#ThinkContent 2016: Advice From the Experts - Insights
Industry Leaders

#ThinkContent 2016: Advice From the Experts

by Brian Caulfield and Brian Caulfield

5 minute read

NewsCred’s fourth annual #ThinkContent Summit brought together over 1,200 content marketers in New York City to hear from a stacked lineup of speakers from some of the largest and most innovative brands in the world.

This year’s theme was “Convergence: The New Marketing Imperative.” Speakers and panelists took the stage to share their experiences with the intersecting facets of their content marketing efforts. Here’s what the best marketing leaders in the world had to say about reaching the world through content in 2016:

Focus on Brand Purpose

Craig Hatkoff, co-founder of the TriBeCa Film Festival, noted that brands need to be thoughtful about what they do for the world. In his case, starting their festival in the shadow of the events of September 11th, 2001 in lower Manhattan started with the desire to draw people back in the streets by bringing film to the city in a big way. With the help of Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal, and partnership with American Express, Craig embraced creative ways of navigating constraints to launch the foundation for New York’s 21st century film culture. Now, his organization is embracing branded content and UGC (user-generated content) in their competitions to keep the spotlight on the cutting edge.

Speaking on a panel about reaching B2B audiences, Cameron Potts discussed Deluxe’s approach to getting the word out to small businesses about their services through SmallBusinessRevolution.org. For his company’s 100th anniversary, they focused on starting a movement instead of selling their products and featured 100 small businesses from across the country on their website. This year, their “Revolution on Main Street” awarded $500,000 to Wabash, Indiana after 180,000 votes were cast to revitalize a town in the U.S. This mission not only drives their perception in the market, but also has created a source of pride for their employees.

Unilever’s Rob Candelino shared Dove’s mission to transform the traditional definitions of beauty. By listening to what matters to their customers, Dove has reached new audiences through compelling content by focusing on how to make a difference in society. “If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing,” Rob noted. He encouraged organizations to find a ‘North Star’ for their marketing efforts to unite behind, across departments and beyond individual egos.

Even content marketers themselves need to have a personal purpose – Rob Candelino cited Unilever’s company-instilled belief in brands with a purpose as a major reason for why he’s been with the company for 19 years, and Google’s Veronique Lafargue shared that her “goal as a content marketer is to educate, be useful, and inspire.”

Make Sure Your Content Strategy Evolves

As part of a panel highlighting innovation in industry and brand communication, Sweetgreen’s Lauren Drell called out her company’s transition from lifestyle content to more levity-infused and educational messaging to share details about their supply chain and healthy, sustainable eating. Blue Apron’s Greg Fitzgerald detailed his company’s shift from instructional content about their food ingredient and recipe service to showcasing their chefs, farmers, software engineers, and customer community now that people are familiar with what they offer. Mikaela Flynn spoke about Uber’s transition from their initial focus on customer acquisition to customer retention and making them happy, shifting the narrative from a product focus to stories about the “who” and “why” of what makes make their company uniquely successful. Airbnb’s Eric Toda stressed that his company now recreates each story about their hosts and community to best fit individual platforms, using Facebook for reach, Twitter for timeliness, Snapchat to communicate their personality, and Instagram to infuse beauty.

Further highlighting content’s need to evolve, NewsCred’s own Alex Cheeseman cited the common definition of madness to remind attendees that we shouldn’t expect different results from marketing efforts that are substantially similar. Adam Aston from T Brand Studio at The New York Times dove into his team’s efforts to connect brands and immersive stories in the still-early-stages of virtual reality. Because every piece of content they create sets the bar for many first-time experiences with this technology, he works to make sure old linear storytelling concepts aren’t applied to this new medium. Similarly, he confirms that brands are up to the challenge and privilege of creating narratives and visuals that are equally compelling to immerse the viewer in a cost-intensive, but breathtaking, ‘dome of alternate reality.’

Don’t Just Self-Promote

Rohin Dhar, the founder and CEO of Priceonomics, stressed that marketers shouldn’t just talk about themselves and how great they are – as many company blogs do. If The New York Times wouldn’t do it, then neither should you. Instead, he insists upon telling stories with data, what companies know as a by-product of doing business. This proprietary information is currency, Dhar said, with value to potential customers as well as journalists who are looking for a compelling story to tell.

Bill Morrison of Emerson Process Management stressed that brands need to tell their stories authentically through the voices and eyes of their customers in how they overcome challenges. This is especially important to establish credibility in the minds of executives they’re looking to reach in the serious business of providing energy to those around the world, when emotional storytelling is not an option. Bill also echoed a shared panelist insight when noting his company’s focus on marketing efforts about the impact they create, not on their products.

Summarizing this theme neatly, Samantha Jayne of ‘Quarter Life Poetry’ fame stressed that companies need to focus on connecting with their audience (especially if they’re millennials) instead of trying to impress them. As she put it, you wouldn’t like someone if they did that to you in person, so brands shouldn’t try attracting customers that way. She shared her realization that “our audiences don’t expect perfection, and they don’t want perfection – they just want to know that they’re understood. That’s not just what Millennials want, it’s what everyone wants.” Once brands find out how to create content that connects with their audiences, sharing that information with their social and professional networks “will be an impulse.”

What’s Next?

For those of you who were able to attend our 2016 #ThinkContent Conference, thanks for joining! For those who couldn’t make it, don’t worry! We’ll be posting all of the videos and content from the event here on Insights in the coming days. Stay tuned for more great analysis, debate, and predictions about what we as content marketers can expect in the months ahead.

Brian Caulfield is a Program Manager at NewsCred.