A few short years before his death, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Fred Friendly. As a wide-eyed Journalism student at the time, it was the pinnacle of my college career. I was actually learning from a living history relic who, along side the legendary Edward R. Murrow, helped to censure McCarthy. As he recounted stories from their infamous 1950’s newsroom, Friendly shared an insight that made a lasting impression. As they debated what would constitute as “news” to report to the newly available ‘mass audience’, the simple answer that emerged was – news is what we tell them it is. And it was. But today, news and information is what the mass audience says it is. Today, consumers are driving the conversation.
Consumers are talking. They’re talking to each other. They’re talking to brands – and if brands are smart, they are listening. What they will hear is that consumers want to interact with brands that are receptive to true engagement – that create original, unique content, and are receptive to co-creation as well. Social Media has flattened the borders between brands and consumers. So how do brands stand out? By creating a marketing plan, centered on high-quality, relevant content that tells their story in a compelling way to drive customers to action – Content Marketing.
The idea of Content Marketing is not new. Creating and sharing relevant information to engage a customer base has been going on for more than a century. Take a look back to 1904 when Jell-O gave out free copies of a recipe book, increasing sales by $1 million in two years – or to the 1930’s with P&G’s support of the “Soap Opera” – and to 2007 when Blendtec launched its now infamous viral video series, Will It Blend. Regardless of the distribution vehicle, they all understood that providing educational and entertaining information about their brand was a smart way to engage customers with their product. Today, social media is the vehicle of choice used by savvy brands to reach their target customer base. One of the biggest brands to recently adopt a Content Marketing strategy is The Coca-Cola Company. Leading by example, they launched their content focused mission, 2020 Vision, last October. Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence at Coke, believes that we “have to move from one-way storytelling to dynamic storytelling” to create a content-centric brand storytelling experience.
All brands have a story. But communicating that story in a compelling way to a relevant audience is what compels customers to take action. Brands like Coke, Ikea, and H&R Block are brilliantly embracing Content Marketing. And, whether they are aware of it or not, most brands are now actively using some form of content marketing to drive profitable action – and nearly 25% of all marketing budgets are spent on it. Influencing the decision-making process by offering something of value to your customer, without overtly pushing your agenda, is an effective approach to achieve results. As customers become more invested in the process of exploration, they “own” the decision. Today, brands are not marketing if they’re not ‘content marketing’.
The top four business objectives for any Content Marketing campaign should be:
- Brand Awareness
- Customer Acquisition
- Lead Generation
- Customer Loyalty
So, how do you go about achieving these objectives? Start with the top 10 most popular and effective content marketing tactics:
- Article Publishing
- Social Media (non-blogs)
- Case Studies
- Live Events
- White Papers
In our business, digital content is paramount for brands to be successful. But creating content for content’s sake isn’t enough. It has to be relevant, timely, unique and valuable content that stands apart. It must offer an opportunity to connect with consumers in a relate-able way, and high-quality content gets rewarded with increased custom search results. Creating and sharing remarkable content that reaches consumers where they’re already consuming content, gets attention. When brands take this approach, it builds brand loyalty, and loyalty builds business. Regardless of the form your content takes – articles, blogs, videos – there must be real value presented for your target audience. And don’t be afraid to create targeted content to reach a specific niche group of people that’s right for your business – that’s where the real engagement takes place, resulting in the highest conversion rates.
Through this process brands become recognized as industry leaders – building trust and fostering broader relationships. So what do companies need to do to catch the wave? Look to your staffing plans. Do you have a Content Engineer or a Content Strategist in your midst? You should. These content specialists bridge the gap between creative content creation and the technology needed to distribute it in an effective way. This demand emerging in the marketplace is establishing a new breed of Marketer, and one to be reckoned with.
This 2-part video manifesto from Coke beautifully sums up their position on the role content has to play – and in an extremely compelling way. It is a 20 minute investment of your time, but extremely valuable to any marketing professional. Content Marketing isn’t just the future, it’s the present. Just check out the bet they’re placing on it and ask yourself – with a mega-brand like Coke riding the wave, can I afford not to?