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The CMO as Studio Storyteller

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in News | No Comments

CMO-as-storyteller$135 billion will be spent on content marketing, video marketing and social media worldwide in 2014, according to eMarketer.

$91 billion will be spent on watching films worldwide in 2014.

Think about that.  The content marketing “industry” will be 44% larger in 2014 than the film industry. Companies aren’t becoming like movie studios in the massive amounts of original content they generate. They already are.  The only difference is their original content needs to work harder and accomplish more because whereas in film, the movie is the end product, in business, the custom content is only a means to move the real product.  So the burden is even greater.

In the current environment where engagement through content is a constant priority, the CMO needs to think like a studio head.  In some ways, the CMO already does.  Like the studio head, the CMO thinks intensely about having a robust distribution strategy, a tightly running operation that helps get product to market on time, and access to the best talent both in-house and outsourced.  But where the studio head recognizes that their livelihood depends on the quality of stories they develop, too often the CMO still sees story as a tactical exercise, something to be outsourced to creative talents as budget allows, or relegated to side initiatives that straddle HR and marketing.

But with so much content execution happening today – and spending forecast to grow at double-digit rates over the next several years – CMOs will only see return on that significant investment if they place story at the center of their operation, from strategy through to execution.

Two companies demonstrate compelling styles in adopting the “marketing as movie studio” approach. GoPro has justifiably become legend in the new world of content marketing for their meteoric rise based heavily on the videos curated from their customer base. The #1 brand on YouTube with more than 2.2 million subscribers. 7.7 million “likes” on Facebook. More than 2.8 million followers on Instagram. More importantly, revenue has skyrocketed from $234M to $987M in two years because these aren’t just viewers, they’re customers who aspire to the GoPro lifestyle.

GoPro quite literally acts the movie studio part as they build their library of creative properties. They sift through thousands of user-submitted videos. When they happen upon one that tells a compelling story, they add creative talent (they have at least one video editor per vertical industry) to bring the story to life more vividly. Once polished, they release it across their robust digital distribution network.

Compare that immediately to the movie studio where script readers pore over thousands of scripts until they find the compelling story to recommend to their boss. Once green lit, that script gets the benefit of many creative talents in order to become a film that is ultimately released across the studio’s robust distribution network.

This approach isn’t confined to product categories closely related to film, however. Consider global agriculture manufacturer AGCO. Before they launched their social media presence, they found that many of their customers were already active themselves sharing videos on YouTube and photos on Facebook of their AGCO equipment. Like the armies of enthusiastic screenwriters creating spec scripts, the farmers were already out there creating content for AGCO!

So AGCO culls the best content from their farmer community showcasing work on the company Facebook page that has now swelled to nearly 225,000 likes, the vast majority of whom are highly engaged customers. And they extend the benefit to their dealer network with content tools that allow dealers to promote themselves without needing to create content of their own.

As has been cited over and over, we are a storytelling species. It’s how we naturally communicate. The good news is that the CMO has the channels through which to tell stories rather than push product so they may forge a deeper relationship with their audience. The challenge is that marketers have decades of product-pushing muscle memory that needs to be retrained.

As we go through the awkward transition from product-pushing to storytelling, it’s the marketing leader who embraces story over description as the language of their marketing department who is developing the most engaged customers. Because if you have the ability to produce and distribute content like a movie studio, it’s best you act like one, starting with the healthiest respect for story.

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