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These Four Brands Prove There are Multiple Ways to Make the “Brand as Publisher” Model Work

BY: Robin Riddle

If you’ve spent much time on our website then you’re probably already aware that we are big advocates of the “brand as publisher” model for running successful content marketing programs. If you’re not familiar with the term “brand as publisher,” it refers to using owned channels—websites, social handles, emails, white papers, and other digital- and print-based communications—to deliver useful content that engages audiences.

This approach mirrors the way a traditional media company (like our parent company Dotdash Meredith) is organized to build and aggregate audiences at scale in order to monetize the resulting readers and viewers, while still remaining audience first.

The benefit for marketers is that they can use content as an effective tool to guide buyers through the full customer journey—by building brand awareness and increasing consideration and conversion, while also deploying content post-sale, to upsell those customers and decrease churn. 

“In today’s ‘always-on’ world, consumers have an insatiable appetite for content. They’re watching videos, reading articles, searching for product information, sharing posts on social media, and asking questions in user forums. This is creating a new content paradigm: brand as publisher.”

Brands As Publishers, CMO Journal / Deloitte. Wall Street Journal

Of course, for marketers to consider the brand as publisher model, they must have, or be able to develop, a right to voice (RTV) that is expansive enough to support a range of subjects. For example, a health-insurance company’s RTV would obviously cover topics related to health insurance. However, the company could also act as an industry thought leader to become a trusted advisor to its policy holders (and prospects) in additional areas, such as health and wellness. Therefore, it could expand beyond content connected to premiums and deductibles to cover topics subjects that more broadly impact policyholders’ lives. This would then use content to build brand awareness, aid conversion while also decreasing churn, by pushing into other health, fitness, wellness, and condition-specific content.

When you think of it in those terms, the brand is competing with established media brands like for “share of eyeballs.” In this instance, the brand would really need to up its game in terms of quality and cadence of the content it creates—but the reward could be an elevated brand positioning in the space and greater authority on those topics important to SEO performance. There could also be some cost efficiencies, as this content could help fuel additional channels such as eNewsletter and social media programs.

Now, we’re not saying that in every instance you need to create a 24/7 digital newsroom, reacting in real time to the latest health concerns, wellness fads or changes in health-related public policy. In other words, it’s not a binary decision to adopt the brand as publisher model. We think of it more as a continuum. It’s also fair to say that adopting a brand as publisher model is about more than just the volume of content you create. It is about remembering you are creating content that is audience first, in that it solves a need for the audience and provides utility.

At one end of the spectrum, you have companies like Red Bull—who is in with both feet on this strategy and is one of the best known and successful companies to adopt the brand as publisher model. On the other end of the spectrum, you have very successful programs like Furthermore from Equinox that serves to illustrate the same model of brand as publisher but executed in a more conservative way.

Here are four examples we like that speak to a range of ways different companies have adopted the brand as publisher model.

  1. Red Bull actually created its own full-on media company Red Bull Media House intended to not only provide a brand halo effect for the eponymous energy drinks but also be revenue positive to the parent company's bottom line. The energy drink’s “sprawling multimedia arm sits comfortably at the intersection of sports, music, culture, lifestyle and entertainment, providing a blueprint for others to follow3.”
  2. American Express is arguably one of the first brands to make the connection between creating an on-going dialogue with their customers and the value that has for increasing customer retention. To do this, American Express created multiple consumer-facing media brands including Departures and Centurion, which they published themselves for many years, prior to selling them to Time Inc. in 20131
  3. Four Seasons Magazine is the exclusive in-room magazine for guests of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The digital edition expands the experience of Four Seasons online, providing interesting and engaging content about some of the world’s most fascinating travel destinations. The program actually drives $14.7m of revenue2 for the parent company.
  4. Seeking to capitalize upon the wellness movement the Furthermore program launched in 2016 to provide a marketplace for marketers and advertisers who want to connect with an upscale, fitness-focused demographic in a high-end wellness environment, while also supporting the main brand attributes of Equinox. Furthermore is a “stand-alone editorial entity meant to be a player in the sometimes crowded and confusing wellness space4”.

In this article, while we’ve outlined four examples of the brand as publisher strategy, this clearly isn’t a definitive list. If you’d like our help finding out whether brand as publisher is the right model for you, and what your specific approach might look like, please get in touch with me directly.


Robin Riddle is the lead content marketing strategist at Foundry 360. He works across B2B as well as B2C and specializes in financial services, insurance and health care. Prior to his time here, he led content marketing businesses at both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

A passionate advocate for the value of content marketing, Robin is also heavily involved in industry issues and speaks at many events on the topics of content marketing and native advertising.



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