Content is weighing heavily on the minds of marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 86 percent of B2C marketers and 93 percent of B2B marketers are investing in content marketing, and the reason is clear. Instead of pushing communications at consumers or engaging in a two-way dialogue, marketers must deliver brands with consumers and content marketing is leading the way.
Consumers now control the conversation around brands, and brand-created content must provide genuine utility to compete in the attention economy. If the content is truly “useful,” consumers will share and amplify the brand’s message by their own volition. Effective content marketing pulls consumers in and enables them to deliver the brand across media channels to their networks. As a result, paid, owned and earned media are no longer distinct but converging and it’s becoming harder to distinguish advertising from information.
Content marketing traditionally focused on churning out intellectual property. Today’s content marketing has shifted from content as expertise, to content as a service, as entertainment and even inspiration. Consumer and B2B brands are stepping into a new role as publishers and producers of content and are relying on consumers to expand their distribution power.
Developing a successful content marketing strategy is no easy task. It requires new ways of creating and deploying content across digital touchpoints. These challenges were addressed at the ANA Content Marketing Members-Only Conference, hosted at by Thomson Reuters and presented by A&E Television in New York. The event included speakers from Charles Schwab, GE, A&E, Post Foods and L’Oréal and a panel with participants from Thomson Reuters, Ogilvy and Interbrand’s Chris Koller, Senior Director of Strategy.
The five speakers and three panelists shared an inside look at how content marketing is playing an important role in their marketing strategies today. Below are three key learnings from the day.
As brands become publishers, marketers must learn to think and act like journalists
The role and scope of marketers is expanding, as they become brand “journalists” and “editors,” finding and curating stories that support the brand. Brands can longer push out whitepapers; they need to have a strong point of view and take a stand.
At Charles Schwab, Helen Loh, VP of Content and Digital Marketing, leveraged the expert insights that were already a core part of the business and placed this content where it was most native to their customers, positioning Schwab as a trusted advisor.
At GE, Jason Hill, Director of International Advertising, sees the role of his team as “telling stories that lay claim to our innovation.” Finding the inspiration for content that exists within the business requires marketing to become intimate with inter-workings of the business, which is especially challenging inside large, complex organizations. Hill and his team looked for narratives within the organization that demonstrated how “big” could also be “personal,” building humanity into the GE brand.
Embracing content marketing means working with new internal and external partners
Marketers are organizing to create effective content, developing new processes and partnerships. Brands are partnering with media companies, creating syndicated content, sponsoring content or co-creating content. In order to distribute content across a range of digital touchpoints, marketing is integrating more closely with technology and IT departments.
Loh discussed the necessity of working closely with colleagues in IT and product development, who were critical partners in fueling and creating content on investing insights at Charles Schwab. Hill’s team at GE partnered externally, joining forces with The Economist to develop Look Ahead, a series of GE sponsored content that provides “A daily look at innovation that transforms global business.”
Marketers are also implementing new styles of working and even changing their physical environment to create agile and collaborate teams. At Post Foods, Jennifer Mennes, Director of Media and Public Relations, alongside her agency partner, Dan Curran, President of Manifest Digital, updated their physical space to create a newsroom-like culture. At A&E, Lori Peterzell, VP of Marketing and Brand Strategy, and her team have created a “social media war room” to provide viewers with shareable content in real time when new episodes of Duck Dynasty are aired.
Creating relevant content requires a deeper understanding of the customer
An intimate understanding of the customer and the customer journey is key to determining how and when content should be provided. As customer data becomes more readily available, marketers are getting better at segmenting their audiences, personalizing brand experiences, and placing content where it is “native” to customers.
Panelist Koller pointed to Chiptole’s cause marketing strategy as best-practice example of identifying an issue that’s important to customers and fully embracing it. Chipotle’s Scarecrow campaign takes a bold, even risky, position on the issue of sustainable food production while establishing an emotional connection to the customer.
To reach customers when content is most likely to be relevant, Schwab provides investing insight in real time following an important shift in the market when customers are looking for immediate advice. The social media and marketing teams at A&E develop Duck Dynasty content in advance based on what moments in the show they believe will be the most shareable and make it available in real time as viewers watch the latest episode. This strategy has helped Duck Dynasty to arguably become the most social TV show in history.
Content-worthy moments are also created when products and experiences are designed around customer insights. Panel moderator Stephen Sonnenfeld, VP of Corporate Advertising and Brand Integration at Thomson Reuters, described the first time he used the Chase banking app to deposit a check. He was delighted by this new service, which so perfectly addressed an unmet need in his daily life, that he gathered his family around to watch the event, becoming an advocate for the brand, unprompted. As Hill from GE put it: “Products are marketing.”
Content marketing may be saving brands from irrelevance in the post-digital world, but it’s also creating richer, more valuable experiences for consumers and this is why it is one of most exciting times to be a marketer in our industry’s history. In addition to developing content that’s a win-win for businesses and consumers, marketers today have an opportunity to directly influence business operations and direct the future of their organizations.
Rather than create content as an output of innovation and product development, today’s content marketing positions marketing as a valuable input. Content marketing is branding at its best: An authentic representation of the business strategy that brings intrinsic value to consumers.
Margaret Baughman is a Consultant, Strategy, for Interbrand.