Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Coca-Cola and content strategy's watershed moment

Almost 14 years ago I joined a San Fransisco based Web shop called Ikonic Interactive.  It was 1998, but the agency was ahead of its time. I learned a lot about digital during my time there, but most importantly I learned about Content Strategy.

Content Strategy.  

While I had never heard that phrase before--even though I had a journalism degree and had worked at a number of offline and online publications--I knew instantly what it was. You see, content in the digital space is different.  It's not typical "creative" content because it goes beyond the tagline and the 30-second spot. It also isn't typical editorial content, as there is often a marketing bent to it.  Yet it isn't brochureware either, it is more grounded, more genuine. In addition, content in the digital space behaves differently--it can be dynamically delivered, tagged, searched and reused.  It is separate from form, and it is alive.

There's an active and growing content strategy community, but for the most part, content is still a hard sell.  That's why, when I read what Coca-Cola is doing with its Content 2020 initiative, I couldn't help but get excited.

The direction is the brainchild of Jonathan Mildenhall, Coca-Cola's VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence. According to Mildenhall, to engage consumers and own a share of the cultural conversation, one must create content  with true editorial value that provokes conversations. That may seem simple, but after 40 years of advertising culture, and an odd obsession with the likes of Don Draper, it's a major shift. 

Mildenhall goes on. Content must provide value and significance. It must tell stories but also be measurable. It must be liquid and sharable across devices. At a high level this may not sound new, but the details of the approach are what make it special.

It's true that other companies have used content in engaging ways in the digital space, but Mildenhall embraces content in a new way. He isn't trying to desperately recreate the 30-second spot but rather move beyond it.   And that is what is so awesome about his plan.

The following videos explain these concepts eloquently.  I encourage you to watch them.  Viva la content strategy!