The Changing of the Guards: Understanding Content Marketing

Asides from being a pretty AMAZING Bob Dylan song if you’re into that type of music, which you should be & how dare you going about liking musical styles different from the ones I happen to enjoy (HA) – there is an apparent shift in how marketing, how diving into the minds of consumers, is occurring and in a world where social media is rapidly supplanting other means of communication, it’s even more paramount for marketers grasp onto emerging trends – in this case, it’s all about content marketing.  Good content marketing has this weird affect on consumers, it gives them an engaging story that keeps them wanting more. In many ways content marketing is storytelling, and the consumer is the audience – and by keeping them engaged, companies can get them to share your story.

Before we dive into the hit buzz-worthy concept that is “content marketing” it should be iterated that content marketing isn’t actually anything new. A quick 2 hour and change watch through of Art and Copy provides prominent advertisement highlights in the traditional media spectrum that all have tenants of what makes good content, ads that had resonance in their respective time periods.  Joe Pullizi stresses that while content marketing isn’t as new as everyone is attributing, with the rise of social media platforms and the internet, the preconceived notions of what content marketing can be are quickly falling by the way side. Now it’s possible to have instant two-way communication and actual influence over brands, from a consumer level – all it takes is an internet connection and a computer or smart phone.

So now you’re like, “Well how do I go about making content marketing?” And while I’m pondering the grammatical errors of that question, my immediate answer would be – very carefully. Content marketing requires the creation of engaging content, “Well how do I make engaging content?”
Well if you’d let me finish, that varies from medium-to-medium, kind of, it depends on the audience or persona you’re looking to attract and the nature of the medium. An example would be like say if you wanted to post a funny relevant image about your brand, conveying a story, you’d opt to use instagram or flickr over say YouTube, okay bad example. “Well how do I-“ I WILL PRE-EMPTIVELY ANSWER THIS QUESTION, by saying there are a plethora of medium-specific variables that pertain to marketing content successfully. That being said, there are some universal truths to content marketing one can take and adopt across the board.

It’s all about authenticity, with the advent of social media, being authentic can help improve the resonance of content for the consumer. Do they believe what you’re saying? Are you being truthful? These are key questions that you should ask before undertaking a content marketing endeavour. Authenticity can get people hooked.  Mitch Joel postulates that perhaps, authenticity, this concept I’ve spent the first half of this paragraph decrying as some marketing godsend, isn’t relevant.  And why is that exactly? Because brands aren’t authentic, the speed and transparency in communication is there, but authenticity isn’t ever really a part of the equation.  In fact if brands were being wholly authentic, they’d opt to explain why they are advertising in the first place (to incite action most likely a purchase). Joel instead of praising authenticity, actively seeks to tear it down as a popular content marketing construct. “So if authenticity isn’t key then wha-“  BEFORE YOU FINISH THAT VILE DERAILMENT OF MY CAREFULLY ARTICULATED THOUGHTS, Joel offers that instead of authenticity being key, that viable, tangible, relatable storytelling is key to getting viewers hooked.

So story is key to everything (mostly). With a good story, you can create a far greater resonance within the consumer, get them to feel something, anything. They’ll take it on themselves to share and converse – interact with the marketer and in that sense, interact with the brand itself. Authenticity doesn’t always warrant a reaction from the audience, in some cases it does. What always does is a good story. Story doesn’t necessarily have to contain all of the elements of conventional story, however, they do need to engage consumers. This can be done by dictating some universal truth to them, empowering them, or giving them the pieces to your message and letting them figure it out. An example shown in our Social Media class was through Dove’s Real Beauty Sketch campaign, which didn’t really resonate with me CAUSE I’M A MAN RAWR, but it did with a lot of people. Dove took this message of understanding how we perceive ourselves versus how others perceive us, they built a framework around it conveying this message by having an FBI sketch artist interpret a person’s appearance based on their and a stranger’s description. AS it turned out the person’s own description of themselves was so grossly distorted from how they actually appear, it said a lot about people’s inner confidence and how they view themselves; most people exaggerated, what they perceived to be, negative traits. In fact the advert doesn’t hint once at Dove’s products, only showing a Dove logo at the end.  IN FACT if we examine Dove’s previous approach, years ago, they positioned their brand on being pure – using authenticity to demonstrate their claim. Compare that to their recent efforts, empower the consumer persona to be themselves, to love themselves, and they share your brand’s message exponentially.

Dove’s recent campaign.

The only value in their old campaign is nostalgia.

 Another viable component to content marketing is understanding consumer personas and pain points, who and why?  Who are your customers? Why do they need your product or service? This requires some research, but if you can answer these two questions, you can direct relevant content marketing pieces to them. With the abovementioned Dove empowerment campaign, they’re racking in millions of views.  Jim Signorelli states,For today’s consumer, form is content.  The way we approach them says as much or more than the words we use to tell them who we are and what we do.  We can entice consumers with chest-thumping, self-congratulatory claims all we want.  But what our audiences really want and need is reinforcement for the way they see the world.”

Selling them their worldview affirms their existence, Dove isn’t telling people to change or seek out self improvement, but to be who you are – to maintain course.  It’s playing the consumer persona in such a way to make them sad, happy, and inspired, and in that rollercoaster ride of emotion, getting them to share the content piece. I personally believe that people eat this stuff up.

So now that we’ve got the basic components of content marketing in place, we’re forced to think about deployment. How are we going to go about this? Well, coming full circle on the blog article Potts, we’re forced to look to social media. AND as much as I could spend days watching cat videos and arguing over Facebook and Twitter and creepin’ on the girl who works at the Cineplex, What up?  THESE are more than just platforms to sink time effortlessly into, these are where our personas choose to lurk and maintain various circles of influence. BY using a social media platform to distribute instead of traditional media, companies can make the sharing process done easily while retaining control (I mean that in the loosest sense of the word) over the deployment. The process condensed: we give them the tailor-made good content that we speculate they’d enjoy and be inclined to share; we introduce it to them on their terms by way of social media platforms they use; they distribute our message to their friends and so on, and so on. And that is where the true effectiveness of social media comes into play, we’re heisting statuses and likes for a brief moment in time. You can’t do this with most traditional forms of media, and that’s where the distinction is to be made. Of course it could all go horribly awry, but that’s an implication we’ll have to talk about in another blog post.