What’s the difference between Time magazine and The Huffington Post? The quality of journalism? The intelligence of writers and staff? While the former is struggling for relevance, the latter is growing leaps and bounds, and now a core part of AOL.
The difference is cadence, or the rhythm of operation.
Operationally, Time is geared to produce content every seven days, while The Huffington Post curates, if not produces, content minute by minute. Today’s digital consumer demands a cadence that traditional media companies are not designed to deliver. So, what’s trending and why?
While Time’s weekly cycle seems out of date, brand marketing operations are archaic. Today, brand marketers operate on seasonal cycles, taking six months to go from creative brief to the in-market campaign. In fact, brand marketing’s biannual cycle is 24 times slower than Time’s seven-day cycle. Six months in today’s digital world is horse-drawn buggy slow.
Allow me to ask you a few questions: What will the headline of The Huffington Post be 24 weeks from now? Where will the S&P 500 close? What stories, concerns, or passions will matter to your customers?
These questions matter because marketers want to resonate and be relevant to their target customers. Given the six month brand marketing cadence, it is no surprise that brand messaging fails to resonate or drive engagement and value. In fact, it should be a shock if it ever does.
Rather than focus creative and marketing dollars on abstract messages designed to persist in resonance across months, marketers need to redesign their organizations and systems to operate daily. It is time to move past the big creative bet in order to focus energy and resources on becoming newsdesk marketers. Newsdesk marketers produce marketing messages on a daily cycle and work to ensure the brand message operates within the context of their customers’ daily lives.
Newsdesk marketers invest in four best practices:
- Listening — What does my customer care about today? What concerns, motivates, and interests them?
- Programming — Updating creative on a daily basis. Programming choices need to move beyond artifacts (videos, images, taglines) to content and be functionally representative of today’s web experience.
- Update — Daily updates to all marketing creative in-market.
- Measurement — Optimizing and analyzing what’s working and driving brand ROI.
Gatorade’s Command Center in Chicago (pictured below) offers a glimpse into the future of brand marketing. The brand team, leveraging Radian6 and IBM, monitors trending terms and content related to the brand, competitors, and sponsored athletes. As the brand team identifies what matters to the target customer, it is able to immediately put creative in market (banners, Twitter, Facebook) that builds on the trending terms.
It is time to demand that brand marketers operate on the same cadence as their customers and that today’s marketing messages are literally messages — engaging content developed daily that’s in context with contemporary memes and interests of the target customer.