Monday, May 9, 2011

Brands Must Be Made Into Media Properties; even Unilever's Keith Weed thinks so

 When Unilever’s Keith Weed thinks about the future of brand building, he points  to an Axe-branded phone sold in Latin America.
 “Brands must be made into ‘media properties’”, announced Unilever CMO Keith  Weed a couple months ago. Keith oversees the second largest marketing  budget in the world at $3 billion, so his words carry a lot of weight.
“We’re going to have to make our brands much more media properties in [their] own right,” said Weed, who was interviewed by MediaLink chairman Michael Kassan. “We . . . have to connect much more with content and make our brands more relevant.”
According to Weed, modern marketing embraces the convergence of entertainment, media and brands. Unilever is meeting with content creators like Disney to create entertainment opportunities. Weed also mentioned gaming as a furtive ground for brand development.
Media fragmentation—and its resulting complexity of choices—remains the biggest challenge facing Unilever and its agencies. Brands can be part of the answer, by connecting media channels in an organized and compelling way, according to Weed. After all, as he sees it, brands simplify life and can simplify the media scene as well.


Brands are in the midst of recasting themselves as publishers. This shift conjures examples of self-serving advertorials, which were invented in the Mad Men era. Brands bought advertising and drafted articles to look like independently written editorial, like this toupee advertorial from the 1960s.

Today many brands default to the advertorial model when thinking about content marketing. They go into pitch mode, touting their features and benefits, whether on a Facebook page, a blog post, or an email newsletter. Content is treated solely as a means to sell product. They treat their audience as if their audience is captive.
Yet consumers can see through this in a heartbeat. And audiences are no longer captive. For content to be worthwhile, it must be worth sharing. It must have intrinsic value that is broader than the features of the brand.

When I worked at method, we published a book called Squeaky Green, a guide to detoxing a home. The only time the book mentioned the method brand was on the cover and there were no specific method products inside. The entire method book was about the philosophy of keeping a healthy home, including tips on buying a vacuum cleaner or carpets that don’t off-gas, topics without any direct method pitch.
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