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There is no shortage of lists outlining how to create great content. But the truth is, great content is both art and science. And while, the checklist approach to quality ensures that content is on “brand” it doesn’t mean it’s high quality.

Focus groups and copy testing are designed to help predict performance, but if that research was devoid of flaws agencies would never be fired and everyone would hit their forecasted numbers. Despite hundreds of years of advertising history, nailing the right blend between art and science, has gotten more difficult, not easier. The number of ad formats, marketing channels and means for consuming content, have contributed to making this tougher for marketers

To help wrap our heads around this, let’s let’s review the following successful content marketing efforts. We begin with the obligatory Oreo, Dunk In The Dark, tweet. If you’re reading this at a conference, drink!


The genesis of the tweet has been covered to death. I won’t rehash that information, but I do want to call out the following:

  • The image used, was a reused and recycled image; something that had been used by Oreo earlier in the year.
  • It’s overly compressed – you can see the JPG artifacts from over compression.
  • It was produced in roughly 15 minutes, but if you look at the Cannes Lion submission form and apply a general billable rate to each role, it took $2,000+ to create this recycled image. If you needed 4 tweets like that per day for 365 days a year, you need a $3M a year budget for just twitter content.

I think the most important nugget is #1: it was a recycled image. Blasphemy! Having worked at agencies for 11 years and with them for another 6, I can tell you the idea of recycling a creative asset is usually a no-go. Creative team members never want to repeat themselves, even when it clearly works. We don’t really have an on-the-record anecdote from Modelez, but it’s widely accepted that the Dunk In The Dark tweet was a quality piece of content that was very successful. With Oreo out of the way, let’s talk about Samsung’s efforts during the Oscars. With more than 3.4M retweets of the original image taken by Bradley Cooper, this out of focus (gasp!) photo from a cell phone broke the record for the most retweets ever.


With that type of scale, this had to be a piece of quality content. After-all, if it wasn’t quality, it wouldn’t have been retweeted so many times, right? By, any measure this rather fuzzy image bested the White House’s high-resolution and historic 2012 photo touting “Four more years” (which got about 810,000 retweets and for a while held the record). Many people think the “Ellen Selfie” was a cheap photo. It was anything but. Without Samsung’s $20M + sponsorship of the Oscars, it’s likely the selfie that rocked the world would never have happened. Thus, if you thought $2K for Oreo’s tweet was expensive, there’s no doubt, the Ellen Selfie was more than 100X the cost of the Dunk In The Dark tweet. By, the way, I also think it’s fascinating to understand the impact that distribution played in driving its 3.4M retweets. This chart does a great job of showing that despite Brad Pitt’s bigger star-power, Ellen herself generated 2.5X more retweets.

Moving away from scale and virality as benchmarks for success, let’s look at interest. Interest leads to intent and intent leads to purchase, right? That’s the model, just about every marketer coming out of school has been taught. So let’s look at Red Bull’s Stratos project, which had Felix Baumgartner jumping from just outside the Earth’s atmosphere into the New Mexico desert.

The jump was historic. It broke all sorts of records and became must-see content. As we know, must-see content is high-quality content (there’s a reason people watch “The Bachelor” and Michael Bay movies). At the time, the Stratos project broke the record for concurrent YouTube streams (with nearly 8M people viewing the jump in real time). Impressive, right? What I like more is that they turned that stunt, into an ongoing campaign. Footage from the jump was integrated into commercials, end caps, packaging, print ads and more. As someone who worked on BMW Films, the re-usage of the content impresses me more than anything. The more often ways you reuse the same footage, the more efficient that original content investment becomes.

Now, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that what consumers say really matters. In February, people just like you and me crowned the Budweiser ad featuring a dog and a horse the best commercial of 2014 Super Bowl telecast.

If you don’t think these polls matter check out the story about Career Builder essentially firing its agency because their Super Bowl ad, wasn’t voted the best. Yes, I’m serious. If consumers love it and love it enough to vote it the best, it must be high quality, right?

Now, for me, I like to go a bit old school. With no internet, no mobile, no tablet, no streaming and still with the majority of people having black and white televisions, the first moon landing was seen by more than 500M people.


Think about that for a second. There were more people who tuned in to watch grainy footage on their black and white televisions, without help from the Internet, than there were people who watched Felix jump, retweeted the Ellen Selfie, shared Oreo’s “Dunk In The Dark” image or watched Annheuser-Busch’s Puppy Love commercial.

We walked through a lot of examples of “quality” content. Hopefully, what you’ve taken away is that it’s really difficult to determine what quality really means. Quality is, unfortunately, quite subjective. There are people who believe Justin Bieber is an amazing musical talent. The millions of records sold would seem to validate that. To fans he is embraced as a purveyor of quality songs. To me, he is a blight on the music industry. I like Michael Bay movies. Some people don’t. There are even people who think Nickelback makes quality music. You can find out which of your friends on Facbeook like Nickelback and unfriend them by clicking on this link. (You’re welcome!)

At Walgreens, we don’t have it all figured out. From the many conversations I’ve had with my peers across the industry and the globe, I don’t think anyone has it mastered. For me, that’s part of the fun and the excitement. It’s why I love the role I’m in and the company I work for. While we haven’t cracked the code 100%, here are a few elements that I think are important:

  • Have a clear definition of quality. Every company needs their own approach and “formula.”
  • Protect the customer experience. Every piece of content, even (gasp!) content that’s designed to sell (I know, I know, crazy…) should eliminate friction in the actions you’re asking the customer/user to perform.
  • When creating content, take into account 3 things: Your Brand (the content needs to be on brand), Your Customer (it needs to be relatable to your audience), The Platform Context (content that works great in Facebook, doesn’t necessarily work well, in twitter and etc.).
  • It’s early days in some respects. In others, as the moon landing shows us, the challenges of creating compelling content have been around for a long time. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been to link up a feed from the moon to people’s living rooms in 1969?

    So set your bar high and be clear in what you’re willing to accept as quality content. Remember, a perfectly perfect circle, that’s the right color, with the right logo, with the right font, isn’t necessarily quality…even though it checks all the boxes.

    A thought-leader in the marketing community, Adam Kmiec is widely admired for his lively parries at the status quo. His challenges are grounded in solid experience at some of the most digitally forward-thinking organizations in the world, helping brands find success in the interactive and social space. In January he joined Walgreens as Senior Director, Social Media and Content. Prior to that, he held leadership positions at the Campbell Soup Company, where for the past two years he served as Director of Global Digital Marketing and Social Media. At Campbell, he developed global digital marketing and social media strategies across consumer-facing and corporate communications. Adam’s career spans the client and agency sides, including Fallon, Leo Burnett, and ConAgra Foods. His posts appear regularly at TheKmiecs.com, where this article originally appeared. Follow him @adamkmiec

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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