It is brave to do ‘content marketing’ without ever mentioning the brand. Brave, because ‘content’ without any ‘marketing’ is usually for the chop when budgets are decided. GE appears to have pulled it off with its popular sponsored serial podcasts –fictional stories no less – and it is worth asking whether corporate digital comms could learn anything from the GE’s success. Could they (or should they) try to do something similar?
GE’s special circumstances are probably not widely shared – namely, an obviously big budget and senior managers with open minds. Still, corporate websites should be an ideal platform for compelling, brand-free stories. The context around the story is everything – if there are cues, links and contact details to satisfy the marketing folk, the story itself can stay pure.
Maybe fiction is taking it too far, but if the content is interesting, and reasonably on topic (eg, a fictional story about battling cancer on a pharmaceutical website), and it attracts eyeballs (or ears in the case of podcasts), why not?
Some might view this kind of corporate sponsorship of creative works as vaguely sinister – I view it a little like medieval patronage, the prince might be evil but the sculpture (can be) beautiful…
- Jason Sumner