Marketing / Simon Swan: The rise of the digital knowledge centre – is your brand adapting?

Simon Swan: The rise of the digital knowledge centre – is your brand adapting?

The digital landscape is sounding a wake-up call for brands who are struggling to transform and adapt their proposition and relevancy.

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More brands find themselves operating in ever-competitive sectors being disrupted by evermore leaner emerging brands who are successfully delighting customers and offering that extra value – take a look at Blockbuster being taken out of the game by the little-known start-up Netflix.

And this disruptive innovation has continued to gather pace, looking to re-map and reinvent any market sector that has not embraced technology and innovation.

Brands need to adapt. Fast. One key area that they can play to their strength is to start to look inside their brand and the opportunity to reinvent through digital channels. For example, an organisation’s history and background is a valuable asset in how they are perceived to a wider audience and which can be used to its advantage.

This provides an opportunity for brands to become knowledge centres, reinventing themselves as the go-to authority for their sector.

A good example of this is National Geographic and its innovative use of social media, particuarly its use of Instagram – it’s a great example of an established brand playing to its strengths, what it stands for as a global authority and at the same time, working and collaborating with its followers, journalists and photographers to promote great content through its branded social channels.


What National Geographic has realised is that through its innovative use of social media, why not engage with its army of photographers to help drive drive brand engagement, formed as a partnership? In fact, it has proved to be such a successful recipe that social media company Shareablee declared National Geographic as the most effective publisher in the month of July, amassing 46.4 million engagements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It has understood the importance of not hyping endless, mind-numbing content but providing something that’s useful, enlightening and relevant – what better way to work out what content that resonates by working with your own audience.

Brands should be reinventing themselves as knowledge centres, a strategy supported by author of the book Ctrl, Alt, Delete, Mitch Joel, who said many brands fail to realise that the branding opportunity is not of broadcasting the messages but that the true marketing story is to tell a great brand narrative, a story that takes place over time and through different channels”

A brand that exemplifies trust provides the user with an affinity and helps to build a relationship by engaging with the consumer’s emotions through imaginative associations such as user-generated content.

But to do this successfully requires the brand to think differently about their marketplace, the situation they are competing in and rather start to think laterally to create new, uncontested marketplaces rather than competing against the same competitors. This framework is known as blue ocean strategy

Created by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy suggests an organisation should look to create a new demand in an uncontested market space. The opposite to the Blue Ocean is the Red Ocean, which is where the existing competition is fighting it out for market share with one another.

Rather than controlling media content and its perception, brands should instead focus on becoming more transparent and seek to build engagement, credibility and collaboration with their users. It’s the audience, the user, that is seeking reassurance from brands that can provide that authority, relevancy and trusted content, product or service – this provides a great opportunity for brands to re-invent themselves as knowledge centres and provide that level of service.

We’re seeing content factories being established and with it endless streams of content being churned out, pushed and promoted through whatever digital channel possible in the hope some of this will convert by brands following the competition.

So there needed a drastic call to arms by Google and the recent algorithmic changes deployed  to flush out poor performing sites and untrusted domains, this also in turn has created an opportunity for brands to create digital knowledge centres, to become go-to destinations for information, content and advice, creating an oasis of trusted, authoritative content that existing customers and prospects will be delighted by. 

Brands should want to create content that drives affinity, emotion, knowledge and conversion by building their own authority and trust, to become knowledge centres, becoming the go-to authority for their sector. Put simply, know your audience.

This column was originally published on Simon Swan’s blog

Read more from Simon Swan at and watch this space for more on The Digital Content Summit 2016, where we will be discussing this and other relevant topics.


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