Let’s face it. Marketing used to be easier.

There were a handful of channels and there was one metric: sales. Did sales go up when we sent the brochure? It’s a win. Did the magazine ad sell 5,000 widgets in Q4? Hooray! Did the discount code radio campaign have a positive ROI? Victory! It was a simpler time.

Digital technology has expanded the ways we can show up as a brand in the market. But that increased opportunity has also brought an increase in tracking and accountability. The pressure is on because everything is being measured. The temptation to flood the market with our message is real. And as a result, brand trust and the effectiveness of our collective marketing efforts are in decline.

In this blog we’re going to explore how consumers’ expectations have changed, and how brand media is helping companies rise to the occasion, earn the trust of their customers, and build a relationship foundation for long-term success.

What is Brand Media?

Brand media is a collection of content produced by a brand for the primary benefit of a specific and defined audience. It’s essentially the output of a strategic content marketing plan.

Brand media can take many different forms. Blogs, podcasts, videos, magazines, eBooks, and social media posts are some examples. Brand media can even be an in-person conversation. The content type isn’t really the important part in separating brand media from traditional marketing pieces. The important part is the second half of that definition: for the primary benefit of a specific and defined audience.

To identify brand media pieces, you simply need to determine who stands to gain more from the content being consumed? If it’s the creator, you’re probably looking at a traditional marketing piece. If it’s the receiver or the audience, it’s brand media.

Your Brand as a Media Company

Historically, there were gatekeepers that determined if, how, and when your brand’s story got told. Brand media empowers you to tell your own story. Of course, this newfound power comes with its own set of challenges and responsibilities. The marketplace is full of competition and noise. Standing out requires you to deliver something to your audience they can’t just get anywhere else.

To show up and win in the brand media landscape, you need to think of your brand as a media company. Media companies know that to earn viewers, readers, and subscribers they must deliver exceptional content that matters to their defined audience. Their advertising and editorial departments operate independently of one another, but they both know how important the other one is for their success. Similarly, content marketing with brand media can earn you customers. But it accomplishes it by being indispensable along the customer journey and earning a relationship of trust with your audience before they are even ready for your product or service.

Why Most Brand Media Doesn’t Work

If your company has been consistently creating content and it’s falling on deaf ears, it’s time to ask “why?” The internet is full. It doesn’t need more videos that nobody will watch or blogs that nobody will read.

The curse of being a marketer is that we think like marketers. We’re constantly thinking about the conversion- constantly seeking the end of the relationship where the transaction happens. As a result, we sometimes skirt the rules in our brand media.

Instead, we need to challenge ourselves to think like our customers. To do that, we need to dig below the surface level to truly understand them. What are their pain points? What challenges do they face at work or at home? What keeps them up at night? What is their emotional state? What do they need? If the answer is “my product,” you’re not digging deeply enough yet.

Once you understand your customer, evaluate their needs against your expertise. Where are you uniquely positioned to share what you know or give of yourself, with no expectations of a return, in a way that will help them? That’s your sweet spot, to quote Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi.

Most brand media fails, because it’s simply long-form advertising. You think social media ads are annoying? Imagine getting to the end of a 1,200-word article or a 9-minute video only to realize it was a sales pitch.

Why Does Brand Media Matter in Today’s Marketing Landscape?

There are numerous reasons why brand media is growing in popularity, but the largest one is consumer driven. Simply put, consumers are tired of being marketed to. Traditional marketing operates on the premise of interruption. You want to watch a television show, and I want to steal your attention with a 30-second ad. You’d like to drive to work, and I want you to look at my billboard. You want to browse Facebook, and I want to show you ads for a product you dreamt about last night. It’s everywhere. It’s disruptive. It’s exhausting.

Brand media operates on a premise of permission. Instead of stealing your attention, brand media is all about showing up and providing value when your audience needs it. The hard sell is replaced by the kind gesture. The goal of brand media is to create a rich and meaningful relationship of trust. Jay Baer calls it “marketing so useful, people would pay for it.”

If you give something that valuable to a specific audience, they start to look at your company differently. They begin to develop a bond with your brand that is richer than a transaction, and difficult for competitors to disrupt.

Traditional marketing isn’t going anywhere. We still, and always will, need to ask for the sale. But demonstrating that you care about customers along their long journey to arrive at your product or service will only make that ask more effective.

Pat Watters is the Brand Media Director at Kolbeco. He’s passionate about helping our clients tell their stories in impactful ways to reach and grow their audience.