Navigating Cross-Channel Content Consistency this Christmas

Each year, the big brands’ Christmas activity generates a blizzard of social discussion and attention. This is a boon to performance marketers, who can expect a spike in their brand’s organic search visibility and social engagement when the ‘blockbuster’ ad is launched. But it also presents questions about how brands’ digital output should relate to the messages and themes in their above the line (ATL) activity.

Some will aim for absolute consistency, for example by only using visual assets from the TV creative on their social channels. Others may be more flexible according to the user environment. But both of these approaches may run afoul of the staggering proliferation of consumer touchpoints and channels of communication in digital.

Today’s doctrine of ‘omni-channel’ emphasises the need for harmony between the tone and themes across these different channels, so as to establish a consistency of brand identity that is immediately recognisable to consumers.

But in practice this is rarely clear cut, instead involving negotiation between the need for consistency on the one hand while adapting messaging to the styles and formats that feel natural to each platform. This is before we even begin to address the question of performance, where various best practices involving clear and direct product imagery wreak havoc with tasteful festive sentiment.

Furthermore, many would agree that the medium is the message – and in this sense a six second Vine provides a fundamentally different experience to a 400 word blog post, even if both are based on the same basic themes.

In our opinion, these platform differences can be turned to a brand’s advantage – so long as marketers have a sense of where each platform or output fits within the overall strategy. Blog content, for example, may mirror some of the themes from the TV creative, but the focus is often more on the real-life consumer as opposed to the glamour in your typical ATL campaign. Smart retail brands can use on-site content as the bridge between TV ads and the consumer: echoing the core themes, whilst making them more accessible and realistic.

Still more agile brands may rely entirely on their ability to adapt in the moment. For a lesson in this type of ‘translatable’ content, look no further than Buzzfeed, who know a thing or two about the Internet. Their 2015 memo expounds clearly on how content that performs in one channel will not simply be copy and pasted across to another, but rather adapted by a dedicated team: “we see a post with 10 million views evolve into multiple videos across YouTube and Facebook and turned into a comic on Instagram and Snapchat Discover”.

The lesson seems clear: whilst content still has to be assiduously planned in advance for coherency, the prize turkey (as it were) will increasingly go to the fleet of foot who can run with a breakout idea.

To find out how you can drive digital performance over the Christmas period read our POV on 'Digital Mastery for a Multi-Channel Christmas'.