What B2B Marketers Can Learn From Hollywood Moguls

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In the battle for attention, content marketers are always on the hunt for better strategies. Many brands have decided to imitate newspapers like The New York Times, which produce massive amounts of high-quality content every day. These marketers invest in "brand newsrooms" and fuel their marketing efforts with a steady stream of lightweight, real-time articles.

However, the newspaper model is not the only paradigm worth imitating. There's a different approach to monetizing content that B2B marketers have largely overlooked: the Hollywood model.

Giants like Disney and Netflix have generated record profits in recent years by taking the opposite approach to newspapers. What is their secret? And what can B2B marketers learn from them? Well, it all boils down to three things: focus, familiarity, and extensibility.

1. Focus on doing fewer things, better

How many movies do you think Disney produced last year? A hundred? Fifty?

Try 16.

Competing on quantity is a tough business. That's why Disney focuses on quality -- pouring more resources into fewer assets. Following this strategy, Disney made $7 billion with just 5 movies last year (a first in Hollywood history).

Instead of creating 10 lightweight, one-off articles a week, what if you focused on a single heavyweight asset every quarter? By producing a heavyweight content franchise, like Mary Meeker's Internet Trends Report, you can give your content the internal and external attention it requires to be successful.

2. Exploit familiarity, not originality

Of those five movies that made Disney $7 billion dollars, how many were wholly original?


As Derek Thompson notes in his book "Hit Makers," almost all of Hollywood's highest-grossing films during the past decade were either reboots, sequels, or best-selling book adaptations. Hollywood is a master at monetizing the "back catalogue." Newspapers, in contrast, have no back catalogue -- news has to be new, by definition. Studio moguls understand that betting big on familiar franchises is a more sustainable and profitable approach to content production and distribution.

Marketers should aim to build franchises, borrowing equity from the original to create sequels. If your brand publishes a Trends Report in 2015, it should also publish one in 2016, 2017 and 2018, tweaking the original formula to remain relevant to the same audiences.

If you don't already have a billion dollar franchise, that's okay. Analyze the content you've already published and examine the data to understand which narratives have resonated best. Use these findings as your true north. Signals like backlinks and shares can help inform the creative process.

3. Don't move on to the next thing, extend the franchise

The beauty of a brand like "Star Wars" is that it's so much more than a movie. "Star Wars" has been relentlessly exploited over the years to sell toys, games, clothing and other merchandise that now provide an even bigger revenue stream for Disney.

A similar dynamic can be applied to B2B marketing. Take Marketo's Guide to Lead Generation, which is updated each year with minimal effort. The guide's insights are "previewed" in a variety of formats (slides, articles, videos) on a variety of channels (SlideShare, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook). These are the B2B equivalents of action figures and lunch boxes: re-using the same core intellectual property in as many places as possible.

In the end, creating one-off pieces of content in real-time, like a newspaper, can be a problematic, labor-intensive strategy. Today's B2B marketers have a unique opportunity to create their own blockbusters by doubling down on familiar, extensible thought leadership assets that withstand the test of time.

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