What if you could generate millions of dollars in new business from a brand new customer base without buying a single ad? It’s not that hard to do, says self-proclaimed marketing futurist Andrew Davis, author ofBrandscaping. Unleashing the Power of Partnerships(Z Squared Media, 2012).
“Brandscaping is a marketing methodology that essentially leverages the audience of other brands to increase demand for the products or services you sell,” Davis said “In very basic terms, a brandscape is a series of brands working together to create content that drives sales.”
A 20-year career in television writing and producing, including work for The Today Show, Jim Hanson Company, and Charles Kuralt, laid the groundwork for Davis’ unconventional approach to marketing and the principles of brandscaping. Both were incorporated into Tippingpoint Labs, a marketing agency Davis cofounded in 2001. Clients have ranged from small startups to Fortune 500 brands.
Davis describes brandscaping as a new way of thinking that leverages the best principles from the marketing methodologies of advertising and public relations with a splash of content marketing and talent management thrown in. One key differentiator from more traditional marketing approaches is that brandscaping focuses entirely on increasing demand rather than raising awareness.
“Advertising is really good at getting your brand in front of the people who might purchase your product or service,” Davis said. “But if you’re just focusing on trying to raise awareness of your products or services, you will always worry about market share and whether your competitors have more customers than you do or are driving more revenue when there’s new revenue on the table in areas you’ve never before considered.”
This is the first excerpt from a discussion between Davis and Diane Merlinoabout the basics of brandscaping.
Merlino: Do you have any examples of a recent brandscape campaign involving a travel industry company?
Davis: Iberostar [Hotels & Resorts] partnered with Zales for a “The Most Epic Proposal Ever” campaign [in February 2013]. That’s a great brandscape partnership. It’s Zales, which isn’t traditionally thought of as a travel brand, and Iberostar getting together to target a very specific segment of the audience: guys who are trying to figure out how to propose to their girlfriends. That’s a really smart campaign. They spent a lot of money advertising the campaign, getting people to enter, and after that it was done. It was a one-and-done campaign.
The only difference between what Iberostar and Zales did and what I would consider a really great brandscape campaign is [a great brandscape campaign] would have included a commitment for the long term. Instead of treating that campaign as a one-off, could they work together to create a series of content for men in serious relationships about how to plan an epic destination proposal?
Both of those brands will benefit. Zales will sell more rings. Iberostar will book more rooms in the destinations where they serve customers. All of a sudden, you’ve got access to an audience no one ever spent time or energy marketing to in an organized way, and you become the brands they think of first and get advice from.
Merlino: So brandscaping involves unconventional or cross-industry partnerships. How can a company identify a good partner for a brandscape campaign?
Davis: The way it works for me is thinking of partner opportunities as a kind of Amazon referral engine of the world. It’s like when you go on Amazon to buy something and it says customers who bought this also bought that.
For Zales, if you think about people who are buying an engagement ring, what else might they be buying? Well, they might be planning a destination-based engagement, and eventually they’re going to be buying a honeymoon, and a vacation a year after that, and a 10-year anniversary trip. So, suddenly, Iberostar looks like a relevant and good partner to go after.
Merlino: It sounds like you have to drill down a little and ask questions you don’t normally ask in a marketing context.
Davis: A good example of going deep to find partner opportunities in the travel industry is FIDO Friendly. They have an online site and a magazine just for the community of people who love to travel with their dogs — not their parrots or their cats or anything else, just their dogs. That’s a valuable target audience that not many people are thinking about getting involved in. If you want to be the chosen airline or cruise line or hotel for people who travel with their dogs there’s not a more relevant partner than FIDO Friendly.
Brandscaping only works if you can give relevant content to the audience from a brand they trust. So if you’re an airline and you want to give weekly tips on how to travel with your dog it doesn’t make any sense to put that on your blog, but it makes a huge amount of sense to partner with FIDO Friendly and distribute it to their audience.
You have to be relevant to your audience. A lot of people are creating content today from their own brands. But there’s a big difference between creating that kind of branded content and a content brand.
Merlino: What’s the difference?
Davis: Branded content is created for the company. A content brand is created for the audience.
Here’s an example using different brands. If American Airlines is going after adventure travelers, it makes sense to partner with REI, the outdoor retailer. They come up with a content brand like “36-Hour Adventures” that’s got a smart hook and feels like a TV show — maybe something where you spin the globe and pick a destination, pack your backpack, and hit the road for an outdoor adventure experience for two people for under $1,000.
REI will send that video content to their audience and share it on their Facebook page and email it to everybody that’s ever purchased anything from REI, and it’s brought to you by American Airlines. And vice versa. American Airlines has a huge audience of people who buy tickets and a large subsection is going to be adventure travelers that REI now has access to and can build a relationship with through a brand those travelers already trust.
That’s a brandscape with the right kind of content focus that then helps build the right kind of business and drive sales, because those people weren’t thinking about a 36-hour adventure in, say, Ecuador, before you inspired them and showed them how fun it could be.
Merlino: That example is based on video or film. In fact, you say successful brandscapers need to think more like television producers and less like traditional marketers.
Davis: Traditional marketers spend lots of money on airtime on radio or TV or on space in magazines or print. If you start to think like a television executive, you start spending money on content assets that can inspire people to buy stuff.
Think about the impact the Travel Channel has had on the travel industry, inspiring people to go places and try things they’ve never tried before. Now you’re thinking the right way for your business. The Travel Channel is too big for most companies to be successful on. But there are niches upon niches that you can drive literally millions of dollars of business down if you start thinking about programming that will inspire people to buy.
Merlino: Wouldn’t someone from a traditional marketing background have a problem shifting their thinking like that?
Davis: There are little tricks and tips I learned in television that I’ve built into the book to help people think like a television executive. You need to have talent that your audience trusts to leverage a show in the online world, just like you do in TV. You need a smart hook, a twist on a familiar theme that kind of ensnares or entraps the audience to keep them watching the next episode.
In today’s online world, anyone can market a content brand. You can upload that “36-Hour Adventures” show in YouTube, and with two brands like American Airlines and REI, within weeks you can have a viewership that rivals a network’s. You don’t need a television network anymore to inspire people to buy things they didn’t know they needed. All you have to do is create high-quality, consistently delivered content that’s relevant to the audience, and you’ll be successful. It’s not that hard.
NEXT ISSUE: Andrew Davis on “what if” marketing.