What the Odyssey can teach us about the need for New Media Content Leaders

Big things are happening in marketing news lately.

Ever since the world famous epic bard, Homer, transferred his poetry to scroll format after 500 years of oral tradition, never before has there been such a revolutionary leap forward in media distribution.

According to IAB, "(In 2017) On mobile devices, video revenue surged by 54 percent to $6.2 billion dollars (wow, that's a lot), representing the first time that mobile video revenues have surpassed desktop video."

That sounds like a pretty big deal. But is it really?

What the Odyssey can teach us about the need for New Media Content Leaders

Even after the ancient Greeks entered the age of written media, works like the Odyssey were still performed to a listening audience.

Nevertheless, I'd be crazy to describe the innovation of writing just as a fad. Writing is here to stay and so is the switch to mobile.

It represents a revolution in content consumption. People are engaging with media on the move as opposed to the bad posture prone former way of scrolling through your favorite YouTube videos.

But let's put this into perspective. Indeed this is bad news for chiropractors and good news for Facebook and YouTube, who are constantly adding new bells and whistles to their platforms to keep users scrolling, tapping, and swiping.

So whenever news comes out about new ways we can reach our customers, we jump on the opportunities. Sometimes it pays off and we see real results. Other times we get excited about something before it even becomes a real trend. Just to name a few examples : Google+, IGTV, and Facebook Watch.

The list goes on. It makes you wonder how much of our increased ad spend is invested in content that tends to just sort of fizzle out.

How much time and money are we wasting as companies that sell advertising break out the champagne after unprecedented spikes in revenue.

The fact of the matter is that many companies get caught up chasing the trends and end up spending time and money producing content that fails to acquire long terms results : BRAND reach, BRAND recognition, and ROI through BRAND relevant storytelling.

Reach, recognition, and ROI only yield temporary results if they are not geared toward brand messaging.

And this is why companies need New Media Content Leaders.

Leaders who keep advertising and content marketing efforts aligned with brand messaging.

Leaders who safeguard marketing teams against trend syndrome.

Trends change suddenly like the weather. But anyone with a little bit of life experience can tell when it is going to snow. You don't need a professional for that.

New Media Content Leaders don't predict when it is going to snow. But when it does, they make awesome snow forts.

New Media Content Leaders are professionals that don't react to new marketing phenomenon. They integrate them into strategy oriented efforts while working with teams of experts in all types of media formats.

Through creativity grounded in practical business objectives, it is the ultimate mission of New Media Content Leaders to produce dynamic brand stories that become sought after by customers.

Stories, whether they are communicated by artists or brands, should provide value to audiences and customers alike on their life journeys — and then they become loyal customers. Good stories have the power to do that.

In my personal experience as a New Media Content Leader, I have looked to all sorts of storytelling formats for inspiration. These include movies, YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs and most recently -- classic literature.

Earlier this year, I checked a good one off my book lover's bucket list that surprisingly addresses why all companies need New Media Content Leaders.

It was a classic I just mentioned earlier : Homer's Odyssey. A book sometimes referenced in high school and college, but rarely read cover to cover.

Many of us can recall the popular highlights of Odysseus's action packed decade long journey back home to Ithaca : His escape from the man eating cyclops or how he had himself tied to his ship so he could enjoy the seductive music of the mythical harpies. His crew plugged their ears with wax lest they be tempted to follow the incantations and be driven off a cliff.

These short stories are sometimes recreated into new formats. One of my favorites is "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" directed by the Coen brothers and starring George Clooney.

But the reason why I wanted to get through the original from beginning to end, was so that I could draw my own conclusions about the famous epic. Maybe someday I will make my own version.

It would be worth it too. Because I was able to extract a few lessons that I didn't get before.

And, like I said, one of those lessons addresses the reason companies need New Media Content Leaders.

That is,

How a traveler starts a journey does not determine the destination.

Destinations are usually predetermined.

But the starting point determines the traveler's relationship with his or her destination.

Something, I missed in High School – the Odyssey is all about the starting point and destination. The stories in between are just there to drive home a point.

I didn't know before that after the successful conclusion of the Trojan war, the Greeks break up into two factions. One group delays their departure. This group was lead by Agamemnon, the most powerful leader in the Greek fleet.

He starts later, but returns earlier to Greece much earlier than many others and with more treasure too.

But unfortunately he is murdered the very day that he gets back home.

The other group is eager to get back to Greece quickly, but ends up taking a more complicated route.

Odysseus, coming from this group, is the very last to return home, to reach his destination. His arrival is actually where the story gets interesting.

He has to fight a gang of rival princes who were plotting to murder his son. I don't know why I never heard about that part before.

Ultimately, many of the heroes who depart from Troy do indeed arrive at their destinations, but the man who takes twenty years to get back, the man who whose journey started with a man eating cyclops and those deceitful harpies, is the man who appreciates and values his destination the most.

By the way, in Homer's universe, all outcomes are predetermined by the gods. The only free will characters have, the only things they can determine are their values, perspectives, and where, how and when they begin their journeys.

Again, "How a traveler starts a journey does not determine the destination."

In Odysseus's case, the destination has already been set by the gods. From the audience's perspective, we know he is going to make it back.

But how the traveler starts can determine the traveler's relationship with his or her destination. In Odysseus's case, how he started, in that second group of Greeks, made him love his family and his home even more.

So how does this relate to the necessity of New Media Content Leaders?

Customers arrive at their destinations in a number of different ways.

Some of them convert very early on. Some customers take more time.

But with more and more user data available, we are able to use attribution models to determine what marketing efforts led a customer to spend his or her money.

What is harder to measure is not only the satisfaction level, but also their attitude toward the brand they interacted with.

For many marketers, the destination or sales is enough to decide on content strategy. We see funnels that create revenue and when something works the most intuitive thing to do is to invest one's advertising dollars into that content with immediate results. Thus, the recent unprecedented increases in paid advertising!

But what if we have become so enthusiastic about attribution models that we have fallen down a dark slippery funnel and find ourselves even farther from achieving our long term objectives?

This happens all too often to brands that are always looking to get the edge on competition by integrating new trending tactics while losing sight of their strategies.

Branding gets put on the side and is treated like a pseudoscience. Very often we don't want to hear about branding, like we don't want to hear advice about changing our diets. It makes more sense just to take the medicine, right? But we all know nothing beats a healthy diet.

And in terms of marketing, nothing beats content that gives value to customers on their life journeys. If our customer journeys start with content that they want to see (that they seek out), we are in a sense killing two or three harpies with one stone. We can lead customers down that marketing funnel while also investing in digital assets that have evergreen growth.

If the starting point, the top of our funnel, begins with content that will lose its relevance in a short time, many customers will still arrive at the final destination, but we are then left with two problems :

  1. The customer will associate the brand with ill conceived content that doesn't help to build brand reach, brand recognition, and ROI through brand storytelling

  2. Our marketing budget will be invested in content that is a liability, not an asset.

By building meaningful starting points that inform customers on their journey all the way to their destinations,

  1. Brands will acquire brand reach, brand recognition, and ROI through Brand relevant storytelling.

  2. The content will continue to lead more customers on similar journeys acquiring even more brand reach, brand recognition, and ROI through brand storytelling.

New Media Content Leaders, like Homer and his famous Odyssey, are really most concerned about the meaningful starting point and the meaningful destination.

In order to acquire long term results…

  • Customers should convert not just with their money, but with their attitudes upon arrival.

  • Customers should feel a special attachment to their destination, like Odysseus's special attachment to his home in Ithaca.

One time customers convert to loyal customers when they take the happy route of Odysseus, not the fast and unhappy one of Agamemnon.

To take the route that results in happy long term conversions, conversions that make money for advertisers and solve problems for customers, the digital media that is consumed should provide its own intrinsic value, helping customers on their life journeys.

We build airports with nice bathrooms and comfortable chairs for people. We can do the same for brand content.

And such content comes in many magical forms, some old and some new. Landing pages, blog posts, videos, movies, books, podcasts, email -- whatever makes sense for the brand (Even ancient literature).

But how do you determine what format works well with such and such brand?

How does one actually produce such content?

How does one execute a plan to send people off right to their destinations?

This is the role of a New Media Content Leader.

What does a New Media Content Leader look like?

What kind of skills does this person have?

They need to be super well grounded in media – the starting point : Video Production experience, editing, writing, and design.

They also need to be well grounded in digital marketing – the ropes that ferry us across to the destination : SEO, Paid Advertising, and social media.

These two strong foundations plus the ability to lead an army of specialists is what makes a New Media Content Leader.

Undoubtedly we will continue to hear more about revolutionary trends in marketing news. Everyday it seems like there is a brand new way of communicating with customers. It is easy for us to get caught up dwelling on the in between episodes, like the Cyclops and the Harpies, while forgetting that these episodes exist only to drive home a point.

If marketing teams sometimes forget the importance of providing value to customers, content production teams sometimes lose sight of brand messaging. This is why companies need New Media Content Leaders to connect the the two ends : the starting point and the destination.

This is the role of storyteller, the role of the New Media Content Leader.

Additional Reading :

Brian A. Crandall is a forward thinking  creative director , an  award-winning filmmaker ,  innovative podcaster , contributor to popular  YouTube channel , bilingual  expert  on Korean culture,  researcher  of American folklore, and  ping pong player  .

Brian A. Crandall is a forward thinking creative director, an award-winning filmmaker, innovative podcaster, contributor to popular YouTube channel, bilingual expert on Korean culture, researcher of American folklore, and ping pong player .