Last week at a ‘Morning with Seth Godin’ event here in Melbourne, among his many insightful comments the one that got stuck in my mind was the fact that nowadays people no longer have problems about finding what they need and discarding what they don’t.
By having removed (most) transactional barriers, marketers are now in a conundrum where people don’t want to be interrupted by sales messages yet, muting a brand’s share of voice could jeopardise their respective market shares. What to do?
Content, also characterised as ‘selling by telling’, has been the most successful answer so far. However, by being one of marketing’s few and rare untamed territories it has allowed many different parties to stick their flags and claim ownership over its domains, shovelling material that is not always useful, educational, entertaining or inspiring, just stuff…
In this sense, the brightest piece of content will have little to no efficacy when the context framing them comes from the perspective of their creators – brand marketers or brand owners – rather than their intended audiences. If content is king, context is kingdom! And, in this sense, our media research tell us in detail about consumers’ interests and where and how they would like to consume what your brand has to offer.
Additionally, we can get under segments skins through data-platforms that inform how they think and feel about the world they live in, enabling the definition of brand territories, recalibration of key messages and adjustment of communications programming precisely when time is right. Connecting these insights to brand is content strategy, everything else is stuffing stuff.
BMW, for example, understood their clients crave some sort of brand affiliation and developed the BMW Magazine with articles providing relevant content that inform and inspire the reader without trying to directly sell a product or service. The magazine format is quite smart in terms of enhancing prospective buyers’ interests and working as a vehicle of status display.
ANZ, on the other hand, created its Blue Notes newsroom micro-site claiming to connect news and insights. However, after a quick data run it’s easy to realise that most potential readers would spend more time browsing on LinkedIn or publications such as the Wall Street Journal than the bank’s own IP address. Quite frankly, an initiative born with an expiry date.
Producing content in a safe environment is like feeding a brand’s own ego and starving customers’ curiosity. It’s not about us, it’s about them – consumers – and their interests. Also, consumers are sceptical. We need to slip our brand in quietly. Not push it in their face, like advertising has done so well for many years. By pairing-up social listening tools and big data it is possible to understand how to newsfeed consumers and get them to act upon your brand’s interests, not the opposite.
That said, ad agencies now have content strategists, production companies switched their focus to short-form videos, vloggers are the new breed of instant celebrities in our networked society and social media consultancies are getting into activation mode… plenty of options there. Not to mention the new breed of brand-journalists.
Yet, like any great art exhibition, the curation of content is more about framing than creating it. And, once the show is on, it’s a matter of creating the buzz and spreading the word. For those wanting word-smithed written pieces, visually stunning images and engaging videos, first listen [to your audience], to then dream about spending your valuable budget on the context that will deliver your content.
Don’t get me wrong, creative agencies are not the enemy, just ancillary service providers. Having spent some time working for brand and design consultancies it was always challenging to first explain what exactly we do to then turn esoteric brand promises into tangible value-adds. This new breed of global creative media agencies, like the one I work for, are definitely the best positioned to do the job. Defining contexts and formats to then amplify messages is our cash cow!
Beyond that, we also have digital, social and PR teams with creative capabilities – ranging from videographers to copywriters – that can execute and deploy content that deliver more than a brand promise but a valuable service that will drive consumers’ desires and wallets closer to your brand.
The strategic communications industry is gradually losing its enchantment, and for a good reason. Next time you’re in a fancy boardroom with whimsical hipsterian creatives, question the context from where their big ideas emerged. Ask for data that backs up their understanding of your market share. Check if their magic words correlate with Google’s most searched keywords. Only after that, you’ll be able to make an informed decision. After all, nothing propagates in the vacuum…