Ken Willner, CEO of Zumobi, Talks Understanding Successful Content Branding

Inplace #2

As Chief Executive Officer, Ken Willner leads an experienced team in the development and growth of Zumobi’s mobile media business. Prior to Zumobi, Ken was Vice President of Advertising and Media at AT&T Wireless, where he developed a number of innovative marketing programs to stimulate consumer adoption of mobile content and applications

What are the secrets/keys to successful content branding today and to creating great content that is useful to a brand’s audience/customers?

The key to successful content branding is providing valuable information to people whenever and wherever they want it. On a daily basis, the consumer is bombarded with irrelevant marketing messages. In order for a brand to successfully engage with consumers, they must either create quality content or align themselves with content meaningful to the consumer. Additionally, branded content must be contextually relevant and easily accessed via whatever medium or method desired.

For example, on average a typical consumer spends at least 139 minutes a day on their mobile device. These connected individuals represent a tremendous number of daily touch points between brands and consumers.  To effectively reach these consumers, marketers need to apply content marketing programs in ways that can be distributed across any device or screen in both long and short form.

Why is it important for content marketers to get this branded content out to wider audiences?

eMarketer predicts that mobile usage will grow 23 percent this year as time spent online and with traditional media declines.  Last year, mobile time (excluding voice calls) lined up evenly with time spent on desktops and laptops.  This year, they believe that mobile will pull significantly ahead.  With this emphatic shift to mobile devices, it is imperative to seize the opportunity and provide relevant content consumers connect with; when and where they want it.

What strategies do you recommend for content marketers to get their branded content out? What strategies have proven effective and not so effective?

Marketers should leverage every communication channel available to them to expand their branded content exposure, including paid, earned and owned media.  On the paid media side, the movement toward native advertising offers some unique opportunities to provide branded content more organic to a user’s consumption.  Then on the owned media side, one of the areas that my company, Zumobi, has been pioneering is the enablement of content marketing programs inside a marketer’s own native mobile and tablet apps. Our ZBi platform provides a compelling opportunity for marketers to deliver personalized content to their customer based on their expressed intentions and preferences.

What are some of the distinctive/recent challenges digital publishers/electronic content providers face today when it comes to wider distribution of their branded content and maximizing their reach/message that perhaps weren’t challenges just a few years ago?

Capturing consumer attention in an increasingly competitive digital media landscape is definitely a challenge.  Also, developing and optimizing content for distribution across multiple screens is a significant endeavor.  The fragmentation created by the diversity of connected devices, screens and operating systems add major complexities to business today.

What are some don’ts marketers should avoid?

Don’t assume that one size fits all when it comes to content marketing.  Different consumption modes require different formats, digital assets and feeds, as well as diverse technology to really be successful in today’s evolving digital media landscape.

What are some of the challenges/limitations/opportunities publishers and marketers need to keep in mind?

Most Fortune 500 companies from major auto manufactures, to banks and CPG brands have their own mobile applications. Frequently, we’ve noticed that these were launched quickly as utility apps, with functionalities to book a hotel room, check an account balance or print out a boarding pass.  These features are functional of course, but they do not provide a mechanism for the brand to communicate, cross-sell or upsell to their customers.  Adding a creative and compelling content hub to their app enables brands to keep their customers engaged on a whole new level, motivating them to keep coming back for more.

How should publishers/marketers be leveraging different platforms and media to increase their reach/audience? Any creative/innovative strategies they should consider?

Brands should consider deploying a content marketing platform for apps that easily leverages existing content from outlets like YouTube, Twitter (and even their print publications) to continually inject interesting new dynamic content into their app.  What many brands may not know is that this can be done without the hassles of long-term development efforts, continual app store updates or even ongoing technical assistance from IT departments. Marketers that embrace a content marketing platform can easily update their apps automatically and streamline their process in real-time.  In addition, brands benefit from the app data they gather because it can be utilized to inform associated marketing efforts.

Can you provide at least one example of a digital content provider/publisher that has been particularly successful in getting its branded content out to the masses?

For last year’s “Chevrolet Technology Series” campaign, Zumobi, in partnership with Motor Trend and Commonwealth, utilized our ZBi platform to translate a special print editorial collection to the mobile environment. This provided users a unique branded content experience across Motor Trend’s iOS and Android reader apps. Essentially, the ZBi platform provided a native-ad solution for Chevrolet.  The campaign achieved phenomenal success, resulting in an unprecedented 37 percent engagement rate, which showcased the fact that more than one-third of people interacted with the native mobile advertisement. Additionally, we were named a GOLD winner of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) 9th Annual MIXX Awards in IAB’s Standard Mobile Rich Media Display category.

What other often overlooked factors/criteria should publishers/marketers be considering?

Publishers and marketers must always be cognizant of our changing times. Since the advent of apps about seven years ago, the world has undergone a momentous digital transformation that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s by all accounts speeding up. Stay fresh, stay relevant and remain successful.

Any other thoughts/comments?

Consumers want information, but they also want to be entertained.  When done correctly, a brand’s app can provide “infotainment” to keep the customer intrigued and engaged. After eight years in the mobile space, I’m confident that mobile content marketing will drive real results for brands and exceed expectations.