All Hail the Brand Editor in Chief

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"Does advertising corrupt editors? Yes it does, but fewer editors than you may suppose... The vast majority of editors are incorruptible."

David Ogilvy

“Brands need to become publishers” is advice marketers have been hearing for a while now. First generation attempts at branded content programs were focused on search: the goal was to develop enough keyword-rich articles to attract the Googlebot. But smart brands are now using content to help them stand for something, and engage actual human beings instead of web spidering robots. To do that they’re not just becoming publishers, they’re becoming editors.

The web has completely removed any difference between a brand, the product that fulfills it or the marketing that sells it. Successful products need to have a point of view the same way a media property does. We’re not selling everything to anyone anymore and it’s OK to take a stand, to provoke a strong reaction and to even piss people off on occasion. Editors have known this for years but marketers are just catching on.

Take Groupon, for example. What helps differentiate their daily email blasts from the other “social deal” competitors isn’t just the deals they’re delivering, it’s the content they’re wrapping them in. Their Voice Guide includes advice to their writers to use “the absurd narrator,” “fake proverbs” and “illogical comparisons and lists” to turn your run of the mill laser hair removal treatment into a way to “reap the benefits of America’s favorite repurposed supervillain weapon.”

While Groupon’s clever content farm may be a viable destination for newly minted journalism majors, there are bigger opportunities for editors a bit higher up the media food chain. Think “Editor in Chief” for a brand. Consumers still have a need for a curated point of view, but the shifting economics of publishing (our euphemism for the collapse of the magazine business) is pushing content closer to the point of sale. Which means lots of opportunities for editors with talent.

Fashion brands have always been about curation, so it’s not surprising that they’re leading the way in bringing editorial talent over to the other side. Barneys has hired fashion editor Amanda Brooks as VP of Women’s Fashion, and Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of French Vogue, to guest edit their upcoming Fall / Winter. Mr. Porter, the men’s side of the online retailer Net-a-Porter, has hired former British Esquire editor Jeremy Langmead to develop editorial content that complements the site’s commerce offerings.

So here comes the trend of brand Editors in Chief. “It makes sense,” says Colleen DeCourcy, CEO of Socialistic. “In a time when the volume of information we have about a brand is carried across social media channels, leaving behind thousands of bitly links, Editors are becoming as important as Creative Directors in stewarding a brand. To be heard through the social media news and noise, brands will need a distinct and relevant point of view."