“I believe we’re now in a time that it’s crucial for businesses to stand up and lead positive change. Consumers are demanding it, and I want to help them do it and communicate it. Marketing is at its best when it has a profound impact on the world.”
Susie Bayes, Brand Partnerships Director for Guardian Labs has always been passionate about two things from a young age: truth and advertising. While they’re two things that haven’t always gone hand-in-hand, she believes authentic brand storytelling has the ability to build brand trust and create significant change.
At Guardian Labs, The Guardian’s native content hub, Susie creates content and event partnerships with global brands to help spread their message and positive impact.
“What we’ve kind of focused on with our partnerships is being really authentic and bringing through what people love about The Guardian in the first place,” Susie says.
While content marketing has been around for a while, Susie says most brands still have a long way to go to perfect it. She says it’s important for brands to find the right balance between promoting themselves and the stories consumers actually want to see.
“If you start from the very beginning being all advertorial, and many publications started off doing that, you burn out pretty quickly. You can burn through trust awfully quickly.”
Tune in to this special live recording of Storytime at Filtered Media, where Susie joined Mark Jones to discuss the role of storytelling in building brand trust and the challenge of remaining authentic while delivering your brand’s message.
- About The Guardian Labs
- Susie Bayes on the power of meaning when marketing to millennials – Video
- Susie Bayes discusses the IAB Australia Native Advertising Playbook co-wrote – Campaign Brief
The CMO Show production team
Producer – Charlotte Goodwin
Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Host: Mark Jones & Nicole Manktelow
Guest: Susie Bayes
Mark Jones: I’m fascinated by dilemmas. American journalist Bob Woodward once said, “The central dilemma in journalism is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and as a former journalist, I can tell you, that was my quest. Constantly trying to discover what I didn’t know.”
Nicole Manktelow: Hey, you’re with The CMO Show. I’m your co-host, Nicole Manktelow.
Mark Jones: And I am Mark Jones, and Nicole, great to have you back on the show.
Nicole Manktelow: Well, thank you. I’ve got my voice back, so that’s always a start.
Mark Jones: Yes, you do.
Mark Jones: And our very special guest today is Susie Bayes, who’s Brand Partnerships Director, at The Guardian Labs, and she came and spoke with us in person, live, in front of a recorded audience.
Nicole Manktelow: No lab coat to be found, I might add.
Mark Jones: That’s right. No lab coat.
Mark Jones: We hold these events called Story Time at Filtered Media, because we believe that storytelling is the future of marketing. So what we can learn from great storytellers?
Nicole Manktelow: It’s that old chestnut, isn’t it, Mark? That wanting to balance the independent brand, and you still have commercial needs. You still need to be able to make a dollar. You’ve got to support your journalism, after all. So this is a really interesting talk, where we’re talking about building trust, maintaining that trust, and yet, still, having a commercial basis of operation.
Mark Jones: Yeah. It’s a great conversation, because, of course, the Guardian is a storied brand. A great storytelling brand, but one that also needs to, like everybody else in business, make some money. So how do you get that right? It’s a great conversation, so let’s go and kick over to my interview with Susie Bayes.
Nicole Manktelow: Awesome.
Mark Jones: Would you please welcome Susie to story time? Susie of course, is been I think in a couple of years now.
Susie Bayes: Four years
Mark Jones: There you go.
Mark Jones: Long time. I wanted to pick up on one thing, and in your LinkedIn bio because that’s where we all go first time to meet somebody and what did I like? You said, “I believe we’re now in a time that it’s crucial for businesses to stand up and lead positive change. The consumers are demanding, and I want to help them do it and communicate it. Marketing is at its best when it has a profound impact on the world.” Now, tell me about that statement. What’s behind that?
Susie Bayes: So we are in a really unusual point in time where we’re carrying on as if everything is normal. The government’s are very much, globally or kind of going back to days of past when we’re in a unique situation in terms of climate, in terms of environment, in terms of all of these interlinking factors that mean that things are not going to be as they were, and we can’t put tense to the past because things have shifted in exponential ways. And businesses, part of them waking up to that is because they’re realising that you cannot be sustainable a business if you run out of the things that you need. So quite literally, sustainability is really, really crucial to businesses being able to continue doing what they do. So I think businesses are waking up to that. The part that doesn’t always connect is businesses talking about that work that they’re doing.
Susie Bayes: So almost every big business is considering what they need to do, their sustainability options, their CSR, all of these kinds of spaces, but then a lot of the time that doesn’t touch into their marketing. But actually people really care because consumers, us all as people, citizens want to see that this shift is happening. And when government is not doing it, it’s good to see that businesses are.
Mark Jones: Okay. What’s the connection? Must have had an appeal at the Guardian. So just to talk about yourself for a moment, what was the connection between your ideas there and your, if you like, future focus in the Guardian?
Susie Bayes: So I think as far as I go back in life there’s sort of two things running. So there’s this five year old running around interviewing for the early times. Actually, I was a journalist at age five, and interviewing people who’ve done really inspirational work. Like this Guy Dr Suzuki who created the Suzuki method of violin and had really helped all these kids around the world sort of celebrate through music.
Susie Bayes: I think it’s a different one. Not the motorbikes either.
Susie Bayes: But yes, doing things like that and having a cancer research centre when I was still at primary school and this sort of real care for making the world better. And then this other thing of being really interested in advertising, which I started being interested in when I was really young, and even when I was in school we did what they call a young enterprise company. So in sixth form you create a little mini company and you’re HSC. And I wanted to be marketing director. I was going to be marketing director. And so I came up with this logo and a little very exciting. So there’s two things that kind of quite a lot of the time don’t really connect, running through all the way through my life and nowhere was that more clear to me than working at Nova, which is what I did before the Guardian. So I lost the time that was, there’s kind of slightly uncomfortable. “I’m not sure we’re making the world a better place for some of the work we’re doing. Are we actually make it worse. Is that okay? How do I feel about that?”
Susie Bayes: Well, that’s it. And so the Guardian for me was the final like, “Ah, I can be both parts of me at the same time.” And the more work I do in this space, and the more I took at conferences, as in get people to interact and talk about what they care about, the more I realise that there’s a hell of a lot of people in marketing who wants to make it better, but don’t necessarily know how unfit a bit stuck in it. But actually when you tell them and you show them the stats, you can be better at your job and have less risk of being fired and all those things, and make the world a better place all at the same time. People feel really good about that.
Mark Jones: So what you’ve just described is fantastic and inspirational from the dilemma that we’re sort of talking about here, right? So storytelling and creating a trusted brand through that, but also having commercial outcomes and that sounds fantastic. What’s the hard bit?
Susie Bayes: There’s about the hard bits. People haven’t done it traditionally. There’s something that I’ve talked about really inadequately for a really long time about kind of whole of person brands that people can see and know. So in the past you could say whatever it was is your top player of your campaign, that would be what you focused on and nobody would know what was going on underneath the surface. And the examples of things like, Uber have had some problems, PL problems and all those kinds of things. And they have statements of what it is that they stand for, but they don’t necessarily live that through the company. And you can’t get away with that anymore. And so yeah, I’ve always sort of phrase that inadequately as this whole person thing and TrendWatching have recently sort of put smarter name on it, which is Glass Box Brands.Instead of a black box brand where you can’t see in, you can see all the way through.
Susie Bayes: And that’s the reality, is that people are very, very uncomfortable with it. So there’s lots of reasons why people don’t do it. Quite a lot of it is about that brand building, not being focused on lots of time in Australia, we have to get ourselves in and it’s like over time if you look at focusing on brand, it will have a long term sales impact and all the research proves that. But when you’ve got a quarter budget and you’ve got a quarter target, that’s a hell of a lot of people who are just like, “I’ve just got to do sales. I’ve got to just got to do response stuff.”
Mark Jones: Well, interesting thing is brands get built regardless. It’s just whether or not you’re intentional about it. And I think that’s an interesting conversation. But before we get to that, I think for all of us, we’d love to know a little bit about what you do. What does all this look like when you get into the office and talk to clients and work with your team?
Susie Bayes: So I think, well, Guardian Labs was one of the first content within a publication, so one of the first arms of, I hate to call it native, but paid content and within a media publication. And we certainly set our own way of how we do things and then lots of people have done it differently. I really believe in what we do. So we have three routes of engaging with the Guardian as a brand. So the Guardian was set up 200 years ago. So this is a bit of background, but it’s kind of important to understand how we do content. But the Guardian is owned by the Scott Trust, which is essentially a trust that exists solely for the purpose of keeping our journalism independent for LA in perpetuity. And what that means is that is this completely free from commercial and political influence, and there is all kinds of-
Susie Bayes: 100%. And in one of the most … well, we are the third most concentrated media marketplace in the world. If you think about as a free country, that’s quite scary and that’s before the Nine-Fairfax takeover. But yeah, it means that we are truly independent and it means that we report on stories and we are genuine about what is happening in the world. And when you see examples, no end of examples where newspapers won’t comment or even report on their big clients or big politicians work that is really worrying because of their relationships. That’s a scary situation to be in. And so we can’t effect whenever, as a commercial team, are going to be able to impact that. What we can do is leverage the trust that we have as a result of that in really important ways.
Susie Bayes: There’s three ways we work with brands. One is to support editorial on things that they really want to do that it’s very clearly funded by a brand, but the brand has no say whatsoever of what goes into that content other than that we agree in an area, and that it shows that they really care about it. So it’s very clear to the reader who also contributes to the Guardian that a brand cares so much about the thing that they care about, that they’re contributing to.
Susie Bayes: Yeah. We’re topic alignment. We’ll never touch on what that brand sort of core level of businesses, so the best way to do is give you examples. So like NAB have supported us talking about social equality, so that’s something they’re really passionate about. They think it’s really important. It will never touch into what specifically NAB is doing in that space. But then we do Guardian Labs content which is the consumer facing part of Guardian Labs. So Guardian Labs there’s three kinds of content but only one of them is labelled because Guardian Labs to the consumer. And so that is where we co-create content. It is very clearly labelled as such.
Susie Bayes: The brand has more of a role within that, but it will never be like an hour-and-hour products out because it’s not great content. And then we have third type of content, which is we can take content that brands have created themselves that has had no role from Guardian or Guardian Labs in it, and we can surface that to the audience. And quite a lot of the time those three things will work together.
Mark Jones: Okay, good. The Labs thing I think is interesting and we’re seeing that replicated in lots of media. So the idea of a content team, an IT team or a labs team or whatever you want to call it, this has become, if you like, the new way, or new old way that media have been commercialising what they do. And if you think about that and you think about events and membership, so all these kinds of pillars that we use to drive media. And I’m kind of passionate about this as an ex journal myself, you want sustainability in the media. You want them to continue to grow and to thrive. And the dilemma we’re talking about here is again, how do you get trust? How do you maintain trust with consumers in that dynamic? Because it used to be much more black and white. Right? So just describe that journey and how you see this moving forward.
Susie Bayes: So it’s really interesting because content marketing, I mean, it’s new but it’s not that new. Right? So we grew up looking advertorials in magazines. I remember reading advertorials when I was a teenager and being like, “What is this thing?” Like, “This is just the magazine is spooking this thing.” “And why are they telling me how great this product is and it doesn’t feel real?” And so these actual concept has been around a hell of a long time. Like I say, what we’ve kind of focused on doing is being really authentic, bringing through what is it that people love about the Guardian in the first place.
Susie Bayes: And what we do from a content point of view, being genuinely interesting, providing a point of view, providing a perspective that’s different to what they can find out about, and not being like, “This product is great because of blah, Blah, Blah.” Because that doesn’t feel authentic and it doesn’t seem Guardian. And if Guardian Labs is in fact building a brand too in that it is consumer facing. When you look at Guardian Labs content, you have to want to click on it, and all of this is a pull rather than push, right? Advertising is you can’t get away, sorry, serving you, that’s why you’re that-
Susie Bayes: Whereas this is very much like, “Come and join us. Come and have a conversation with us.” What is so important about doing that is that you have to retain the trust and you have to build trust. So if you start from the very beginning being all advertorial, that which many publications started off doing that, you burn it pretty quickly. You can burn through trust awfully quickly.
Mark Jones: So how do you manage it on a day to day basis? What does it look like? And I think one of my experiences in this space is that you need some rules or framework for deciding how it’s going to work, because inevitably the person who’s paying for the content or supporting this environment might want to have a say. So how do you govern that?
Susie Bayes: They absolutely should have a say we. We absolutely should be working together and absolutely should represent what it is that they stand for. It shouldn’t represent what all of the product benefits as an only point of an article because that’s how you lose people. And how it happens is generally lots of very difficult conversations. But also, I mean, one of my favourite quotes about content marketing is you talk about yourself too much on a first day, you don’t get a second. And I feel like there’s not a lot of things that are kind of more correct. This is about building a longterm relationship. And if you go in there guns blazing about how great you are, who wants to talk to you again?
Mark Jones: Yeah. So, it’s true. And the interesting thing in your context is that you have an existing community. So people are joining a community and you’re looking to maintain that trust. One of the challenges we have as brands is if you don’t have that community, if you don’t have… if you’re a subscriber base or a reader base, one of the challenges you’re having is how do I create that? Obviously, going to the Guardian is one way or any media organisation, right? So how do you help … Are you interested at only helping people create their own communities or is the mindset, it’s our community and you can just be part of it? Because in reality, brands also want to know, how can I continue to build trust with my audience regardless of where they are?
Susie Bayes: Absolutely. What we do is help people do what they want to do. We don’t set our role. I mean, there’s some rules like, you can’t tell editorial what to write, because that’s a 200 year old fool and it’s not something that we’re allowed to touch on. But absolutely, we’re there to compliment whatever it is that people do. I mean, I was saying to you earlier that we quite often work with people who it might be seen as competitors. So quite a lot of the time will be approached by content agencies, PR agencies, lots of people who do similar things to what we do, and then we find the sweeter things or we connect in such a way that builds us a bespoke solution for what it is that they need to do. And absolutely, we’re in a position where we have extraordinary trust and the whole point of working with us to leverage that and to build the trust in that brand. And that’s something that we’ve got in a fairly unique to fatty unique level. And so we can really help with that. Absolutely.
Mark Jones: Another big trend in marketing at the moment is integrated marketing communications. It’s been around for a long time, of course, but we’re seeing that in these environments we want everything to work together. So social content, PR, all my different content assets, advertising, bringing it all together. That’s what we think of as a storytelling or brand storytelling. Can you give me some examples of how that’s looking like from your perspective?
Susie Bayes: I know it’s one of those things where I think it’s just a little bit odd that we didn’t do that before. Like, “Oh, we’re over here. So this is our PR message, but then over here we’re having this marketing message and over here we do something else entirely.” It’s like, how is anybody going to know what it is that you stand for if you completely different every way you look. And it’s actually just in terms of kind of a personality thing. I was having a conversation earlier about kind of authenticity in your work. I remember, well, I started working a long time ago, but coming into the industry and sort of feeling like I was not supposed to be the person that I was outside of work, at work, and therefore that should be to Susie’s and that they should not meet in the middle.
Susie Bayes: And actually that’s just really bizarre, and it’s really bizarre to expect brands to be like that. You absolutely need to be a blended, not one message kind of thing. So it’s not one message across everything i.e that there’s no depth to it, but the depth gets shortened into something that absolutely stands for what you are and then any touch point with you. And incidentally, marketing is a construct essentially. But what it should be is a kind of reflection of what it is as a whole. So for example, with a consumer facing brand, like insurance company or something, if your touch point is going to be, you’re talking to somebody on the phone, they absolutely need to reflect what it is that you’re saying for their marketing communication. It has to run through the whole company.
Mark Jones: So observationally, what would you say is the trend here? Are you saying more brands? What percentage of brands are coming through with these integrated campaigns versus if you’re like one off bespoke executions?
Susie Bayes: There’s two questions there. So one is, what’s temporary, what’s kind of short term, and the other is what’s holistic in its approach? And we do still see quite a lot of short term things. I think shifting over to that longterm thinking when marketers cycles are based around their products and all those kinds of things. And that is a long term shift that ideally will change. I think holistic communications almost 90%, and that sort of campaign based stuff, probably 45, 40 percent. The focus is on campaigns rather than the other way around. And I think that’s a shame because it doesn’t do people justice. It doesn’t do the brand justice, but I think it will shift.
Mark Jones: One of the reasons I asked the question being marketing industry awards recently and as a judge on marketing awards programmes, and I see this repeated idea of I want the big idea, right? It’s the big idea, the big creative idea with multiple executions in a sort of an integrated approach that tends to win, right? And particularly if we could show massive ROI. So that sort of mindset as it comes into the media, you can see the complexity and the demands that marketers are bringing to working with media publishers. And again, a lot of pressure around how can this big idea with its multiple threads and touch points fit into a particular view that you would have, for example. So how do you manage those expectations? You talked about having difficult conversations, but I see this as quite a lasting and important conversation that we need to practically figure out. What are the steps that you would take somebody through to get them to a place of understanding?
Susie Bayes: A lot of proof and a lot of data is generally the way forward. Plus, a lot of, this is what you come to as well. I mean, one of my most regular conversations is, “We really liked that you’re independent and we really like the editorial can’t be bought.” But in this example, can you get them to …it’s like, Noooo, it can’t. It’s the whole point, and it’s like, do you know how many of these conversations I have a day? But yeah, it really is. It’s about showing people at educating. It’s about, “This is a time conversation. This is not about short term thing. This is about … this is how we build it. These are the examples. Look at this example where we’ve been able to shift trust by 85%. That’s because people trust us.” And I think, people come to us with something very specific sometimes.
Susie Bayes: Sometimes someone comes to us and goes, “I don’t know what to do, what do you think?” And I’m like, “Okay, let’s work. Work through what it is that you stand for. Let’s work through how that you want people to feel about you, to see you. Do you have what do you want them to do as a result of interacting with you?” All these kinds of things, so there’s some way you’re taking people through from the very, very basics where you’ve got others where kind of recently we had a situation where they came to us going, we really want to be associated with curiosity. We think that’s a really interesting territory because ultimately a camera as opposed to a mobile. Mobile is very much snap, snap, snap. A camera helps you interact, slow down, kind of investigate, explore all of these things that kind of meditative, that kind of help you feel better as a person.
Susie Bayes: And us touching into the territory of curiosity we’re going to do loads of content around that with our content agency. How do we make anyone care about that? Or how do we own that territory? How can you leverage your trust to get people to genuinely see Canon as a legitimate person or legitimate brand to be talking about curiosity? So in that instance, they knew what they were going to be doing from a content point of view and then we built a framework around that that made people interested, build trust, leveraging the situation that we have in the kind of psychological musings, if you like, that the Guardian is quite known for to give people a reason to care about Canon in that space.
Susie Bayes: Yeah. So that kind of content that they were creating, so they had three people, I think [inaudible 00:29:47] was stupid, but they were taking people on a journey of discovery with the camera, giving them the social lessons back into photography and getting them exploring and going. So there was a young guy who’d kind of be nursing his mom, really, really sad story, hadn’t been having a social life for quite a long time. And they took him to Kenya and took him on safari and going to meet the Maasai, and this extraordinary experience and kind of the camera was … in lots of ways he used the camera as his way into community to kind of interact with people, to take things on a deep level. Why does anyone care about that content? No, they don’t necessarily. But so we built the reason why people-
Susie Bayes: Yeah. I have a few of those from my … Yeah, I’ve spent time in Africa, before selfies was a thing and before you had a mobile that did it. You turn around the camera and be like with last [inaudible 00:30:45], but yeah.
Susie Bayes: So Canon is one where, yeah, we’ve seen it, a massive impact on their ability spent in that space. People see them as connected to curiosity, but also as having a role to play in helping them look at things differently. We all carry around mobile cameras all the time now. And for camera companies, that’s obviously cannibalise their business and quite a big way. What do you do about that? Well, you create an ultimately different role, and it’s a time where we have everything speeding up and everyone wants to kind of disconnect. We have helped them build that role where, yeah, people who’ve spent sort of … With some of the content I spent like four minutes with the content that we’ve created around it, which to draw interest into videos that are a minute and half long, there’s a pretty big impact and helped shift people’s opinions about what role cameras can play, and that they have actually got a role, and that they’re not just a bulkier version of what you’ve got in your pocket. They actually have something quantitatively different that can help you feel happier.
Mark Jones: What’s interesting about that example is, I’m really interested in what’s the brand story. So the narrative behind Canon, if you like, as you’ve described it, the challenge of … we have a business challenge which is the smartphones and then moving to well what happened to the rest of the camera world, right? And how do we work in that space. So being cognizant of that story and then how do I creatively build off it, I think is a really interesting one. Are there any other quick examples before we take some questions? Because I’d love to get some good practical tips and approaches that people can take back to the office here.
Susie Bayes: So one of the things that I think in terms of what I think is great content quite a lot at the time, it is connecting to that glass box brand, if you like. So one of the things I talk about when I’m very much focusing on the purpose space is helping brands to go look around inside your company. What is actually happening? What partnerships are happening? Is there a CSR thing you’re doing this extraordinary that actually your customers would love to know about and your potential audience would love to know about? And the next time they’re make decision, and I metaphorically say on the shelf, it’s you versus another, but that’s just one way of looking at whatever it is that they’ve got to choose somebody in your category. Why not give them a reason to really want to connect with you because emotionally you do something that makes them feel better.
Susie Bayes: Some of the work … I mean we have examples across so many different kinds of categories at so many different kinds of campaigns because it is really fluid and bespoke what we do. People feel cool, awesome. What do you do? Can you give us a warm [inaudible 00:33:38]. And it’s like, yes, but it’s a million different things. But I think semantically the things that are really important are being authentic, understanding what it is. Yeah. What is your business challenge? How does that feed through to what you are as a brand today? Does your standpoint through your advertising reflect that? And how can that connect into a deeper storytelling method? So if it is about curiosity and exploration, what is the deeper level and the psychology that you can tap into of what people need or your audience needed to tap into that and then take it from there.
Mark Jones: And there are plenty of great examples around the world. I think one of my favourites was Fearless Girl, and how they actually used, if you like, a statute. You might know that right standing in front of the raging bull, right? So they actually blended, if you like, a creative … if the theory, not a theory, but like an existential idea about empowerment and a number of themes and then brought it to life. So an actual statute in the real world and that whole experiential side of marketing and then connect it up with lots of digital executions and content and so on, those sorts of examples are very well documented. Are there any examples or approaches that you would say, you really got to avoid this? The classic bad case study examples.
Susie Bayes: So we had a big moment on this earlier, and I was going … the thing about bad content marketing is that it’s so forgettable. Actually, when you try, and come up with the good examples you’re like, “Oh, I can’t remember.” I mean, this isn’t content marketing, but it was basically an ad, but a shocking ad, was the Pepsi Kendall Jenner basically. Kendall Jenner walks out in the middle of a revolt. There’s lots of people, black lives matter type thing, and someone hands her a Pepsi or something and then that closes. Terrible, terrible situation. They have got absolutely no alignment in that space whatsoever. It doesn’t stand for what they are in any way. All that they faced was a hell of a lot of blanket backlash as a result. And it was tone deaf. And similarly, actually, this is funny. They come to you when you’re in [crosstalk 00:35:55].
Susie Bayes: There is one other that recently I’ve just been like, “ This is so bad.” So as we were entering the Royal Banking Commission, the ABA, the Australian Banking Association put out this content generally on Linkedin where people can comment directly underneath and it was so tone deaf. It was extraordinary. It’s like, “Australia Bank don’t keep all the profits. They gave some away”, kind of a thing. I’m at a point at which they are beginning to be investigated for incredible fraud. That is not the thing to come out with at that time. There’s nothing authentic about it. It was very much, “Listen to us. This is a sales point of view from us.” And it was just shocking content, really bad.
Mark Jones: So from a trust point of view, clearly the messaging that’s coming out is inconsistent with what the community thinks. And so the lesson there is obviously being aware of this tone deaf, right? So [crosstalk 00:36:50].
Susie Bayes: Yeah. I think it’s just like if you are going to touch on something which is a tricky topic, then you should address the issue at hand because going back to one of your questions at the start, how do people do this effectively? And I think it’s about, if there is an elephant in the room, then address it. Don’t just avoid the conversation because people can find out the answer. We’re not living in a time of black box brands anymore. They can find out. So it’s so much better if you’re on the front foot and you’re honest about it. We made a mistake here, but we’re making it better. And actually there’s a huge amount of research, and I’m proof that people will respond better if people stand up and honest about the work.
Mark Jones: We’ll, I think we’ll wrap up in a minute, but just as you think about the development and the maturity of content marketing and brand storytelling, it kind of goes through ups and downs in terms of what we think is hot in marketing from time to time. What are sort of the longterm trends that you’re seeing and what some food for thought that you think we should wrap up with?
Susie Bayes: So I think the glass box brands is one part of that kind of trend space that actually encompasses a hell of a lot more which is around artisanship, around origination where people want to be connected closer to the things that they touch and care about, at a time where, yeah, we are in this attention economy and a lot of things we haven’t got time for actually disrupting and standing for something slightly different is how you do stand out and make a real impact.
Susie Bayes: And The Guardian has always been different. We are not homogenous with everything out there. And even in a situation where you’ve got the avocado and toast debate and everyone was there, and kept complaining about how terrible it was that this old guy saying this about Millennials that like Christopher eating avocado on toast, otherwise they will never buy houses. And we’re like, maybe we could take tone or we could create a date to interactive, which quite literally shows you where is it that you want to live? Personalise the data. How much you’re saving, kind of ask you the questions, but ultimately serves you up. How many years it’s going to take you to buy a house, anyway? And how many less years it would take you to buy if you stopped eating avocado on toast once a week.
Susie Bayes: I don’t think we’ve done that yet, but that’s the kind of thing that we do. Quite a lot of the time, this was the storytelling methods the Guardian uses are becoming kind of … well, it’s what we do in content anyway, but they are becoming the way that people are changing data. So storytelling for one, if you can democratise data and basically give people something that’s really relevant to them, it makes a real difference. If you can personalise the story, so allow somebody to interact with it and get their own results, then that’s going to create an even better impact because it’s more memorable. It’s more relevant and it connects more with them. So I just think the key is about seeing what everyone’s doing and then going, how can we just take that cultural zeitgeist and be a little bit different? So we’re actually memorable with what we do.
Susie Bayes: And actually an HBF have won a lot of awards for their own content marketing this last couple of years, and they’d done some work with my lab and essentially they created this whole new space for dads to go. So it’s like direct advice from dads to dads. And it’s quite a lot of it is that, how’d you support your partner when this is happening? And it’s the kind of tone that has never been out there for Australian males in publications before. Because what’s traditionally said is, be a man, and do it this way, and be hard, and don’t cry, and all of this kind of thing. And actually they’ve taken very real emotional need that sits there, but there just isn’t part of the zeitgeist. And so they’ve taken parts of that taking their own twist on it, and it’s been hugely successful throughout because they built trust, they’ve built something unique, and they built a reason to come to their platform to see that even if you’re not their customer so that you are more likely to become a customer.
Mark Jones: And I think the key is using data or proof points and the style and tone that would build the trust as opposed to something you mentioned before being tone deaf. Right. So getting that approach, you’re right, is key. Well, thank you for that. And thank you for your insights today. And from a trust point of view, thank you for being our editorial guests because there’s no commercial … For some reason I feel like that was relevant. I think the fact that you decided to come and be a guest here, not only at the story time but the CMO show, I appreciate your time and your insights. And I think you’ve given us many ideas around how to build trust and create those partnerships with our customers and our communities, and I appreciate the insight too that you bring on balancing that commercial and editorial world and the fact that your story that you thought about this since you were five, I think.
Mark Jones: It sounds like an ongoing journey of fulfilling your purpose. So that’s encouraging it at a personal level. So thank you very much. Susie Bayes is a brand partnerships director at Guardian Labs. Would you please thank her for being our guest today.
Mark Jones: So, Nicole, that was Susie Bayes.
Nicole Manktelow: Yeah. She’s pretty outstanding, isn’t he? You know, I just like that idea that she’s always wanted to do something good, and she’d hived off her personality into these different chunks, at trying to have a job, and then, do something good, in a separate space-
Mark Jones: Yeah, I-
Nicole Manktelow: Which has brought them together.
Mark Jones: I think it’s very encouraging when you see somebody whose different interests have aligned around at your why, getting your why sorted, and finding an expression for that is fantastic.
Mark Jones: I also loved this idea of The Glass Box, this transparent company. I think it’s quite challenging, trying to figure out what, maybe, what that might look like.
Nicole Manktelow: I think the transparency’s ideal. I mean, it’s what the readership would expect, so there’s your audience contract there, that they expect a certain level of integrity, from that masthead. So, if you get that wrong, for a few dollars, wow. That’s an expensive mistake to make.
Mark Jones: And I think, in the context of branded content, content marketing, and brand storytelling, maybe one of the ways is to be … is a good reminder for clearly labelling and categorising the type of content you’re producing, so what’s sponsored?
Mark Jones: I mean, obviously, if the content’s on your own site, you know where it’s from. And in the context of The Guardian, how do you make sure that that branded content is showcased in the right light?
Nicole Manktelow: Yeah, well, you got to give your readers a fair go. You got to let them know what the story is.
Mark Jones: Yeah, so, there’s some good ideas to take home there, and the other thing, just before we go, is … I’d been reflecting on this idea of the true equity in your brand, right? So, The Guardian has brand equity, and every brand out there has equity, and if you’re a listed company, that equity is actually realised, in terms of a dollar value. Unfortunately, sometimes, you see that value getting written down.
Mark Jones: But I’m wondering, in the context, as we build out these marketing programmes, and content, and a need to grab your programmes. How can you take advantage of true equity in your brand? Because who are you, and what you represent, is just as important as some of the traditional advertising metrics, like reach, and so forth.
Mark Jones: So, getting a full picture of what your brand represents, in your storytelling, I think is a key thing.Susie’s insights were amazing
Mark Jones: indeed, and I hope you did enjoy it, and thanks once again for joining us on the CMO Show Podcast.
Mark Jones: Please, take a moment to subscribe, and to share, and this podcast is growing, because of people like you, letting their friends know about the show. and also, a note too to say that this show is produced by Filtered Media, our brand storytelling agency here in Sydney, Australia. If you’d like to know more about Filtered Media, please go to filteredmedia.com.au.
Mark Jones: Once again, thanks very much, and we look forward to speaking with you next time.
Mark Jones: Okay. Management expert Peter Drucker says, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” So’s as you think about, where to from now, and you’ve listened to this show, and some of the ideas around dilemmas, what are the next right things that you should be doing, to transform your management practises, into leadership practises?