To bring a recent piece of research on content co-marketing to life, I created a mini-podcast (8 minutes) that includes excerpts from my interviews with marketing leaders. Give it a listen (if the Soundcloud player below doesn't show up or doesn't work for you, you can go straight to the Soundcloud page where it lives, here). Below I've included notes to the podcast, and a full transcript.

Podcast notes:

The full Target & Volkswagen branded video:

The full Forrester report on branded content partnerships, or content co-marketing:

Nick Edouard –
Claudia Hoeffner –
Amanda Sibley –
Amanda Batista –
Jason Stewart –

Full transcript:

This is a minipodcast by Ryan Skinner. I’m an analyst at Forrester Research.

Now for today’s topic: Brands partnering to produce content for content marketing. Over the next 8 minutes, we’ll hear from marketing leaders themselves about why they do it, how they started, how they manage it and what to avoid.

You’ve probably seen branded content partnerships – examples of branded content from two different companies. Not just presented by. Created by. Promoted by. Altogether produced by two entirely different brands.

In August this year, this piece of video content was created. I’ll play an audio sample:

If that sounded weird, it’s because it is weird. It’s a humorous video that combines a car (with apparently a big trunk) and affordable and attractive furnishings. It was produced by Volkswagen and Target, together.

The VP of marketing for Volkswagen America wouldn’t describe the details behind the deal, but he did say this: The Target brand is also "very strong," especially with younger consumers who account for much of the Volkswagen Golf's target demographic.

This is a hugely interesting and innovative approach to content marketing; there are clear upsides for cost savings on the content as well as collaborative promotion.

And it’s an approach that their competitors aren’t benefiting from. Marketers just haven’t traditionally pursued these opportunities, but they should.

If an auto manufacturer working together with a big retailer to produce videos sounds odd, there are even older examples. There’s one I’d like to share called The Marketing Cloud. Today there are many marketing clouds, but years ago there was just one – a partnership among a dozen cloud technology vendors all marketing together.

I spoke with one of the marketers involved, Jason Stewart.

He told me that the companies recognized that they were competing for attention, but not on their offerings (one did marketing automation, another video hosting, a third webinar tools and so on). So they worked together. And it worked really, really well.

Stewart told me that the webinars his company ran alone would draw one or two hundred guests. Together the participants in would get 1 or 2 thousand. And, because they were able to pool the resources, they could afford to do bigger, better things, like bring in big names for webinars or hold high-profile events.

The advantages of working with other companies on content boil down to one thing. Nick Edouard is co-founder of a technology vendor called LookbookHQ. This is what he told me:

“Whenever we’/re going to do something, we think “is it best we do it ourselves, or is it better that we do it with someone else. 9 times out of 10, it’s better to do it with someone else. Whether or not that’s with a customer or another partner. It has to do with reach, getting the most bang for the buck, and not just on the reach side of things, but also on the production side.”

This minipodcast is about how marketers can do this co-marketing thing.

So how do these arrangements come about? This is how Nick with Lookbook described his experiences:

“It started as most great discussions do, over a beer at a trade show a couple of weeks ago. We kind of felt, myself and two other partners that are in our ecosystem, we’re complimentary. We felt that there was more to leverage by us approaching…we’re all trying to speak to the same people. So we figured we don’t step on each others’ toes, but we’re philosophically very well aligned.”

So once you start trying to classify why marketers do branded content partnerships or co-marketing activities, you’ll find that they do these things for different reasons. Targeting a common audience, while not competing, is a big one. Tapping into talent to help you create great content is another reason.

Claudia Hoeffner runs demand generation and channel strategy at a company called Acquia. She explained a little more about how they do it, or why they do it:

“Having other experts come in to contribute to the content creation process just decentralizes content creation from our team. It allows us not to just rely only on our own sources for content creation. It also brings different perspectives to the table.”

That expertise provides the expert reach, and the other party valuable content. Plus it helps position them as authoritative or at least connected in the expert’s space.

That was part of the reason a giant like Oracle collaborated with LookbookHQ, Nick’s company. Oracle’s marketing manager told me that, after acquiring a major content marketing player, the company wanted to build up its credentials in that space. Lookbook could help them do that.

So, brands do co-marketing for reach, to get bang for their buck and for expertise. But what should brands watch out for?

Problems crop up for two reasons: First of all, the brands involve forget what all of this is for. Or more precisely, who. They forget to make something readers will actually like.

But that’s always a problem with content marketing. The product guys want to push the sale too much. That just gets harder when you’ve got more teams involved. The second reason’s more particular to these content partnerships.

Here, you need to spend a lot of time getting really honest with a potential partner about what you actually want. I got this from everyone I spoke with.

Amanda Sibley runs co-marketing for Hubspot, a Boston-based marketing technology vendor. She was very clear on this point:

“Set expectations right away. When you have the first call, say, my goal is lead generation, what is your goal? And if they’re aligned, great. Then you move into your expectations. This offer’s going to take us two months to create, we’re going to promote it for three months and we’re going to generate 5,000 leads each. If, on the other hand, if your goals don’t align, maybe that’s when you decide that maybe this relationship isn’t going to work.”

If you’re after lead gen, you need to have a frank talk about that and even ask frank questions about your partner’s prospects database or existing customers.

If you’re after brand awareness, you need to be upfront about that. And even if it’s sales. Or expertise for positioning purposes.

And the last pitfall’s just a cultural fit. Edouard told me this:

“We wouldn’t want to do anything with a partner that would instantly pick up the phone and, well, negatively impact the customer’s perception of us (and the partner, and by extension, us) by virtue of doing it. So it needs to be aligned not just around the company, which is why I come back to the philosophies being quite important.”

That’s co-marketing. Get it right and this could be a big deal for your company. Hubspot is doing lots of it. Here’s Sibley again:

“I’d say it’s probably 25% or so, but that’s a very rough number. We have a content team that churns out 5-10 different offers per month. I’d say we do probably 2-4 co-marketing offers. …More often than not, they’re very successful and it’s just because you’re hitting an audience you don’t know, it’s not in your database.”

For more information about content co-marketing, I wrote a report about it. Look to the podcast notes for a link to that report, as well as to the marketers quoted in the podcast and other sources.

This was a minipodcast from Ryan Skinner at Forrester.