Microsoft is doing a pretty good job of reaching younger people through its marketing. It’s obviously noted that filming an ad of a laptop, slow panning over all of its sexy angles isn’t quite going to cut it anymore, at least not for all audiences. So recently, it teamed up with Fairfax for a content partnership called 'The Change Makers' to spruik its Surface Pro 4.
The series launched online in December last year, profiling five New Zealanders who have specialised in different fields: a Māori doctor on a mission to inspire other Māori into careers in medicine, an Otago University scientist leading climate change research, an award-winning interior designer, a lawyer-turned peanut butter maker and a DJ and software entrepreneur.
“We had a brief from Microsoft to find interviewees who were on the cusp of becoming acknowledged,” says Fairfax Media custom solutions director Susana Leitao.
“We chose people who were not only achieving but all of them have an additional depth to them and were contributing in some way,” she says.
“Dr Lyndon, his contribution is not only in medicine but to Māori health. [They were] really good role models who were humble and just getting on with things …”
She says the method was a brave departure of the traditional for Microsoft, with only subtle placement of the Surface Pro in photographs and a short plug at the end of each article.
“They wanted to link the product in terms of innovation,” she says.” It was also about achieving the extraordinary and linking themselves with that area.”
Leitao says there’s a greater desire to be inspired and connected to people who are more believable, or live a life more closely to what you want it to be.
“So it’s people who are actually more authentic. There’s obviously still celebrity endorsement around but mostly people want authentic voices speaking to them not at them and they want to connect with people they can admire and it’s really bringing those new voices and linking brands with them.”
The initiative was also cross-platform, with the stories appearing on Stuff, magazines and with Gibben's story executed in video-form and online.
For example, Felicity Brenchley’s story appeared in NZ House & Garden magazine and Fix and Fogg peanut butter’s Roman Jewell featured in Cuisine.
She says all the stories appeared cross-platform except for DJ Sam Gribben's story, as it seemed to fit more online, being a software startup.
Photography was also a big focus for the series, she says.
“We also commissioned Jane Ussher to do the photography as we wanted to capture them a little bit outside their expertise. And print really lends itself to that editorial approach. It’s a match all story telling medium and magazines went into influencer strategy and magazines have had profiles about real people and celebrities for a long time so it’s natural in that medium but it’s about making it beautiful and connecting it to the environment.”
As has been talked about a lot for a while now, publishers are still figuring out the best ways to use content to solve journalism's cash-flow problem, so what are the main challenges of content marketing?
“Everybody is interested and they know the power of storytelling and meeting consumers in their areas of interest rather than talking about themselves specifically,” she says.
“It often takes marketers into territory that they are more unfamiliar with and they can’t measure by such traditional metrics as they have employed and it requires them to bring internal stakeholders on the journey which can be a challenge and requires an organisation to understand the role of content.”
She says it’s worked well for Fairfax, and that different pieces work in different ways depending on what’s happening on a news day.
“Microsoft was really happy with the results … Microsoft Surface 4 Pro sales were reported to be 29 percent ahead of target and there’s been 33 percent growth year-on-year in the Surface category.”
She says the views the articles had were also strong. StopPress has contacted Microsoft to find out how many views the articles clocked up and are awaiting a response.
In a previous campaign for Microsoft’s Surface, it enlisted the help of New Zealand graffiti artists, former duo BMD.
It collaborated with FCB and got the artists to produce a bromance-y video showing the creative possibilities of the Surface Pro 3.
Last year, TVNZ created a three-part series Better Together, which was available on Shorts, developed by TVNZ Blacksand in conjunction with Microsoft Surface and its media agency Carat.
The opening of the Nelson Street cycleway, a story about a cakemaker working with an animator and a segment on Nice Blocks conspiring with a wine maker were each been given the short-form treatment for the series.
HP, Samsung and Apple have also tried to create more emotional connections with consumers and as well as showing off the product’s curves, the brands will usually also run a content marketing initiative alongside the showcase of the product.