“Brand Is About Affinity, Not Awareness”—Wistia Is Now Presenting Sponsor of Marketing Showrunners
Every so often in life, you meet someone who so perfectly aligns with the way you see the world, you go full Step Brothers on them:
Today, I’m thrilled to announce Wistia as our first Presenting Sponsor for Marketing Showrunners. We’ll be integrated partners, going far beyond the logos-and-links idea that most sponsors expect from their media partners.
As a media company, MSR is in a unique position to advance the craft of marketers making shows. First of all, if I had to guess, we’re about a year or so early. We’re on the cusp of this approach to marketing becoming ubiquitous. That means we can carefully study this niche and advocate for a measured, strategic, quality-based approach by marketers. You won’t catch us publishing dozens of list articles to generate empty traffic, nor do we want marketers to live through yet another “gold rush” in content akin to blogging or social media. That’s a race to the bottom.
No, despite the proliferation of brands already making original shows in audio and video form, the concept is still discussed mostly in small meetings, while the shows themselves are mainly relegated to side projects or prestige plays. They’re rarely if ever integrated into the entire marketing strategy, but we see clearly how they’ll rise to that level of importance in just a year or so.
Additionally, as a media company publishing content for marketers, we’re sensitive to what most marketing education turns into: hacks, cheats, and other bullshittery. Instead, MSR is focused on slow growth as an organization, so we can focus on the only thing that truly matters: our true believers. (Otherwise known as “subscribers.”) We believe our education should be equal parts nutritious and delicious. We think The Ringer or New York Magazine get it right, where most marketing trade publications get it wrong: it’s not about injecting transactional knowledge. It’s about exploring the boundaries of what content can be, offering creative ideas and formats and, yes, a welcome dose of entertainment value where audiences (that’s you) have come to expect something dry and staid.
As a result of allllllll of that, we want to proceed very, very carefully when working with sponsors, and we’ll only work with a few per year. In order to (A) remain a niche-focused organization and not chase empty traffic, (B) create premium content for thoughtful marketers that relies on (C) executive-level insights and refreshingly enjoyable stories and formats, we need to find sponsors who are incredibly aligned with us — not those who merely want to slap their logos against a big, top-line audience number.
Wistia understands all of that, and they were excited to partner because of that, not in spite of that. They view the world the same way. Our conversations were uncanny, like looking in a mirror. (“WAIT, you think this too?! So we’re NOT crazy!”)
I’ll share some of the nuts-and-bolts of our sponsorship below, because I want to be transparent about building this business. But for now, here’s a little insight into why Wistia is so bullish on creating shows from their CEO, Chris Savage:
“This isn’t about a few random shows being created by big brands alone. This is about every company acting more like a media company. Rather than think about brand as ‘awareness,’ every business regardless of budget can prioritize brand affinity. We see shows as the most strategic and effective way to do that. They grow audience, encourage a lot more time spent with your brand, earn trust, and they increase the affinity others feel towards you. It’s a whole new approach to marketing, and it affects everyone.”
Wistia believes in the movement. MSR is an accelerant in the market all by itself, but Wistia and MSR working together is like one of those chemical canisters that the cars in the Fast and Furious movies use to go faster. (I think? I’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie. Is Ryan Gosling still in them?)
Here are just a few of the things I said to Wistia or Wistia said to me that caused me to go all Step Brothers — since, yanno, I actually saw that movie…
- The marketing mandate used to be “grab attention.” Today, it’s become “hold it.” (OH YA!)
- Asking someone to subscribe to a series is a far more powerful request for brands and far more logical action for audiences than saying, “Subscribe for more pieces of content similar to this piece of content.” (YES!)
- When we build audiences, we increase the lifetime value of everyone we reach. (INDEED!)
- When we build audiences, we decrease our cost of customer acquisition thanks to word-of-mouth. (HECK YEAH!)
- When the object is holding attention, marketers have to be genuinely good at delivering experiences worth people’s time. There’s no more room for the marketing hucksters or hacks. (OH MY GOD ARE YOU MY TWIN?!)
- Shows can’t be a side project. They need to be central, strategic, and original. This is an entirely new way of doing marketing. (DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS?!)
Wistia and MSR both carry similar beliefs. That much is clear. But hidden among our beliefs on marketing was a shared view of how a great partnership should work: like the Avengers. We each offer different superpowers, and sure, we’ll spend some time in our own solo films doing our respective things, but bring us together and suddenly we can fight the battles we couldn’t fight quite so successfully alone. Brands must become media companies. “Brand” must come to mean “affinity” and not “awareness.” Creativity must become a way of operating, not a campaign or stunt. Shows must become integral and integrated. Those are tough battles to win in a world drowning in more commodity content every day, and just as many supposed shortcuts and simple secrets being shared by everyone with wifi.
Operationally, as organizations, Wistia and MSR’s teams both believe in the same things too: slow content, quality content, enough content, all in the name of serving our audiences better, not bludgeoning the world with a message.
As for Wistia specifically, they’ve been busy in this world of marketing showrunning in a few ways. They recently launched Channels, an actual product for marketing showrunners, which helps brands house their shows on their websites in a manner more similar to Netflix than the usual “content hubs.” Wistia has also been tinkering behind the scenes on some of the methodologies for how marketers can become great showrunners, which MSR can now participate in, too. And of course, Wistia has also started launching their own original series. They’re already on their second, which launches in August 2019: a Late Night-style talk show called Brandwagon, hosted by Savage.
So what does this “presenting sponsor” status mean? Well, there’s some table stakes stuff you might expect. (Note that for any sponsor we work with at MSR, we will absolutely not share our email list. That’s a shitty way for media companies to treat subscribers. And Wistia gets that. In fact, they never even asked about this. Just another way they “get it.”)
Beyond the usual logos, links, and announcements like these, I’m most excited to find ways to grow the pie together–more marketers making more and better shows. This might involve stuff like…
- Collaborating on larger-scale content projects, like original research, webinars, live videos, books, and events.
- Accessing data and insights in a way not previously available to MSR.
- Crafting and aligning around shared terminology and methodologies together, so we can better inspire marketers everywhere to approach shows with a better, more strategic, and more creative lens.
- Skipping gaily through the park. Late night pizza runs. Sipping the same oversized tropical drink through different straws while giggling to each other.
What I’m trying to say is: Wistia, like few brands, is the perfect partner for MSR. (We’re announcing a second perfect partner soon, this time from the podcasting industry. Stay tuned for that in September.)
Wistia isn’t a logo appearing on the site every so often. They’re a partner. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder, watching the marketing world unfold, trying to play a major role in shaping it into something better, something more creative, something more human.
This movement is already happening. That much is clear. However, their team and ours both envision a world that doesn’t yet exist. We believe brands can create better experiences for customers. We believe affinity and word-of-mouth can replace the bludgeoning most sales and marketing teams give the world. Above all, we believe that great marketing isn’t about who arrives. It’s about who stays.
As of today, officially, we can work towards that world together.
Should be quite a show.
(Get it? Because, like … we’re talking about shows? Like podcasts and videos and—yeah, you get it.)
To join Wistians as well as several hundred of the world’s most creative brands who subscribe to MSR, including Red Bull, Roku, Shopify, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Zendesk, the BBC, LinkedIn, Zapier, and Adobe, use the subscribe box below to get our monthly newsletter. It’s free.
Founder of Marketing Showrunners, author of Break the Wheel, and host/producer of docuseries about creative work. I’m trying to create a world where people feel intrinsically motivated by their work. Previously in content marketing and digital strategy at Google and HubSpot and VP of brand and community at the VC firm NextView. I write, tinker, and speak on stages and into microphones for a living. It’s weird but wonderful.
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