Content Marketing and the End of Ads at SXSW.

General Electric, L’Oréal, and Dell discuss graying the divide between content and ads at an incisive SXSW Interactive panel.
Caroline Henley
March 14, 2015 - 3 min. read

At MediaPost’s SXSW Interactive session “Content Marketing vs Don Draper: The End of Ads,” Linda Boff, Global Executive Director of Brand Marketing at GE, Maya Kosovalic, Head of Media and Digital Communications at L’Oréal, and Stephanie Losee, Managing Editor at Dell, talked about the blurring of the line between content and advertising. They discussed the specific processes that they’ve taken on to allow their somewhat older institutions become agile in how they promote their brands.

GE’s media manifesto

 Linda created a media manifesto at GE, with the goal of 2015 being “market in the year you live in.” You can’t think about what worked five years ago, she says. Her points can be lifted to strategize for any smart company:

  • Behave like tomorrow’s programmers, not yesterday’s marketers.
  • Make everything media and cross borders in doing so.
  • Reach new audiences in unexpected ways.
  • Publish the most remarkable content, and pair it with the right media platform.
  • The user is king.
  • Copycats usually fall on their faces.
  • We never sweat our assets enough.
  • Shout louder than we spend.

Linda talked about how she challenges her brand to cross media boundaries – in fact, GE, a brand you wouldn’t expect to even be on Tumblr, is rocking its Tumblr posts.

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Know thyself, and know thy followers
So why are so many companies behind in the social space? People are still uncomfortable with digital. The brand has to know itself very, very well to pivot and experiment on these new channels. If you don’t know yourself, not even the best agencies in the world are going to help you.

Linda works with GE’s CMO Beth Comstock to continuously define the brand, its values, and its voice. The trick then is to reveal the core of this to others. This sounds dopey, she says, but it was a realization that they had to consciously embrace.

One off-shoot of L’Oréal is Kiehl’s. Maya talked about how the Kiehl’s brand values its in-store experiences: when someone walks into a Kiehl’s store, they’ve come to rely on getting a sense of quality and community. Knowing this about themselves, and having a pre-defined value that they wanted to scale, they lifted these goals of quality and community to shape their content on social.

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Stephanie from Dell talked about how their Chief Blogger Laura Thomas helped shift corporate policy after noticing trends on social. Dell’s policy is to never play on the word “Dell” in its branding – you don’t get “Dellified” when you join the team, for example. But Laura noticed that fans were starting to post “Dellfies” on their own accord. It’d be silly not to jump on and build this user-generated trend, so she changed the policy. Know your followers and the content they want out of your brand, and your content will start to resonate better and become more engaging.

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Maya from L’Oréal discussed the changes that need to happen to constantly shift for digital. The company installed a new digital officer at its headquarters in Paris. The growing need for content has to be recognized and treated with utmost importance in order to grow in this space.

Not long ago, Maya says, being digital just meant investing in e-commerce. That’s very important to directly grow sales, of course. But if the only touch-points your customers have online are “buy buy buy,” it’s going to hurt your image and your brand. You have to develop a special sort of brand awareness as well.

Stephanie believes that the evolution of content marketing is going to be THE process that will break down silos in corporate culture. They’re even changing people’s roles and creating workshops to reorganize and educate Dell’s employees. We know very well that social media is completely changing the landscape of social media job titles, after we did some research with our customers. 

Cover photo credit: Kris Krüg

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