The annual South-by-Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference in Austin draws thousands of tech industry workers and insiders, as well as loads of marketers and communications professionals. Through a seemingly endless variety of panel discussions, sessions, workshops and keynote addresses over almost five full days, expert speakers pass along the latest on trends in technology and how it is impacting everything from advertising and communications to healthcare, fashion, sports and higher education.

Panelists discuss “Content Marketing vs. Don Draper: The End of Ads.”

In short, a lot of information is shared at SXSWi, which is different than data. Both information and data are different than insights, which are also offered in abundance. Confused? Well, will address these semantic issues when we discuss the hot topic of “Big Data” in an upcoming post. For now, we’ll start with content marketing and content strategy, two other popular topics at this year’s SXSWi. 

On the first two days of the conference, CJRW team members attended several sessions devoted to content, but one of the stand-outs was “Content Marketing vs. Don Draper: The End of Ads.”

Panelist Stephanie Losee, managing editor at Dell, offers advice on content development.

For anyone in the advertising and communications field, this discussion was a must-see. Are we facing – as the “End of Ads” session subtitle implies – the end of traditional advertising and advertising agencies? According to marketing leaders from major brands like Dell, L’Oreal, and GE (who made up the panel), the answer is “no,” but with a few qualifications. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from the session: 

  • Everything still begins with the “big idea,” whether you’re dealing with digital or traditional advertising or even social media. They’re all connected now. You may go about finding your big, creative idea in different ways, but it’s still critical.
  • It (brand marketing) is about telling stories, but longer ones. You can continue stories from campaigns that start on TV into digital or vice versa. 
  • Digital content is a “service to customers and potential customers.” It should be something that your audience is interested in and it should “deepen” what your brand is doing on other outlets, such as TV. 
  • Before beginning an extensive content marketing campaign or developing a content strategy, a brand “has to know itself very, very well.” It also needs to know its customers and consider any relevant data they have on them, including where they are engaging online and what they expect from the brand. It’s important to “trust your audience” and your own employees who understand the brand and its voice and incorporate their feedback. 

So, if you’re going to get into the content marketing game, how do you make sure your content is so good that readers don’t care that it is ‘sponsored’ or coming from a brand? Panelist Stephanie Losee, managing editor at Dell, said that brand communicators should ask themselves whether – in the days of huge newspaper and magazine staffs – a reporter would have likely written the story when it was pitched to them. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then you probably have a good piece of content on your hands.