In The Age Of Customer Experience, Content In Context Is King

Media personality and former NFL defensive end Michael Strahan graced the stage Tuesday afternoon at Adobe Symposium in New York City, revealing that in between appearing on “Good Morning America,” Fox’s “NFL Sunday,” and the “$100,000 Pyramid,” he always puts on a new suit.

His reasoning? “It’s out of respect for the audiences,” said Strahan, who was interviewed by Stacy Martinet, head of marketing strategy and operations at Adobe. When put into a digital context, companies can learn a lot from Strahan’s mandatory wardrobe change. Just as Strahan does not repurpose one suit for two shows, companies should not repurpose the same content for multiple platforms. Instead, they should create content specifically for each platform their consumers spend time on.

That’s the strategy VICE Media uses when creating content in a digital, on-demand age, where consumers want to consume media on every platform. “You can’t think about [a platform] as something you have to put content on,” said Ciel Hunter, global head of content at VICE Media, told attendees. “You need to be thinking about how to bring your content to life on each platform.”

She said experimentation is going to be key, a sentiment Strahan echoed when he said, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a part of learning.”

According to Hunter, long-form documentaries--sometimes up to an hour--are VICE’s bread and butter. However, while they perform well on the media brand’s web properties, a 60-minute video isn’t going to perform well on Facebook, she said. That’s why Hunter has challenged her team to continue to create long-form content but also think ahead on creating shorter-form, contextually relevant derivatives for platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram.

That level of contextual relevance is going to be key for companies that embark on the journey to make experience their business, said Jordan Kretchmer, GM of Adobe Livefyre and Adobe Social. “Experiences are a consumer’s sum of total interactions with brands,” he said. “Consumers don’t remember products, but they do remember the experiences they have had with products.”

The reason for VICE’s undisputed success, Kretchmer said, is because it has excelled at being multimedia and multiplatform. “[VICE is essentially] creating chunks of content that are portable, testing them on various platforms, and using data to optimize, making the next story more effective and more efficient,” he said.

While some folks might be put off by the various avenues for distribution, Hunter considers it to be an “inspiring time” to be a content creator. “You can find more audiences than ever before,” she said. “Be inspired, not overwhelmed, by all these platforms.” 

According to Adobe’s Kretchmer, 89% of businesses expect they are going to compete based on experiences. At the heart of every good experience is relevant, contextual, and engaging content, making design, data, and intelligence an imperative for all organizations competing in the experience era.

“We are finding that companies who are truly making experience their business understand that context is the starting line,” Kretchmer said. “Context is your cue, but you need to use that context to deliver individual experiences, and that means rethinking your entire content supply chain.”

Aidan Lyons, VP of fan-centric marketing for the NFL, also came on stage to talk about some of his organization’s recent challenges with reaching younger audiences, and how great content, in context, helped overcome them.

Gen Z is very different from previous generations,” Lyons told attendees. “They are highly distracted, pressed for time, and less likely to have a core team connection.”

According to Lyons, 42% of teens watch NFL games on TV during the average in-season month. Comparatively, 81% use social media during the average month in-season. “They are elusive to reach,” Lyons said. “We found that our content is not resonating with this generation, and when they do engage with us, they want snack-sized content and not a three-hour game.”

Teens spend more than two hours a day on social media, engaging with content on Snapchat, Buzzfeed, SoundCloud, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and others. The NFL set out to not only make content available to them on these channels and platforms, but also realized it had to completely revamp its content and marketing strategy, and invest differently when targeting Generation Z. A new campaign was created with the goal of making the game of American football aspirational and exciting for this younger generation of consumers.

At the heart of the effort was relevant content made for the teen audience. Through short-form, fun content on Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat custom lenses, a four-part video series on Awesomeness TV, and the blending of music and sports on SoundCloud, among other tactics, the NFL launched its “Let’s Play Football” campaign in early 2016.

“We looked at our existing fans and hyper-targeted them by creating fan profiles of our target audience and appending first-, second-, and third-party data,” Lyons said. “We targeted them in high-impact and highly visual social platforms where we tested various forms of creative and optimized to double-down on the winners.”

The results were undeniable: NFL reached 70% of teens in the United States. Awareness of the “Let’s Play Football” campaign also grew, as did their perception of football. Additionally, Lyons said, the intent to play football among teens increased 22%, and youth enrollment in the NFL’s Heads Up Football program increased 10%.

Of course, behind every successful campaign is a strong team--whether on the field or in business. Said Strahan, who has played both sides: “We have to work together to win. You need other people, and as a member of the team, you need to become accountable to each of them. You have to ‘play’ for something greater than yourself, and having this connection with the team allows that.”

One last piece of advice for digital leaders from the ultimate multitasking star? “You have to focus on quality,” Strahan said. “That is something you can’t fake.”

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