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A new kind of branding

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A friend I visited recently told me a familiar story. His $1 billion technology company was growing quickly, but the corporate position no longer expressed the company's reality. My friend wanted to launch an advertising campaign to express the new brand, but most executives still thought “brand campaign” were dirty words. I advised him to avoid the path that leads directly from brand challenge to advertising. Today, you can change the landscape of a brand campaign in many ways, all centered around defining, recasting and distributing content. Here are 10 ideas we have begun to apply to content-based brand programs: 1) Work out the story. Yes, you still need to go through the hard work of defining how you fit in the market and why you're valuable. 2) Use dynamic assets to bring the story to life. Collect short videos of the management team sharing their vision. Pull new-business presentations. Make it all available online for brand managers. 3) Map your audience's behavior. Beyond traditional media and Web sites, what communities do your audiences join? What blogs do they read? Create and distribute relevant content here. 4) Build audience personas. As one of our creative directors says, “Be what your audiences care about.” It's not about stereotypes of engineers or CIOs; it's about tapping into the emotional life of these people. 5) Mine existing content. We've never met a client who doesn't have a wealth of valuable presentations, white papers, case studies, speeches and technology roadmaps buried deep in its site. 6) Transform old content into new. The best assets can be transformed in the form of podcasts, Flash presentations, mashups and online videos. 7) Redefine your content. Widgets—portable containers of useful information that users customize—and games are two of the fastest-growing marketing tools today. 8) Treat your Web site like a media property. Program your own site as if it were a television channel with regular branded features. 9) Partner. You're not the only person with interesting content that your audience would value. Look to trade publications or user communities. Sponsor relevant content or license it to use in your channels. 10) Think programmatically. Map out your plan: the audience, where they can be found, what you want to show and how. It works. At the end of the day, your brand is not an ad campaign or based on the size of your media buy. It's a story that captures your customer's imagination and delivers a promise that no one else can match. Phil Johnson is president of PJA Advertising+Marketing, Cambridge, Mass. He can be reached at pjohnson@agencypja.com.
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