Is brand publishing right for you?

I had an interesting discussion with a brand team this week about creating content, such as advice, tips, tricks and what have you. The marketing director aspired to create his own branded content. An example of this approach would be Pampers. Their website is called "Pampers Village", and has loads of content and tools about baby care: advice from expert panels, a desktop "widget" that tells you what your baby-to-be is up to week by week.

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But I wasn't sure this was the right way to go. To help us figure out the best way forward, I suggested the following questions:

1. Is the category and brand interesting enough?

A way of thinking about this is whether you'd want to browse the brand's online magazine. With Pampers, baby care is a highly emotional area. Expectant and new mums have an insatiable appetite for information. And on the brand side, Pampers is a highly trusted authority, who for decades has used expert endorsement as part of its marketing.

In contrast, some brands and categories just don't lend themselves to being a content publisher. I love Hellmann's mayonnaise. But I don't want to read their magazine. Now, you could give advice about food and cooking I suppose, rather than info on the Hellmann's brand. But then is that really going to sell and more mayo…

… which brings us to the second question.

2. How will this help you SMS (sell more stuff)?

In our book, everything should help you sell more stuff. Just saying that being a brand publisher will help make people feel warm and fuzzy about your brand aint good enough. For Pampers, they know they only have mums for a few years. So, they have to get them early, and keep them buying every week. At the heart of doing this is a highly sophisticated data-base marketing approach, targeting coupons and samples at key baby life-stages. Pampers Village is an extension of this. It helps get expectant mums signed up early. And its a way to keep reminding them to buy Pampers every week.

The other way brand publishing works well is for lifestyle brands, where the content can reinforce a sense of prestige and being "a member of an exclusive club". This is literally the case with Nespresso, which is a member-based brand. Their magazine is very high quality, and actually makes interesting reading….

…. which brings us to the third question.

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3. Do you have the cash and people to do it well?

Being a publisher is a huge commitment. Because once you've started, you need keep going. When working with Jordans Cereals, we recommended having a person pretty much full time to write the blog, email newsletters and Twitter updates. And, all credit to them, this is what Rachel spends a lot of her time doing. On a much bigger scale, innocent smoothies have an in-house team of about 15 creative people to write all that amazing pack copy on every bottle, a form of publishing.

Now, are you really up for this? Are you prepared to staff up and spend cash to be a publisher, and do it well?

If you answer "yes" to all the above, get publishing. If not, you may be better off being an "editor" of content. You can compile relevant content from other blogs for example. And link up with other publishers to promote your brand. For example, Hellmann's could be a key sponsor of the food section of the Good Living  website.