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Focus on the message, whatever the medium

Compelling content is the key to a media-neutral strategy for brands that want to make the connection with consumers, writes Dr Nicola Murphy.

If I were a betting person, I would put short odds on my esteemed competitors using these pages to make predictions about the growing importance to brands of building a strategic content strategy (paid-for versus free) in 2012. That's certainly my view. If you don't already have one for your brand, channel-neutral, then you are behind the game.

We have, as always, taken a different, more interesting approach to selling River - because you are our consumer, and compelling you to read an interesting article (not more of the same) is what we are about. If we can convince you, we can convince your customer, right? So we've used a real marketing guru, Laurie Young, to sell River to you, from a case study he wrote in 2010. It says everything you need to know.

First, though, let's set the scene. Last year the medium (mobile, tablet, viral, video, social) overshadowed what we content agencies should be bringing to market - fantastic content, whatever the medium, that engages with customers and compels a reaction, driving an organisation's sales and profit.

Brands now need to engage with customers in a more compelling way. There's too much noise, too many brands vying for our attention, too much to unsubscribe from. Brands need definition in a crowded market; marketing messages and offers that beat the competition into second place.

We put the customer journey (and commercial objectives) at the heart of the content. Our expertise is compelling content. The medium is important only in understanding consumer preferences in using it: long or short copy, video or photography, social or static. We know how to craft the right compelling content, then recommend how it is repurposed specific to the medium.

Now for Laurie Young. He is a services marketing guru and author with a starry marketing career. He was assistant to the deputy chairman of BT, launched and sold an agency to O&M and was global marketing partner at PwC. Laurie used River as a case study in his book The Marketer's Handbook, which examines a range of marketing strategies for their real-world relevance.

The book includes case studies from leading brands: IBM, Fujitsu, Guinness, MasterCard ... and River, in the digital marketing section. Here's an abridged section, which illustrates our approach; the proliferation of channels has not changed the fundamentals of marketing and communication.

'Their view is that people are people and that marketing is about communicating with people in engaging ways, whether through digital or other means. River is still set on providing brilliant, beautiful and creative content.

As River celebrated its 16th birthday, it relaunched to become a full-service content agency. This was prompted largely by the changes in marketing communication among its clients, due to the advent of digital media and marketing. So, in addition to the existing magazines, catalogues and books, it has added: website production, mobile and tablet applications, animated digital magazines, viral, video, eRM, social web strategies and fulfilment. In other words, it is a supplier of full service digital and print content solutions ...

The core business principles remain the same. They don't believe the evolution of digital products has changed the fundamentals of marketing and communication. Customers, consumers, real people still want to be communicated with and have high expectations of brands. They want to be entertained, rewarded, recognised and spoken to. They just expect to hear through new mechanisms and to be able to respond or talk back to brands.

River believes that marketers must not overcomplicate the process ... The only difference is that they now have a wider selection of channels and tools through which to deliver content. They still aim to deliver the right content, in the right way. The traditional magazine model is still included within the list of tools, but they surround these with more interactive, often digital elements.

The agency is able to offer its clients new services that will help them reach more customers in more efficient and effective ways. However, these experienced and battle-hardened marketers are not carried away with the hyperbole and technologies of the digital age.'

Because we apply marketing discipline to our content, it works harder. That, of course, is what it's all about: consumers compelled to take action as a result of engaging with our content, and, therefore, your brand, in whatever channel.

So. Have I connected with you? Go on, give River a call. Love to hear from you.

Laurie's book is available from Amazon and other booksellers; River also has 10 copies to give away. Email Nicki at nmurphy@therivergroup.co.uk

Dr Nicola Murphy, chief executive, River

River is a multichannel content agency with a magazine heritage. We do not believe that the medium is the message, rather that it shapes its format. We work closely with clients to ensure the message exists seamlessly as a measurable part of the customer journey.

We bring marketing expertise to every client challenge. Our recent launch of seven international editions of Weight Watchers Magazine indicates our interest in global markets, and we are one of the only agencies to produce branded content so good that consumers are prepared to pay for it; Healthy is sold through Holland & Barrett and at the newsstand, while Weight Watchers Magazine is sold at Weight Watchers meetings and via retailers worldwide.

River launched in 1994 and we like to think that our retention of clients is down to our ability to pre-empt their needs and respond quickly and efficiently to changing market conditions.

In the words of Peter Aldis, chief executive of Holland & Barrett parent NBTY Europe: 'They are very creative, but also focused on ensuring that we get a return on our investment.'

River's clients include The Co-operative Group, Holland & Barrett, Honda UK, Superdrug, Weight Watchers (UK, France, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands)

To find out more about River, visit www.therivergroup.co.uk


Superdrug Digi Dare: January 2012 Launch

January 2012 saw the launch of a fully featured app for Superdrug under the Dare masthead. The first of its kind in the health and beauty market, and published on the Kindmags platform, Digi Dare includes video, social integration with Twitter and Facebook and a beautiful, but simple, design template.

Digi Dare sits with its print sister in the heart of the Superdrug customer journey and has been created to enhance the reader experience by offering a content-rich and customer-friendly environment encouraging new shoppers into store and online with a value proposition.

The app is available for download from Superdrug.com, via 2.6m emails, can be viewed on web-connected devices via a browser or downloaded as an iPhone/iPad app from Apple's Newsstand. The Kindmags platform allows us to publish once for multiple channels.

Matt Walburn, customer and marketing director at Superdrug, says: 'We're very excited to be first to market in this format and view Digi Dare as a real investment in customers. We want them to experience our product range in a new way. Dare has been a great success story and this addition ensures that we will continue to inspire shoppers to purchase in-store, as well as online.'

From Marketing's Branded Content supplement Feb 2012


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