This is especially true in the business to business sector where companies have created intelligence vehicles which have solidified reputations and, in some instances, gone on to generate leads.
How then should brands approach thought leadership? The key appears to be to producing engaging, highly readable content and video, which offers a 360 view of an industry, yet doesn’t push the brand or its values too heavily.
Daniel Rasmus of the influential US website Fast Company, provided this definition: ‘Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.’
Here then are five recent examples from both sides of The Pond, of brands that are leading the way in this arena.
Qualcomm Spark - Qualcomm might not be a familiar name to you, but this huge company has in the past decade created a massively successful business manufacturing technology, including the chips, for mobile phones.
In the last few years it has invested heavily in thought leadership programmes, the latest of which is an ambitious content driven site called Qualcomm Spark. The site is influenced by high-end web publications like Wired and The Verge in the way that it aims to predict what is coming round the corner in technology. Its articles, which are intelligently written and often run to many hundreds of words, are illustrated with high quality images and video.
From a strategic perspective Spark positions the company as maven in the tech world and works to keep it at the forefront of the minds of tech influentials in both the mobile industry and the media. Who knows maybe it will provide a seed that will blossom into future products?
Fujitsu - As companies increase their spend on technology the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), has become increasingly important. Fujitsu, along with many other companies, has recognised how the role of the CIO has evolved and they have worked with the content agency Seven to deliver I-CIO, a site optimised to educate and inform the time poor CIO. It aims for thought leadership in they way it comments on key movements and trends within the industry. There are also interviews with mavens who offer advice on how CIOs can work more effectively. As you’d expect from a site with a tech savvy audience it is a responsively designed website, optimised for desktop, tablet and mobile, with its content amplified through email and social media.
BNP Paribas - Not all thought leadership is centred on online publications. CMA member Cedar has been working with BNP Paribas on its thought leadership vehicle, Quintessence, which is published twice a year and available in print, as a tablet version and as an online read. The title combines regular columns with extended articles about the key issues that the financial community is grappling with. The latest issue takes a close look at the phenomenon of Bitcoin and examines the Chinese banking industry.
IBM - Not all thought leadership is word and image driven. IBM’s research team have consistently produced high quality video, like this one about moving atoms, which underlines its credentials as thought leaders in the scientific research field. A fair chunk of its research site is given over to talking about how its is developing its projects, but the site also offers opinion on key scientific issues and highlights how IBM has played a role in furthering debate and research.
Market Research Society - Like many member organisations the MRS wanted to position itself as the key authority on its industry. To achieve this it has worked with Cambridge based CMA member CPL to produce a quarterly title Impact that has been positioned as a thought leader within market research. It has the look and feel of a journal too with its perfect binding and high quality matt finish.
It has proved to be a huge success and won Launch Of the Year at the 2013 CMA awards with judges saying how it ‘provided unique content that looked ahead rather than reporting the past, surprising and inspiring its readership while becoming the voice of the industry.’