HERE.
Great content can make a splash, but the ripples dissipate quickly if you keep creating more. Establishing work streams for different cadences—daily, weekly, monthly, or evergreen—enables the continuous effort needed to cement a brand’s dominant position as a thought leader and you as a brand marketer thought leader.
Investing in multiple teams with a combination of content expertise makes the brand cadence sustainable.
These principles guide the best thought leadership programs and give brands a commanding position built to last. It works for the biggest content marketers like Google and GoPro, as well as the smallest, from a mom and pop chain of stores to the local real estate broker. The point is to find your expertise, own it, and never stop creating more great content and you will become a brand marketer thought leader in no time.