News SEO + Content Strategy = Prime Opportunity?

I always say, you should watch the spammers and the porn guys for the best ideas in undiscovered internet marketing strategy. While it’s not a particularly new idea for publishers and AdSense whores affiliates to quickly throw up a “splog” page that is optimized for breaking and celebrity news (in part, that’s what got the Huffington Post acquired for $315M), it’s rare to see this tactic being used by a legit brand, and rarer still to see it part of a larger comprehensive branded content strategy.

Let’s consider how it might be utilized successfully by a fashion brand like Kenneth Cole. Yes, the same Kenneth Cole who most recently tried this tactic in a completely ham-fisted way on Twitter.  Had he been properly instructed inside of a larger social media strategy that was matched to a content strategy, this whole ugly incident might have been avoided. And in fact, he could probably still have capitalized on the Cairo riots but not been lambasted for it.

It starts with basic brand strategy: who’s your audience, and what news/topical items do they care about most? Judging by the  clean cut models on the Kenneth Cole site, I’m guessing their target demographic is neo-preppy, urban, white or Asian (weird that they have lots of Asian chick models but mostly white male models), M/F, conservative (except for the Log Cabin Republicans that might wear this shirt), and between the ages of 22-35 with high household income. (We’re talking about the main KC line, not Reaction which is targeted a bit more mass appeal.)

So let’s pretend that we did some market research on our audience and found that overwhelmingly they tend to follow world politics and business, since so many of them travel internationally and need to know what’s going on (and what to wear). Now we need to find a logical and authentic way to foster a content strategy that’s tied to breaking world political news. Notice I said “authentic” – the most overused term and underutilized tactic in social media. (Side rant: It’s just plain hard for marketers to be authentic cuz we’re way too impatient to get to a sales message, or because we’re being held to a stringent ROI formula by the boss which allows for almost no creative risk taking.)

But here’s the weird thing about appearances – if someone presents the same face often enough, it’s perceived as authentic and “real” by audiences, even if it’s a complete hoax. Witness Fake Steve Jobs and Stephen Colbert: people know these characters don’t really exist, but they’re fully formed and authentic characters in our minds nonetheless.

The Kenneth Cole brand persona is actually somewhat smug, self-centered and shallow. Witness this attempt to tie fashion to the political issue of privacy invasion.  It’s just so random, and there’s nothing else on the site about privacy news stories or opinions. Just…hot models…on cameras…walking around…making out. Which makes me soooo incensed about my personal rights to privacy. I guess.

So: Kenneth Cole’s problem wasn’t really authenticity; it’s that he hadn’t been consistent – consistency is the new authenticity!

If he had built up a consistent content strategy of videos, blog posts and social media conversations that made light of ALL hot political topics in a semi-serious way (more naive than mean spirited, more Colbert than Drudge), and published at least 3-5 quick items in response to daily breaking news (heavily optimizing for keywords like proper names and country+topic), then you’d have a fully integrated approach and a chance to expose your “let them eat cake” brand message to a larger news-reading audience.

What you DON’T want it to end up looking like:  http://twitter.com/#!/kennethcolepr

What you DO want it to end up looking like: http://www.lifelounge.com.au/technology/news/facebook-break_up-notifier.aspx

Sexy. Smart-ish and outsider-y. Informed but somewhat banal. Yay for Lifelounge, the grooviest hipster fashion/art/music/culture site ever.  Perhaps a content partnership is called for?

3 responses to “News SEO + Content Strategy = Prime Opportunity?

  1. Nice and informative.

  2. Hi Dana,
    I like your major points here, and I respectfully disagree on a few of the minor ones. These are exciting times we’re living in as marketers, and I totally agree that consistency is key to authenticity. I’m just not sure it’s “new” because consistency has been a hallmark of good brand management since before I was in marketing 101 back in the stone ages.

    Oddly enough, it just occurred to me that it’s also a concept that applies equally to statistical modeling and design as well – a consistent pattern enables the mathematical explanation of the data points’ relationship, and it also enables the atelier to unveil “the look.” Without the consistent pattern, it’s a flash in the pan, a whim, or just a unique creation (a data “outlyer”).

    I saw that KC clip with the furtive dude and the girl from the taxi not so much as a statement on privacy invasion, as a view of the average Joe/Jane as a potential model on a runway at any given moment with hundreds of cameras and eyes trained on him/her and that supposedly a choice of KC attire is a way to ensure you look good (I happen to think so). As for the tweet stream you highlighted from @kennethcolePR, that’s not real, right? (I could not get Twitter to pull it up) It’s appalling and evokes images and emotions an apparel brand should never touch with a 10 ft. pole. In that respect, you have to admit that it would consistent with the idea that a very good looking model is rarely engaged for their brains. “Buy my clothes & shoes and be good looking, but also be vapid and insensitive” is not a good look for that brand. But that’s just me talkin’ here – I still get tons of compliments on my brown suede KC loafers 4 years after getting them…

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your thoughtful commentary. The faux KCPR Twitter account is real enough – not sure who put it up, but it went live the same day as the backlash hit the fan on the real KC and his “#Cairo” fiasco. Here’s the link: http://twitter.com/kennethcolepr although looks like they stopped tweeting after demanding a payofff for Amnesty or something.

      And I do agree that consistency has always been part of proper brand development – but you have to admit that somehow in the last decade or so we’ve strayed from the path of classical brand development. Disposable brands have become just as viable; there was an entire book written called “The Brand Bubble” that intended to debunk the idea of brand equity being a true value in business.

      I tend to write like I think – with a fair amount of sarcasm – was hoping that it’d come through in this post. My point was not that KC should be vapid in their brand character, but that if they decided to go with that look, or any look, they should stick to it for more than a season.

      PS Love the parallels in statistical modeling.

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