Magazines are folding; the sky is falling! Online news kills media relations; the sky is falling! VCRs stop people from going to the movies; THE SKY IS FALLING!

The last few years left us dodging a barrage of Chicken Little media predictions. With reverent respect to VHS cassettes in garage sales everywhere, the sky is indeed still above us. We’ve simply needed to adapt the angles with which we look up at it. For every doomsday prediction, another medium emerges.

The New York Times recently profiled one of these trends heavily embraced within the fashion industry: custom content. The differentiation of custom content lies in a brand-produced publication with content focused on associated elements or target-audience appeal instead of simple product promotion. It’s not a catalog; it’s a pure content publication. While cheers of joy erupted from thousands of out-of-work journalists and editors at the Times piece, this hardly represents a new idea. For decades, you’ve picked up pieces of custom content in the seat-back pockets of most airplanes. Airlines hoped their engaging content might increase your brand affection, or in the case of flight delays, at least distract you with a positive thought. 

Before you get too excited about this as a venue to promote your latest and greatest, remember that the sincerity of this media resists focused marketing messages. It’s not content marketing setting up product relationships, such as white papers, blogs or most business social-media posts. It’s simply placing a brand connection on information your audience desires.

Proctor & Gamble delivers a great example of custom content with their “Man of the House” online publication. While you might imagine it full of P&G product references, it carries items such as “Four Meals Every Father Should Know How to Make,“ “Protect Your Garage Floor with Epoxy Sealer,” and “Telling Your Family You Lost Your Job.” While it allows advertising on the site, you’ll notice companies like SeaWorld and 1-800-CONTACTS. However, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that P&G would embrace online custom content early, seeing as they were television pioneers with soap operas — an idea predecessor to the custom content we see today.

Last year, in a Roper GfK–conducted survey, nine out of 10 chief marketing officers found value in custom content, representing a 15-point increase in five years. With appropriate audience targeting, proper execution, and, above all, quality content, this medium offers another tool for brand engagement.

See? We told you … there’s still lots of sky left.  

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