WTF Is Content?


Alina Diaz, Senior Vice President at Cassandra will be taking to the YMS stage as part of our panel discussion on getting youth content right: creating fans, advocates and shares. Here, Cassandra’s Senior Director of Insights Melanie Shreffler, discusses one of the latest buzzwords in our industry.

Despite its vague definition, “content” has become one of the latest buzzwords in our industry. Marketing experts are scrambling to put parameters around the term and claim that they’re the best at leveraging it. But there’s one opinion on the topic that hasn’t been heard above the self-perpetuated din: that of young consumers.

Gen Z, as digital natives, have a particularly revolutionary idea of what content is and can be. This segment of youth presents a significant opportunity for brands to engage them with content, but to do so effectively, marketers need to have a clear understanding of what they consider worthwhile content and what they are willing to expend time and effort to attain. Zs' broader definition of content is not only influenced by their generational characteristics but also by the high-tech times in which they have come of age. Cassandra has identified three key shifts among how Zs view content that rise from the confluence of this generation’s unique traits and timing.

Tune In To The Social TV Network

Zs are the “YouTube generation,” the first to take a computer-first approach to content. The oldest of the generation were only 9-years-old when the network debuted, and as its library evolved to include a wealth of family-friendly videos, parents revelled in the short bursts of entertainment it provided their young children. It’s natural to them to turn to an online social network for an entertainment fix, and brands and content providers are learning that they need to serve Zs the videos they want where they want it or their desired consumer targets may never see them. Social networks have become entertainment networks, with brands even releasing official programming on platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram.

Watch Out For Scene Stealers

Creativity equals social cred to Zs. Those with unique, creative points of view (such as those they find on social media) are valued more than those who offer pristine storylines and production values (a la Hollywood). They’re used to YouTube stars inviting them into their homes, showing their successes and failures, and revealing their creative processes—such content appeals to their desire for real, authentic stories. Zs are looking for similar behind-the-scenes content from traditional entertainment properties, as well as consumer brands, but both are historically reluctant to pull back the curtain. But they should take the risk, because Zs find so-called “ancillary content” to be as riveting as the final product. It can not only maintain interest in products and properties that Zs already know well, but also draw their curiosity for new releases.

Embrace Omnitainment

Zs’ broad definition of entertaining content is further disrupting traditional advertising. Unlike past generations that vastly viewed commercials as interruptions keeping them from desired programming, today’s youth believe that ads can be share-worthy entertainment in and of themselves. They seek out and choose to watch ads—a practice that mystifies Baby Boomers. Marketers need to rethink their model of targeting captive audiences and instead capturing targeted consumers. Zs are awaiting the next era of marketing content, moving beyond “advertainment” to “omnitainment,” in which the product, branding, and messaging are barely present, while the brand’s lifestyle and entertainment components shine through.

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