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Five Content Marketing Takeaways From Ron Burgundy

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The near-ubiquitous media presence of Will Ferrell's fictional character Ron Burgundy for Paramount's release of "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" has rightfully earned high praise for breaking new ground in marketing.

But that marketing campaign became an instant classic by virtue of more than just rich mahogany and real bits of panther; it owes much of its success to great content—and great content strategy.

Having crossed the $100 million box office sales threshold in the US, Mr. Burgundy's got many marketers wondering how they, too, can combine content marketing, advertising, and social media for great business results.

Here are five important content marketing lessons we can take away from Mr. Burgundy's latest endeavors.

1. Blur the lines between content and advertising


Were the Dodge Durango spots really ads? Or were they a viral content platform for driving demand and excitement for Anchorman 2? Was Ron Burgundy's North Dakota newscast simply a special treat for news viewers, or was it a brilliant way to stoke a viral storm of interest around the film?

Burgundy seemed to be at his best when you weren't quite sure if it was an ad disguised as content or content in the form of an ad.

Think about ways that you can have parts of your advertising and content live "double lives," support one another, and integrate.

Example: Ron Burgundy as brand ambassador for a family SUV:

Disclosure: OneSpot is a marketing platform that converts content into standards-based advertising and programmatically places it across thousands of sites and networks.

2. Empower co-creation with experts and brands

Co-creators Will Ferrell and Adam McKay were at the heart of the campaign. Their talent in comedy built a foundation that every other participator could riff on.

Other co-creators were welcomed to the party, too. Jockey created underwear as seen in Anchorman 2. Ben & Jerry's created the limited-batch Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream flavor. Fans made their own videos to audition for the Anchorman team, and Anchorman memes were modified and shared by the thousands.

The most unexpected co-creator was the sports announcer Paul Gerke, who impersonated Ron Burgundy in a live broadcast. That video has earned over 3 million views on YouTube:

Who in your own or your brand's network can play a role or help to co-create your content?

3. Use many formats

Ron Burgundy made us laugh using all kinds of video, TV spots, soundtrack audio, a long-form book, animated GIFs, a digital game, real-world speaking roles, and even a museum exhibit. Much of the content answered the question: "What would Ron Burgundy do if he were real?"

By creating content in many formats, the Anchorman 2 push took on a sense of ubiquity rarely seen in typical marketing efforts, keeping the movie brand top-of-mind as potential patrons went about their holiday merrymaking and movie-outing planning.

Consider all the format's you're currently using for content marketing, and think about how you can experiment with or change up that mix in 2014.

4. Use different channels

Even as a fictional character, Ron Burgundy ran the real-world speaking circuit better than most. He announced Anchorman 2 on Conan O'Brien, co-anchored an actual newscast for KXMB in Bismarck, North Dakota, presented Eminem with the Global Icon Award at the 2013 MTV European Music Awards, and so much more.

But fans didn't have to see all those things live to experience them, because most was documented and shared via social channels.

In social media, the campaign used Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Google+ in ways that suited each community. Those sites linked heavily to videos on YouTube channels for Anchorman and for Dodge.

The campaign also used image-based networks Instagram and Pinterest to publish visual content to studio accounts while mostly stepping back and letting fans take control.

Ron Burgundy also secured top placement on top destinations such as Conan's Team Coco site, ESPN, Funny or Die, the New Yorker, and the Huffington Post.

What are all the possible channels where your brand's content can travel and thrive? Be sure to consider the different earned and paid paths that might need to be taken to get there.

5. Drive for business results

At the box office, the buzz about Burgundy is paying off. According to Entertainment Weekly, Adam McKay estimates that "Ferrell's Burgundy antics are worth at least $20 million in free publicity."

The movie is taking in big profits. According to Box Office Mojo, in 2013 Anchorman 2 grossed $95.5 million domestically and $25.5 million abroad for a worldwide take of $120 million. Those figures are well above the $50 million production budget. Plus, more revenue will be added in 2014 since the movie is still in theaters.

What's more, the orchestrated marketing and content fanfare around the movies release has added incalculable value to the overall Anchorman franchise for years to come.

How is your content playing a role in driving value for your business? How do you measure that result and that value?

Are you ready to one-up Ron Burgundy?

In 2014, someone is sure to one-up the '70s-era anchorman and break new ground in content marketing and advertising. It'll take a combination of the principles above plus a helping heaping of innovation and creativity to do so. Are you ready to take on that challenge?

However you decide to tackle content marketing in 2014, be sure to do one thing that Ron Burgundy tells us in every broadcast: Stay Classy.


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Adam Weinroth is CMO of OneSpot, which combines content marketing with the power, data intelligence, and infrastructure of online advertising. He has more than a decade and a half of experience as a marketing executive, entrepreneur, and Internet product innovator.

LinkedIn: Adam Weinroth

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  • by Louis Gudema Wed Jan 29, 2014 via web

    Really? The campaign was a failure: the movie opened with weaker box office than the first one (despite ticket prices rising 25% between openings). Basically the "strategy" was to carpet bomb people until they were tired of the character and didn't need to see the movie. See my full analysis here:
    http://louisgudema.com/2014/01/03/why-did-the-marketing-for-anchorman-2-fail/

  • by Zack Gruczkowski Thu Jan 30, 2014 via web

    Excellent marketing strategy execution, anchored by something that the majority of brands do not have--a lovable spokesperson who IS the brand. That's why Ron Burgundy was able to cross all the lines between advertising for another brand and promoting the movie. People were so enraptured with who he was and what he was saying that they would listen in any time they saw that luxurious sportscoat and that highly stylized coif. I mean, how many different unrelated brands and industries did he work with...?

    Most brands don't have that innate and unique something, be it a spokesperson, an icon, etc., that draws people in and forces them to listen because they love that 'something'. Burgundy pulled off cross-promotions flawlessly; I was sold every time.

    Too bad the movie was a big boring flop. I wonder how that will affect the Ron Burgundy brand next go round...

  • by David Levy Thu Jan 30, 2014 via web

    Gotta say I agree with Louis. Seems like the "strategy" was "do everything you can think of." And, to Zack's point about spokespeople, you need one (or a Ronald McDonald-like icon) to inhabit all these channels.

    Based on the box office failure, the strategy probably didn't pay off as much as the studio wanted for this particular release. Potential viewers got the sense that by seeing "Ron" all over the place they had already felt part of the joke and the broader experience, so did not feel the need to fork of the dough to sit through the flick.

  • by James H. Thu Jan 30, 2014 via web

    It saddens me that the commercials were funnier than the movie; however, I do think the Ron Burgundy features in content marketing certainly broke new ground regardless of its lagging success in the long run. (I attribute most of the problems to the fact the movie was hyped up for over a year only to massively disappoint its audience in the long run).

  • by Carl Hartman Tue Feb 18, 2014 via web

    The ad business is always disingenuous. That spot was advertising, still not trusted. People my watch the ad, but it won't drive a single purchase. None of this is effective content marketing, it's the same old crap we see of cross promotion, its nothing new. This is just another weak ploy at promoting your own product. Once again, content marketing is just a new buzzword for the same old crap that did not work before. None of the media generated for the film was different than was done 5, 10, or 20 years ago.

    As a former executive for one of the major networks, I can tell you that the entertainment industry does not use traditional ad techniques; 80% of media property marketing is leveraged word-of-mouth.

    Guilt by association rarely works well when it is an afterthought or add on. The Harvard Business Review recently had a great article on why this kind of product placement is dead.

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