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Brand Storytelling in the New Media Model: Adrian Hopkins

With a new trend, technology, or social media release nearly every day, our industry is an ever-changing entity. Increasingly, these changes affect brands’ marketing and advertising efforts and can make it difficult to remain relevant to their consumers. As a Content Strategist for The New York Times’ T Brand Studio, Adrian J. Hopkins is well adept at understanding the ways in which brands are engaging their audiences with thoughtful media.

Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Adrian about his expertise in content strategy, the changing media model, and the biggest challenges facing brand marketers today. Take a look below to learn more about his perspective and how brands can leverage content to drive their engagement strategies forward.


What is the biggest challenge facing content creators & marketing today?  

Honestly, it’s the strategy behind the content. Brands already know they need content to address their consumers, but strategy is all about the why. Always ask, “Why are we making this and why should anyone care?” It’s one thing to have a great idea, but with no strategy, you will build it and they won’t come.

Why do you think strategy comes up the most?

Because it’s really hard work! A brand may think, “Let’s try virtual reality, use big data and we want to reach everybody,” but strategy would help the brand pick one audience and one medium that the audience responds well to. People’s needs vary at different times, and that should really drive why content exists and how it’s distributed.

What’s your favorite medium of content?

Even with all the technology in the world, subway advertising is still my favorite. A brand has an audience captive for a few minutes with no internet, and your content really has to make an impression that’s strong enough for people to remember you when they get service again. Sometimes, there isn’t even a website to visit.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist ads are great because they resonate with me as someone who already uses the product, but didn’t know about this feature. The whole vibe is people in the act of discovery, and you see people’s Twitter conversations, so it feels like something familiar and that’s why it’s so effective. Olapic does a good job of this too, using real photos to connect with real people who already have an affinity towards a brand – it’s relatable.

RB's Discovery Playlist

What advice do you have for brands trying to reach millennials?

Focus on what type of millennial. You will find that the experiences among millennials really vary. For example, Blavity is a blog that has carved out a point of view for black millennials that’s not just about race alone, but ideas, experiences, vernacular, and desires that are unique to this group. All of this should factor into how brands should communicate to this audience.

What is one industry shift that has affected the media model & how can brands solve for this change?

The fractured and dwindling attention span. With so many options, content creators not only have to try harder to be relevant and garner meaningful attention from an audience, but also must be extremely effective with their messaging in the limited time that they have.

How are your clients integrating emerging technology into their creative strategies?

The best ideas still come from thinking about people, story, and experience first, instead of technology first. A brand may really want to take people on a journey with VR, but if it’s willing to do that then it has to be appropriate for its customers and what they care about. Only if it’s relevant will it connect.

What brand do you think stands out most for its innovation in marketing?

GE does this really well, especially as a B2B company. The brand can’t just run an Instagram post saying, “Go out and buy a wind turbine,” so they’re re-positioning themselves as a digital industrial company to reach a new audience. Their new ad campaign has increased inbound recruitment interest by 800%. Sometimes you have to be patient with the ROI when experimenting with content – engagement and sparking curiosity can be better metrics than sales alone. In GE’s case, even if an audience can’t “buy” the product, that 800% spike represents a ton of new evangelists for the who they are and what they’re about.

Thanks for the great insight & advice! We’ll definitely be on the lookout for awesome content coming out of T Brand Studio. Be sure to check out Adrian on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Header Photo Credit: Adrian J. Hopkins, Art installation “Moveable Type,” on public display in the lobby of The New York Times Building

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