Everybody can imagine what a silo mentality is all about. You think of high walls, within which one goal is pursued. A framed environment that is difficult to penetrate. That mentality within companies is centuries old: in a silo it is at least clear what your working day looks like and what your tasks are. In marketing, the insights regarding the effect of such a mentality are somewhat younger. A few decades ago, an organization, more specifically marketing and sales departments, functioned fine without interference from other departments due to the multitude of linear campaigns. Marketing invented and deployed; sales made it happen. Nowadays this is different. There is a strong need to really get to know the target group, or even individuals, and to communicate in a personalized way. Thanks to technology, those possibilities are there too. We have really seen the usefulness of breaking through that silo mentality with the rise of content marketing. Below we explain why the silo mentality does not fit with strategic content marketing.
Where in recent years content marketing was ‘the next big thing’, we have now passed the hype phase. In an academic sense, content marketing is often positioned within the discipline of communication. This is understandable, because if we emphasize the prefix content, which basically refers to the whole of (textual or visual) content, we are talking about tangible communication that we want to seek, broaden or deepen with our target groups. The message that feeds the communication between brand (sender) and audience (recipient) traditionally forms the domain of communication.
But this classification becomes less logical when we focus on the suffix marketing. Marketing, in an operational sense, naturally looks for returns, positive forms of conversion in the broadest possible sense of the word. Conversion into more sales, for instance, or more brand awareness, more proposition recognition, more traffic on own or purchased media channels, or more action perspective. In short, marketing is all about more. It is a bridge discipline that brings together business, customer, market and environment at a strategic, tactical, operational and infrastructural level. And with a focus on optimizing one’s own brand position and (commercial or non-commercial) conversion.
Outside the academic environment, in the market, we see a similar phenomenon. For many businesses and governments, content — and therefore, content marketing — is an organizational part of the communication discipline. This is not necessarily problematic, especially not if it concerns an integrated Marketing & Communication department. But in practice, content marketing as an activity within a separate communications department. And that quickly leads to an inefficient and ineffective silo mentality, in which strategy, brand management, marketing, sales and customer care lack synergy and have insufficient input in the ultimate design, use and conversion strategy of content marketing. It is a waste of money and effort, as well as a missed opportunity.
Silo formation makes efficient and effective content marketing virtually impossible
A silo mentality, whether it is strategic, organizational or operational, never does justice to the potential strength and added value of content marketing in the breadth and balance of brand and customer. At times when the latter finds its way in supply and demand in a cross-media fashion, brands can be approached and compared in a wide variety of ways 24 hours a day. And, as a result, they can be increasingly (communicatively) vulnerable. Not only via corporate domains, such as their own websites, online video or social media channels, but also through a constantly growing range of other, non-corporate channels, user forums and product sites. Therefore, this requires permanent and company-wide alertness and coordination. In order to prevent the loss of unity and conversion in the broad spectrum of customer-brand communication, a content marketing approach that is both proactive and reactive is crucial, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. So, by definition, silos are at odds with a consistent, congruent and successful use of content marketing.
All the more reason to fully focus on an integrated and company-wide strategy and organization, in which corporate and internal communication find an optimal balance with the external disciplines of marketing, sales and customer relations. Unfortunately, daily practice at many businesses and non-profit organizations still shows that strategic, organizational and practical integration of content marketing is more the exception than the rule.
A leading international brand in the field of traffic and transport develops its own online video channel on YouTube. Neither costs nor efforts are spared, and over the span of several years, hundreds of videos are produced and posted in carefully selected theme channels. This creates a surprisingly broad reach in B2B, B2C and B2G. The video domain proves to be award-winning, and the gross range exceeds all expectations in terms of reach profile and quality. In fact, that reach is so great that the communications department can significantly reduce its external communication costs (advertising, announcements, relationship media). Everyone is happy, except the marketeers from that same company, who have to stand by and watch in dismay as the communications department shields ‘its’ corporate communication and public relations domain from the persuasive content of the marketing and sales colleagues, who are forced to continue expensively purchasing their exposure (paid media). If this ineffective form of silo mentality is evaluated after years, it appears that dozens of videos need to be produced, edited, tagged and activated all over again. And of course, all previous internal discussions regarding the content strategy and conversion targets immediately begin again. The entire process of YouTube monetizing and social media marketing also needs to be overhauled. Such loss of time, staffing, revenue and return is largely due to a lack of integrated communication, resulting from organizational silo effects. The insights into the undesirable effects of such silo formation grow steadily, but breaking down the organizational silos appears to be considerably more difficult in practice than in theory.