Seth Hillstrom (SH):

Hey brand buddies, publisher pals, and technology superheroes….Can brands really make great, entertaining, content? The kind we want to watch or engage with. The kind that helps to shape a brand, or our connection with that brand? And the kind we can deliver to the right audience in the right context to drive real business results? Today’s iteration of the eBev Global Interview Series is a very special one, as we are joined by Jennifer Leitman, SVP of Marketing for Francis Ford Coppola Winery, who can speak to this from a lens that’s clearer than most – having spent time creating content and helping to building brands in the entertainment industry long before coming over to the beverage business. Jennifer Leitman, MBA Thank you for joining us!

 

Jennifer Leitman, MBA (JL):

Hi Seth! Thanks for having me.

 

SH:

Alright, we’ll jump right in! So making great content is tough. Making it effective is even tougher. But with consumers demanding that we stop forcing our way into their lives, wise brands are doubling down on meaningful content creation. What do you think separates the type of content consumers crave from the type marketers need to to force into consumers’ lives? Are there formats that you think are inherently most effective for certain audiences?

JL:

At the heart of it, content has to provide some value. That can be entertainment or information. You have to know your consumer- who are you targeting- and figure out which is important. Timing is key on that, too. Knowing when to deliver which one. Tapping into pop culture moments, like the recent eclipse for example. Or even election night. We had a funny post on election night 2016- whichever party you were rooting for, no political bias, it was clever and shared widely. Give people something they can tell their friends about or feel smart about sharing. It shouldn’t feel forced. It should be something that adds to their life in some way.

On formats- It’s a balance between the channel you’re using, the audience you’re targeting and what you want then to do with the content. Infographics, quizzes, live streaming, video, games, podcasts, blogs, memes and gifs. I admit I’m addicted to memes and gifs. It’s my favorite form of communication these days!

 

SH:

I like what you’re getting at there. It’s not just about “winning the moment”, as Google often touts…It’s about understanding the moment, and having good insights on when to employ entertaining or informative messaging. In these days even feigning political motivation or agenda can get a brand in really hot water. But it’s also a big opportunity for brands to make emotional connections with consumers. Would you advise for or against brands being socially active in their communication (based on brand alignment)?

Meme’s and gifs are an extremely consumable and sharable, so that makes a lot of sense. They give brands a great opportunity to define and propagate a voice.

 

JL:

I completely agree! They’re easy for users. We’re in a visual mode right now in communications. It’s so easy to find, create, share visuals.

That’s a big question- it’s about the DNA of your brand and core values of leadership. It depends on your audience- if you know your audience leans towards a particular social cause, and your ownership/leadership believes in it, too…you can do it. Whenever you take a stand, you risk losing some fans. Sometimes it’s worth it. It’s a conversation to have within your company.

 

SH:

Thank you! I’d have to agree. Creating something that people enjoy is certainly not cheap. As a brand, what makes it worth investing in creating your own content versus just integrating with an existing property/audience?

Are there situations you might opt to integrate with an existing property rather than create your own content?

 

JL:

Yes- I think so. It depends on the fan base we need to reach, and if the property was a good fit with shared values. Authenticity is a bit of a buzzword now. So is the word storytelling. Everyone is a storyteller. This company is so genuine in our approach to insuring authenticity and preserving, creating and telling stories. I’d want to find the same values in a partner.

To clarify- while “authenticity” and “storytelling” are commonly thrown around in marketing now, Coppola has been about these things for YEARS. It’s definitely baked into the company in a big way. Always has been.

 

SH:

Not surprisingly then, picking a potential partner whose audience/brand you would tap into requires a philosophical alignment between your brand, their brand, and their audience. I think this is something we don’t always see – I often see pretty forced product placements and wonder what the brand was thinking.

 

JL:

It’s tricky. Often potential partners have the right audience, but do your brands align? I’ve fallen into that trap before, you get enticed by the possible reach and you risk damaging your brand.

 

SH:

GREAT insights here. Such a common mistake, and one I’ve certainly been guilty of – focusing more on reach and than the alignment of the core values of brands.

I appreciate the nod to the overuse of “authenticity” and “storytelling!” While everyone is talking about the need for authenticity and storytelling, most have to craft a strategy for being “authentic” and write a story to tell. You’re in a pretty unique position at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, as your brand couldn’t be more storied in story telling. Or more authentic in that mission.

In keeping with the tradition of the Coppola family, you’re making some incredible content on behalf of the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Can you tell me a little more about what the long term vision is for such a storied family brand and winery?

 

JL:

We have A LOT coming. It’s very exciting! We’re launching more content hubs on the site- in 1Q 2018, we’ll have one for our Director’s brand more focused on video content. Also launching a funny, and unexpected, episodic series around one of our popular brands. That should hit later this fall. We have a branded short film premiering at Sundance in January. Romance, international intrigue…and of course wine. I’m really excited about the short film contest we just closed with our magazine, Zoetrope All-Story. We received 1000+ entries! Lots of creative, unique stories there. We’ll be showing the top 5 at the Sundance festival as well. And, we’re hoping to confirm shortly a long term partnership with an arts organization, with a focus key on original content development.

SH:

WOW!

 

JL:

This might give some people confidence- we’re very scrappy. We have a small talented team and some good connections, but content is very doable even on a smaller budget.

 

SH:

So beyond a VERY sincere effort to generate meaningful content from many unique sources… it sounds like you’re focusing on direct distribution through your website and CRM? Do you use media budget to push folks back to these initiatives?

 

JL:

Yes, we do drive to our website as the main portal for content. It’s two things- you need content and you need a distribution point. We use our site and our social platforms. Pouring money into FB isn’t great if you don’t have good content to keep your fans engaged. We share out our content created for the site. We multi-purpose everything possible. Once we create something we use it in experiential marketing, on the site, on our social, for our sales teams to share out. We get the most out of it as possible. As marketers we get tired of content (or campaigns) earlier than consumers.

Being in TV taught me that- you can rerun something many times and you still find fans. New ones or repeat viewers.

 

SH:

Building upon that…Of course you’ve got to get it in front of the right eyes for all of this content creation to mean anything. What are a few key things you’re considering when you looking at when determining the right publishers/platforms/audiences for your program?

 

JL:

We start by identifying our audience segments- for us, that’s tied to lifestyle categories we’re associating with a particular brand. Age, to some degree, and location. Of course, what markets (geographic) are we going after. To be honest, right off…what are our budget constraints. If we’re not on our owned platforms, that’s a big thing to consider. I really want to see something original. Throw me your wildest idea. I love that. I don’t want a cookie cutter approach- and even if it’s something that’s an average tool offered by a publisher, how can we execute it in an innovative way. I love collaboration- I have lots of ideas. Many bad. Ha. But, please listen and let’s build something cool and memorable together.

 

SH:

Thank you so much for chatting with me today Jennifer!

 

JL:

Thanks so much, Seth! This was fun. Happy to reply to additional comments as they come in.

 

SH:

Jennifer I truly admire your approach. You work hard to bring something unique to the table, and it shows! I recommend folks go check out some of the incredible things Jennifer’s team is putting out here: https://www.zoetrope.com/

 

JL:

Definitely check it out. And here’s my shameless plug- DiamondAdventure.com. This was part of our summer effort.

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