Why Nike could be the next ESPN
A lot of experimentation has gone on in this area with sponsored programming, branded content on websites and television and joint media advertising partnerships.
Having coined the term "branded content" in 1998, I have been dabbling in this arena ever since and I believe now is the time for certain brands to extend into media directly.
Brands are already creating content in all forms: from magazines to videos to television shows. For example, one of Hong Kong's leading shopping malls recently launched My Place - not only a magazine with excellent original content, but also a potential revenue and media platform to engage consumers.
What stops a brand from creating or aggregating enough relevant content to become its own media platform?
We create all sorts of content every day for clients. This content is now largely distributed via the web and provides information and entertainment directly to our clients' customers. The content is directly tied to the brand, but is often non-commercial. It, like traditional media, tells a story. But one can imagine where this could take us.
Nike could be the next ESPN. I'd go to Nike to get sports scores, watch games and get fitness tips. Media icons such as Martha Stewart have taken media brands and turned them into products. Not all product brands can make the reverse morph, but many can.
DIY home improvement or design brands such as G.O.D. can develop content and channels for home decorating. Cathay Pacific can create and distribute travel content. In fact, Cathay Pacific and other airlines are already creating and distributing content in the form of in-flight magazines and video entertainment.
With Wi-Fi now on airlines, Cathay Pacific can brand its Wi-Fi service, offer in-flight travel guides and programming, bundled with the ability to purchase travel packages and book trips directly off travel shows.
Shanghai Tang could take its unique history and position as a Chinese luxury brand and create a media platform dedicated to bringing the beauty and culture of China to the rest of the world, thereby making it the definitive voice of China for the luxury consumer.
However, to be authentic, a brand must include competition in its content. This risk is offset by the increased audience, market and brand loyalty.
Starbucks has always sold the coffee house concept, not just coffee, as part of its brand promise. The extensions it has made into music, books and film have supported this brand concept.
Clearly, not every brand can or should be in the media business. There also needs to be a distinction made between what is marketing content versus news no matter the media platform source.
I believe consumers of information will not be bothered with journalistic integrity issues regarding content on brand-based platforms. Consumers are smart enough to know if it is good information or not. And when they want truly objective views, will seek them out.
The blur between marketing and information has been going on for decades on a variety of platforms, not only the web.
The media landscape has been in a state of change for 20 years and with broad-based high-speed internet access, change is accelerating.
But with change remains a few key value constants: the value of the brand whether it be an individual, an emerging entity or a major established consumer brand; the value of information, news and entertainment and what consumers will pay to access them; and the value of social interaction and communication.
Heidi Sinclair is the president of global technology for Weber Shandwick.
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