What Is the Future of Content Branding?

The Westfield shopping centres generated almost £2 billion of sales last year as thousands of visitors flooded through the new Stratford mall during the Olympics.

At the Women4Technology event organized by Bailey Fisher and adjustyourset.tv, Angel Gambino, entrepreneur and investor (SVP Digital Innovation at Westfield Shopping town during the 2012 Olympics), mentioned that of all value additions provided by Westfield, during the Olympics, the most appreciated and re-tweeted was -- no, not the photo opportunity with David Beckham or Mo Farah -- it was the free Wi-Fi and stations for charging mobile devices.

Duh! Of course! We live in a connected world -- after air, water and coffee what's most essential is Wi-Fi, and then you want to make sure your smart device is juiced up so you can stay plugged in.

In today's app-heavy world, where the battery on an iPhone 5 does not last more than four hours, I, for one, have learned to never leave home without my charger.

In fact, my choice of a coffee shop or a shopping outlet boils down to which one provides Wi-Fi. As my dad confessed, the key reason he equipped his home with Wi-Fi was because without it his children absolutely refused to visit.

This underlines a core principle of marketing: Provide something that makes a real difference to your consumers' lives, and they will come.

As a content marketer though, it raises the question -- what real need does content deliver for a viewer? Content entertains and engages. But does it make a tangible difference to the lives of the viewer?

To some extent, factual programming does, so does news. But what about entertainment? And if it does not make a tangible difference to their lives then what is its future?

Content that resonates with viewers normally elicits a specific emotional reaction. It makes them laugh or moves them to cry, or perhaps taps into their deepest fears. Thus, most successful content branding exercises have been those that have focused on fulfilling a specific emotional niche.

But the added complexity in the connected world is that it also needs to specifically appeal to, get noticed and shared by key influencers who are perceived as adding real value to the lives of their connections. (Seth Godin, anyone?)

Which means 1 percent of the audience.

The future of marketing for content-based branding is then to laser target that 1 percent of the audience with content that is not just unique or exclusive, but which compels the key influencers to share.

Which means really moving beyond mass media to individual targeting of these influencers, thus generating word of mouth and finally engagement.

Or else it has to be content that adds social value of some kind to the community at large. The days of just providing a simple tune-in message and expecting viewers to come are over; it has to be teamed with engagement tactics and add value to the viewers' lives.

What do you think? Do you agree?

Laxmi Hariharan is a broadcast branding strategist & a writer of epic fantasy. Find her at LAXMIwrites or @laxmi