Today, both consumer brands and content publishers are fighting for captive audiences and working to adapt to a digital world. Many product companies have turned to content marketing or content syndication to grow their audiences, while media brands have turned to commerce in order to secure greater revenue streams in a particularly unforgiving industry.

But as more brands attempt to own their content, commerce and distribution, their work is producing mixed results. This Playbook provides actionable questions and directives for consumer brands to strike a virtuous cycle by integrating content and commerce. It accompanies our Report, Medium of Exchange: The promise and perils of mixing content with commerce, which outlines a blueprint for how merging content with commerce can help—and hurt—contemporary brands.

The Channel Strategy Framework

  • What organic media channel(s) are you using to distribute your brand’s message? How can you loosen dependence on these channels to own more of your distribution?
  • Where do your core customers spend time, both offline and online? How can you align your media channel strategy to meet them where they already are while still owning the relationship?
  • For your industry and for your particular company, is it more important in the long term to diversify your channel strategy toward independence or to create a solid channel-specific presence?
    • If channel-specific, how can you create a strong business while remaining open-minded about other channels in the future? As your business grows and consumers inevitably shift their own channel habits, how will you remain adaptable and not overly predicated on any single channel?
    • If channel-agnostic, how can you strengthen your brand presence across all channels to provide a consistent customer experience?
  • Looking five years, ten years or 20 years down the line, which medium do you expect will dominate consumers’ lives? How can you build agility into your business model to follow this evolution and stay relevant as a company?
  • Which brands are your main competitors in terms of media channel?
    • What lessons can you indoctrinate into your brand from their performance?
    • What is your main differentiating factor and how can you strengthen it to further stand out?
    • How could you continue to do so, even if another business begins to directly compete with yours?

The Community-Building Framework

  • Is your brand a top-down or a bottom-up community? How does this classification affect how you sell products to the community?
  • As a company with an editorial and a commercial arm, what is the optimal integration of these two pillars for customer experience? What purpose do they serve separately and what purpose do they serve together?
    • Should these two operations co-exist on the same site or exist separately?
    • Should they be branded the same or differently?
    • Should merchandise be shoppable directly from your editorial content or should it be separated?
    • How can you A/B test to determine what works best for your company and brand?  
  • While Food52, Glossier and Goop all began with content first and launched product second, could you achieve a virtuous cycle doing the reverse?
    • How could you turn your customers into more than shoppers?
    • What do you already accomplish with your marketing that could be transformed into relevant editorial content for your customers?
  • As you develop a merchandising branch of the company, what role will your editorial arm serve?
    • How will this role change over time?
    • If you removed editorial operations at any given time, how would it affect your business?
  • How do you allocate funding to your editorial and commercial operations?
    • How does this play into their respective performance?
    • If you see a future in deepening the integration between these two pillars, how can you allocate resources accordingly and strike a virtuous cycle?
  • How can you use your readership and/or viewership to identify trends within the consumer space and provide that merchandise to them?
    • At what point in your life cycle can you or should you start monetizing this community?
    • What will you have to do to locate the talent necessary to create a third-party marketplace and/or manufacture products of your own?
  • How much investment capital do you need to grow your ideal joint content and commerce operation? How will you classify your company to investors to meet your financial goals?
  • What is your long-term vision for a joint content-commerce operation? What will happen when one pillar of your business inevitably surpasses the other in terms of revenue?
  • How can you translate this content-commerce integration into the offline world?  

The Productization Framework

  • What proportion of your ad budget goes to Facebook and Google? How can you reduce reliance on these platforms in order to direct more traffic to your own site?
  • At what point should your media organization introduce commerce? What is your reasoning behind doing so? What holes can you poke in this logic?
  • BuzzFeed grew on the back of Facebook before ad prices began rising to the levels they have reached today. Still, many digital publishing and commercial brands continue to seek growth on Facebook. How can you house the majority of your distribution on your own site? What alternative avenues can you use to grow a loyal and large audience?
  • What type of commerce is best suited for your platform? What resources can you deploy to judge potential commercial opportunities? How best can you integrate them on your platform?
  • Should you introduce commerce via the acquisition of a pre-existing company or is it better to develop commerce in house? What are the pros and cons of both?
  • What proportion of your revenue should ideally come from commerce versus content? How can you strike this balance?
  • If a digitally-native company, how can you extend your presence—either in products or content—offline? What partners can you work with to do so?