Digitalisation has, in many ways, placed the consumer in charge of their own purchase journeys and decision processes. This also means that, as an advertiser, you are much more dependent on a marketing strategy dominated by content marketing. As such, we see many brands currently undergoing a transition towards a marketing model where unique, premium content is created and given away on a continuous basis. This is a clear break with the past, when content was more exclusive and controlled.

Today, the publishing of content on social media, such as YouTube, is required to keep up with the constantly changing competitive landscape where the user has evermore access to information. Of course, for brands the aim continues to be that the investment is recouped through a lift in sales and improved image.

However, it’s interesting to contemplate whether this tendency fundamentally changes the way brands are built or simply alters the way in which brands most effectively achieve awareness. Personally, I believe that the tendency reforms both sides. Brands will continue to try to simplify and filter the options for the consumer, for instance: identification, choice and creation of trust in a marketplace overflowing with options. Likewise, brands will continue to build their value through emotional triggers; indeed, this is the main area where there are changes.

As a brand, you need to have a perspective on the world external to your own sector. The brand has to be embedded in the cultural context by taking an interest in what the consumers are interested in.

The emotional triggers have changed character. Previously, in a less connected world, brands sought to build an emotional bridge to the consumer through validations of the quality and properties of the product. Today, where quality is increasingly consistent across the board, there is a need to create likeability at a higher level in order to appear differentiated and defined. This has its risks. The timeframe for winning - or losing - passion for a brand has diminished significantly. These macro-attitudes can affect the “trending power” of a brand enormously by creating acute perceptions of whether a brand is hot or not.

This is why content publication, rooted in the cross-section of brand, consumer and cultural context, is so relevant for modern marketing. It’s not really about whether content is free or sold. The investment isn’t in the content at all, but in what the content makes possible - and this is where many content strategies fail.

As a brand, you need to have a perspective on the world external to your own sector. The brand has to be embedded in the cultural context by taking an interest in what the consumers are interested in. The brand has to fight for attention on consumers’ terms and not their own by building an emotional bridge between what interests them and what the brand is good at. This is not revolutionary, but simply the natural consequence for marketing when it comes to a consumer-first approach.

Light-up cube with YouTube branding

As a platform, YouTube is in a unique position to do this because it works as both a content destination as well as a distribution hub for advertisers. The platform is home to entrepreneurial content creators who, especially with the younger demographics, are among the primary culture drivers and trendsetters. This combines well with the advertising capabilities possible on a platform that accesses the cultural discourse alongside the right mix of context and relevance.

Ultimately, YouTube builds a bridge to the cultural discourse across paid, owned and earned efforts. The starting point for this is a passionate community that serves as a brand destination as well as branded presence in a distributed manner. Used correctly, a brand can find in YouTube a potent tool for influencing consumers both implicitly and explicitly in the cultural context. Through content facilitation, content creation and co-branded collaborations on YouTube, a brand can extend its reach as well as its value (both in the market and with the consumers) and thereby anchor its cultural relevance.

As an advertiser, the focus is frequently on the operation and processes. It is the accommodation of the category expectations which prevail. But these are green fees in the eyes of the consumer and usually are not particularly differentiating. Price points only set the level of expectation through a reflection of the brand promise, but without actually delivering on it.

The brand’s presence in the cultural context, i.e. how the brand chooses to behave, should be the space it leaves itself to act and promise, not the other way around. A brand promise is no longer about what a consumer gets, but how they are made to feel. For this simple reason, audiovisual platforms like YouTube will be deciding components in the marketing mix, both in the marketing approach of today and tomorrow.