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Why Brands Like the NRA and Scientology Are Transforming into Media Companies

We’ve entered a time of widespread distrust of the news media, so brands who stand for something, and have the authority to create content around their beliefs, will wield unbelievable influence over their audience by going direct.

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BY David Beebe - 14 Mar 2018

Why Brands Like the NRA and Scientology Are Transforming into Media Companies

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Fake news has become a major problem for everyone, brands included. The same technology that enabled individuals to become influencers has enabled brands to skip traditional media channels, speak directly to their target audiences, and in turn take control of their narrative.

Brands who invest in creating content that aligns with their customers values and beliefs, and empowers them to achieve their goals will ultimately win the most valuable prize there is today in marketing -- brand loyalty. A new study from Sprout Social, found that "Two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) say it's important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues and that brands are most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers (47 percent), employees (40 percent) and business operations (31%)." Done right, brands can become a trusted source of news for their audience.

Finance News is Covered by a Bank

Jyske's Bank understands the changing media landscape. They asked themselves how they could lead the conversation in the finance world without being dependent on traditional media channels. They ultimately launched Jyske Bank TV -- a live TV news channel. According to an article about Jyske Bank TV in Content Marketing Institute, Jyske Bank covers breaking financial news. The bank's content is so good, it's licensed to other distributors, streamed on Apple TV, and elsewhere.

Spiritual Enlightenment is Explored by a Religious Organization

Scientology, a storied brand, has been creating content marketing forever, from books to Freedom, their magazine, which has been published since 1968. This week, they took it to a whole new level and launched Scientology TV, which is airing live programming and six original shows, all streaming on DirecTV, Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast and on an app. "The only thing more interesting than what you've heard is what you haven't," is the tagline being used on billboards and on social media.

Action Sports is Presented by an Energy Drink

Red Bull publishes magazines, films, documentaries, and other content that "give you wings." Red Bull TV features an extensive selection of sports, music and lifestyle content. Their strategy works because the content is produced with a consumer first mindset -- which is the complete opposite of traditional marketing. In a rare interview with Fast Company Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz explained how they balance marketing the product and producing content:

"This is not either or, it is as well as. Both communicate 'The World of Red Bull.' Since the beginning it has been a brand philosophy and how to look upon the world, rather than pure marketing for consumer goods. So it is both ways, the brand is supporting the sports and culture community, as well as the other way round."

Exploring the World is Presented by a Hotel Company

As the first ever VP, Global Creative & Content Marketing at Marriott International, I led a team that transformed Marriott into a media company, producing magazines, original series, brand films, documentaries, and other story driven projects that not only changed perception of the brands, but also put heads in beds, and transformed marketing from a cost center to a revenue center with premium story driven content, including the Two Bellmen series, French Kiss, and Business Unusual. Not every brand needs to invest in scripted films or big budget productions to make a difference. Marriott Traveler, a digital publication, reaches a global audience, without any of the content being about the hotels.

A Constitutional Right is Represented by a Gun Rights Association

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's hard to ignore that the NRA has been focused on owning their message and the narrative around the Second Amendment. Unlike some other brands who are targeting large audiences, they seem to be focused on delivering continuous communication to their membership and supporters. The NRA, is another storied brand that people have strong opinions about, but just like any other brand, they have an audience that cares about what they have to say.

According to an NRA media kit, they publish seven print and online magazines, with a combined circulation of more than 11 million. Last year, they also launched NRA TV, an online channel and streaming service with over 12 hours of live programming, news, and original series. The production value of the content looks and feels just like any other cable news channel.

There are many more examples of how brands are becoming media companies, publishers, and becoming go to sources for content. Adobe covers digital marketing on CMO.com, American Express's Open Forum covers small business, Global Responsibility is covered editorially by WalmartToday.com and thru audio wit their podcast Outside The Box, and motivation is presented by Nike.

At the end of the day, all of these brands understand that the key to retaining influence is to control the narrative by thinking like media companies. The first step is to find the topic that you can authentically create content around, build a community, and then drive commerce.

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