The concept of Brand Journalism has been around since June 2004. Brand Journalism was introduced in 2003 at McDonald’s as its new way to communicate its new brand message. In summarizing the top ten ideas of the decade, Ad Age selected “Brand Journalism,” “as arguably the most realistic description of marketing today — perhaps ever.” Brand Journalism is even more relevant today than it was 16 years ago.
In 2004, Brand Journalism was highly controversial. For die-hards of traditional positioning, there was general outrage. These hardline, tradition-bound positionistas refused to see that Brand Journalism is essential in this new era of fractionalized real-time communications. Like Galileo’s clerics, the positionistas declined to look through the telescope to see the the reality of the new marketing universe. Many advertisers objected to Brand Journalism’s multi-dimensional, multi-faceted way of creating a brand story while still maintaining the integrity of the brand’s promised experience. These out-of-date hard liners held on to the view of repeating a single distilled brand message again and again. These objectors protested that telling the many facets of an evolving brand story would dilute the brand’s USP. They were… and still are… wrong.
They say the objective is to single word in the customer’s mind. This view is worldwide is out-of-date, old school brand management. Brands are complex, multi-dimensional ideas that include differentiating features, functional, emotional and social benefits as well as a distinctive brand character. In this digital, mobile marketing world, it is folly to rely on the repetition of a standardized brand message to every customer in every situation every time.
Brand Journalism addresses the facts that a brand means different things in different regions to different people in different situations. A brand means different things to consumers at different occasions: at home, away from home, morning, afternoon, evening, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, late night, weekday, or weekend, with kids, on a business trip, on a cruise, at a family gathering at university. Brand Journalism is the best way to bring brand coherence in a highly fractionated, exquisitely segmented digital, mobile world.
With Brand Journalism the brand messaging is never static or boring. The brand story is delivered in multi-faceted ways across multiple devices and platforms. A consumer (viewer/listener) is not subjected to the excessive repetition of a simple, standard creative message over and over again. And yet, the defining brand experience is the same across all media, across all devices and across all platforms.
In her speech at the National Retail Federation, Monica Turner, P&G SVP of Sales, spoke about the problem of running an individual piece of creative with excessive frequency. She is correct. A frequently aired single ad creates more irritation than intrigue. According to ADWEEK, P&G’s executives have been singing from the same hymnal about the annoyance of viewing the same spot over and over again.
There was a time when frequent exposure made sense, when repetition was important, when print and pre-cable, limited-channels TV were the preferred outlets: but those days are long gone. (However, as far back as 1967, research did indicate that repetition of a central theme with variations was more effective than repetition without variation.)
Brand Journalism is the antidote for “excessive frequency without variation.” Brand Journalism demands much more than a repetitive communication of a standardized inflexible, uniform, simplistic brand message. Brand Journalism brings focus to the convergence of branded communications in a time when carefully crafted, engaging content is critical. It is about creating and communicating an ongoing, flexible, interesting brand story that is globally coherent, regionally differentiated, and personally relevant.
Brand Journalism forces marketers to be conversationalists. Today, brand dialogue is dead: we now favor and seek “multi-logue” communications. With multiple formats providing personalized content in a sharing environment, dialogue has morphed from two-way communications to a multiplicity of shared opinions, expertise, editing, aggregation, and openness. Instead of just two-way communications, we live in a world of multi-way communications with our consumers and prospects. Brand Journalism maintains the brand’s essence across multi-logue conversations.
Given the ever-evolving, digital, split-second, techno-laden, app- overloaded, real-time, location-based, mobile world in which we now live, Brand Journalism is even more important as a marketing approach. It helps to create and cultivate curiosity about the brand – it makes the brand more multi-dimensional and not a one-size-fits-all offering.
Brand Journalism can be the most valuable tool in the marketer’s advertising and communications toolbox. Brand Journalism captures the interests of consumers who want customized, connective content. Brand Journalism offers the right messages to the right person in the right situation at the right time with the right content in the right format for the right device. It is anything but boring and repetitive.
Brand Journalism allows for multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, multi-device, evolving brand stories. It offers a solution to the challenges and opportunities created by media digitization and the proliferation of social and sharing sites and virtual communities.
We have the chance of a lifetime to connect and engage consumers with journalistic brand storytelling that they will want to consume. In this new era of Inclusive Individuality, Brand Journalism will be an increasingly important part of marketing’s future.
Originally published on Forbes 21 January 2020