In an industry that loves buzzwords and handles, this is the new one for 2010: content without walls. It’s a fancy (or succinct) way of saying that your brand needs to live wherever and whenever a consumer wants or needs access to information or entertainment.
After all, our media habits have become increasingly complex. We get our fix of content from books, ads, podcasts, magazines and movies. And we access it from smart phones, tablets, TV sets, and digital billboards. Not to mention search, shared links and social media.
So what does this mean for content creators, advertisers, brands? Does this suggest that we simply make sure every TV spot also gets posted to YouTube and a brand’s Facebook page? Is it all about the many different places we can put a piece of content so that it lives on every imaginable platform, ubiquitous and impossible to avoid? Is it merely about portability from one device to another?
“Hey, we can put our spot on cable, on smart phones, embed it in a tablet ad, or play it in back of a taxi cab. While we’re at it, why not project it onto the sides of urban buildings, too. Let’s leverage that production budget.”
That may work in some cases. I watch at least as much TV on my iPhone as I do on my Samsung flat screen. And I probably sit through far more ads on YouTube than on television. (That way I get to pick only the good ones.) But the expression “content without walls,” could, in some cases, make us lazy if all we do is place the same idea in lots of different places.
I much prefer the idea of “engineering your presence,” a term I first heard from Michael Calienes. It suggests you need to be everywhere, but not always with the same content. Chances are pretty good that customers don’t want the same thing on a tablet as they want on TV. The information that appears on your packaging is unlikely to double as an iPhone app. And while an honest to goodness testimonial — inspired by an effective conversation strategy — might work from a blogger you actually trust, or a friend on Twitter, it typically makes for some pretty boring advertising.
Instead of starting with the content we have, we should consider what our customers want. We should write strategies and creative briefs that offer insights about a customer’s relationship to media, content and community, not just to the brand, product or category. Does she want to be entertained or informed? Is she interested in listening or sharing or co-creating? Is she influenced more by friends or trusted bloggers? Are we creating a series of messages we hope will get noticed? Or are we producing applications we know will get used?
Sticking a TV spot on YouTube no matter how many views it gets may be content without walls. But it probably won’t break through all the barriers standing between you and a loyal customer.
This post inspired by a great conversation with my brilliant colleague John Moore.
Photo by: Alex Webb