Times They Are A-Changin: In the digital era, content creators like Casey Neistat are transforming the way of marketing and branding....25 Apr 2018 3758 Views
Written by Brendon Case
“The Times They Are A-Changin.” The iconic 1964 hit song by Bob Dylan is an anthem of change for the time. But even Bob Dylan could not have imagined the title wave of change that has recently occurred as a result of the internet and social media. This is especially true in the world of marketing and brand management. Content creators like Casey Neistat are transforming the way that firms market their products and tell their brand stories in the digital economy. So, heed the call for change “for he that gets hurt will be he that has stalled” (Dylan, 1963).
Welcome to the Digital Economy
In the digital economy, marketing and brand management is undergoing a transformation (Opreana & Vinerean 2015). The growth of the digital economy and social media has served to disrupt marketing and has influenced business models and processes in ways which businesses and marketing scholars are only beginning to understand (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker & Bloching 2013). There has been a transformation in how people interact with companies and brands and how they shop and buy. Online, traditional marketing tactics and campaigns, where firms push products onto their potential customers, is perceived as intrusive and annoying. As such, this old way of doing business is unsustainable (Opreana & Vinerean 2015).
The power to control a brand’s story and identity have shifted from brand managers to the individuals and communities that create, share and consume tweets, Facebook entries, YouTube movies and Instagram picture (Kietzmann et al. 2011). Consumer-generated brand stories told through social media can no longer be ignored because they are much more impactful stories than traditional push marketing strategies (Gensler et al, 2013). Vlogger and YouTube sensation Casey Neistat is one of a handful of content creators that have been successful in building a massive follower base and creating an effective content marketing strategy for many different brands.
Casey Neistat: Vlogger, Influencer, Content Creator and YouTube sensation
YouTube sensation Casey Neistat is now “The Most Trusted Name in News” after selling his mobile app Beme to CNN for 25 million dollars (Belloni 2017). CNN was struggling to reach the young – under 35 demographic and they thought that the lively Vlogger would be the perfect candidate to reinvent how people consume news. Not bad for a high school dropout with no formal marketing training (Belloni 2017). Neistat’s Youtube video blogs featuring quirky and finely produced short films have gained him a massive following of 5.9 million subscribers and over one billion views in the last 18 months, making him one of the platforms most successful content creators (Hochuli 2017).
As Adweek’s 2016 Digital Creator of the year, Neistat has won over fans and the brands he has chosen to work with (Swant 2016). In 2012, Casey created an advertisement for the Nike FuelBand, with the slogan “make it count”. Instead of following the original script, Casey spent the entire budget on traveling around the world in ten days while filming the experience and created a short video diary on what “make it count” meant to him. The resulting video went viral and gained 790,000 views in one day (Berkowitz 2012). The video was successful because he was able to pull in customers by creating a video that was authentic and told a great story. (Swant 2016).
(Casey Neistat, 2012)
Casey attributes his success to “personality-driven content” and his ability to “weave in brand storytelling through an authentic point of view and tone of voice” (Swant 2016).
Casey believes that as a modern content marketer, you must find a way to capture the short attention spans of audiences today. You have to create something that is able to generate engagement, and that is capable of being shared based on showing something that people don’t already know. He believes that people can see through fake content. “Today’s customers are intelligent and know if they are being fooled” (Content Marketing World 2017).
So what is Casey Neistat’s secret for success?
Casey Neistat is a good storyteller. The power of storytelling to provide meaning to the brand and to enhance consumer connections with the brand has long been recognized by managers and in branding literature (Singh & Sonnenburg 2012). If done properly, brand stories build awareness, recognition, recall and provide meaning to the brand (Gensler et al, 2013). With so many brands and companies striving for consumers limited attention, content creators like Casey Neistat are successful because they create compelling brand stories with arousing and interesting content that resonate with the consumer (Gensler et al, 2013).
(Sacred Science, 2017)
So what makes a good brand story?
Stories contain “indices” such as characters, locations, attitudes, problems, etc that create empathy and help the story to be recalled (Singh & Sonnenburg 2012). The more indices a story contains, the greater the meaning to the listener and the better chance it will remain in the listener’s memory for recall at a later date (Singh & Sonnenburg 2012). Casey’s “make it count” story contains several indices that helped it become so successful: the location consisting of interesting landmarks from multiple countries, the character of the young high energy protagonist, the attitude of live everyday like it’s your last, the problem to travel around the entire world in 10 days before the money runs out and the inspirational music and quotes (Neistat 2012). Together they create a powerful compelling story. The product and company were never mentioned (other than a few seconds at the start of the video). Yet, Casey was able to create a strong connection with the brand by providing a theme (live everyday like it’s your last) that resonated with consumers and allowed them to fit their own experiences into the brand story (Singh & Sonnenburg 2012).
(Casey Neistat, 2012)
What motivates the content creators?
(Casey Neistat, 2016)
With the availability of online creative tools, consumers and content creators, are able to create high-quality ad-like content on their own that resembles traditional advertising (Ertimur & Gilly 2012). Social media and the internet make it easy for ordinary consumers to distribute their brand-related content (Ertimur & Gilly 2012). So why do they do it? It could be for the enjoyment of being creative, promoting themselves to grab attention or to have influence over others (Singh & Sonnenburg 2012). For some it is all about power. According to Labrecque et al (2013), power shapes human behaviour in nearly every situation and it is power that shapes consumer behaviour online. Whatever the motivation, it is clear that consumer-generated content marketing is rapidly growing. More than 27,000 content pieces are shared everyday and as many as 90 percents of B2C companies now use some type of content marketing (Karaoulchtchikova 2015).
What are the implications of consumer-driven content for firms and brand managers?
The spread of social media has dramatically affected pretty much all of the mechanisms by which marketing creates value for companies and customers (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker & Bloching 2013). Traditionally, firms have used advertising and other “one-to-many” marketing communications to tell their brand stories and influence consumers (Gensler et al, 2013). It is no longer one directional. Instead, it is chaotic and interactive and requires a whole new way of thinking (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker & Bloching 2013).
Today’s consumers are highly connected and active participants and as a result have much more power than in the past (Labrecque et al. 2013). As such, brand managers have lost their role as sole authors of their brands’ stories (Gensler et al, 2013). With the availability of new dynamic networks of consumers and brands formed through social media and the easy sharing of brand experiences in these networks, consumers are becoming co-authors of brand stories (Gensler et al. 2013). Companies must pay close attention to consumer-generated brand stories if they are to remain successful in the marketplace (Gensler et al. 2013). They must understand the impact of consumer-generated brand stories on their brand’s performance. Moreover, it is critical that they understand how to stimulate brand stories that benefit their brand and react to brand stories that may harm their brand (Gensler et al. 2013). Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, put it best when he stated that “a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is-it is what consumers tell each other it is” (Gensler et al. 2013).
In the digital economy, any firm or organization that wants to be successful must have a thorough understanding of the impact of consumer-generated brand stories on brand performance (Gensler et al. 2013). Content drives the internet and engaging consumers with value-adding content helps a brand to build mutually beneficial relationships that influence and convert consumers into customers (Philips 2017). As Bob Dylan so eloquently put it back in 1963: “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’ (Dylan 1963).
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Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.