615 million devices now use ad-blocking software.(Source)
Your paid advertisements are not reaching your target audience anymore. They are tired of the same-old feature-laden, clickbait-y content. If they get annoyed with an ad that’s following them online for a long time, they can just click it away. There go your marketing dollars.
In this day and age, instead of reaching out to the audience, brands need to draw them in. They need to make themselves indispensable by providing value at every interaction, by forging a real connection with their prospects with the help of content marketing. Some of the top brands are already doing it, some are still struggling to develop their authentic voice.
In this article, I’ve dissected the marketing strategy of leading brands to bring you ten content marketing best practices that’ll help your brand get recognition and eventually, impact the bottom-line.
Identify the snags, and chip in with quality content
Pitching a value proposition is easy, but connecting it to the actual needs of the prospective buyers is difficult. They need something substantial; they are looking for answers and expert guidance. To cultivate a deeper connection with your target group, start educating them, inspiring them. Do not blatantly throw jargons at them to show what your product can do. Instead, show them the context where your product can be used for good.
If you glance through Airbnb’s content marketing strategy, you’ll find that nearly all of its content is directed towards solving user issues. Airbnb simplifies the whole pre-travel-research process by collecting local recommendations and guiding the tourists even before they set foot in that place.
Airbnb Neighborhoods gives the full layout of the destination by offering relevant information about a certain neighbourhood in a specific city. Similarly, Guidebooks offers a curated list of all the ideal places in the city. The best part is – these are all recommended by local Airbnb hosts!
That’s not all, Airbnb’s offline magazine showcases “a location’s history, food, and customs through the eyes of the people who live there.” They make it incredibly data-driven by analyzing the top searches and crafting their content accordingly.
While Airbnb provides curated information to the travellers Whole Foods promotes a healthy lifestyle and clean eating by serving up a platter of delectable food and excellent content. The blog ‘Whole Story’ is purely educational. It provides guides for a balanced diet, healthy recipes, how to cook A+ after-school snacks etc. Their aim is to educate the readers, all the while reinforcing the value of the brand.
Adopt a multi-channel approach
A fab piece of content isn’t going to go viral by itself. You need to have a solid content promotion and distribution strategy in place to attract and retain attention. Lucky for us, we have multiple popular channels we can use to seek quality traffic and coax the readers into taking the desired action.
Vogue successfully fuses the best of both worlds together. The make uber-glamorous, veiled and magical world of fashion as seen in their magazine much more approachable and attainable through their digital content.
If they print detailed celebrity interviews on their magazine, they include micro-content like online Q&A videos on social channels to capture the reader’s interest and to lead them back to the offline magazine. Not to miss out on any opportunities, they create oodles of video content to keep up with the online audience, such as on-shot interviews, behind-the-scenes, beauty routines, and more.
Build up a community with user-generated content
54% of adult internet users regularly create and post original photos or videos online. (source)
Smart brands make use of this online-sharing culture to generate unique content for their online channels. A single authentic review or a feedback video from a customer is ten times more effective than any of the branded content. It paves the way for a thriving community where people interact with the brand, and with each other, by sharing real-life experiences.
Apple’s #ShotOnIphone promotes a lifestyle choice and a sense of community that resonates with its loyal consumers. This long-running campaign is now an integral part of their marketing strategy. It allows the customers to submit their original photos taken via iPhones, and the selected clicks are blown up on billboards around the world. To keep things exciting in the online space, they also encourage continued involvement by showing off the stunning submissions on their official Instagram profile.
Instead of focusing on the product, Apple is showcasing what can be done with the product, and the result is nothing short of mesmerizing!
Spotify plays the game differently. They have been making fun of the bizarre user-generated playlist names people come up with, and to be honest, nobody’s mad about that! The 2017 campaign featured musicians who weren’t sure why their songs were included in certain playlists (for example, DCNE’s “Body Moves” in a playlist called ‘Play this at my funeral’), OOH billboards poking fun at the outlandish playlist names which were again repurposed as digital ads. Below is an example of their year-end campaign ‘2018 goals’ highlighting quirky new year’s resolutions.
Do not sell products, sell experiences
Consumers aren’t naive, they do not fall for marketing promos with big claims and even bigger celebrity endorsements. They have seen it all. So how do you penetrate through the tough shield of indifference to appeal to their vulnerable side? Simple, by making them the top priority and creating the best possible experience for them.
It’s true that consumers look for offers to get the best deals, but to stay loyal to a particular brand, they require something more significant than a 20% discount. GoPro understands that. Instead of being salesy and pushing their wearable cameras, they tap into their user’s experiences and share that with the entire world.
They show us a world of adventure, adrenaline rush, and breathtaking views! That’s why we remember GoPro. They tell us a story by allowing their customers to tell their stories. These high-quality action-packed stories are showcased on the GoPro channel. The product information is cleverly hidden under ‘Info’ button for those who may be interested to check out the camera model.
Develop your original voice
Why copy others when you can have your own voice?
Be bold and unconventional. Grab eyeballs by taking advantage of your unique voice and creating one-of-a-kind content that your audience can’t ignore.
Take Denny’s for example.
Instead of trying to blend in and market to the mass, they shifted their focus towards a demographic which is easier to reach, but harder to impress – young adults. They talk to them in a language they understand, and via channels, they swear by – Tumblr and Twitter.
“It’s critical that our content be current and relevant to the conversations that are happening across America…The entire team is constantly looking for trending stories, popular memes and pop culture moments that have America talking and provide an opportunity for us to join in the conversation with Denny’s unique voice.”
This unique voice is sassy, cheeky, with just the right amount of silliness sans the snarkiness.
Leverage your differentiator
Creating your own niche pays off when you’re in a market saturated with competitors targeting the same audience.
Birchbox introduces class and sophistication in their content marketing strategy to stand apart from the crowd. They speak directly to the busy, on-the-go women who care about their and their family’s overall well-being. A peek into their social media presence will reveal how aesthetically pleasing their visual content is. Moreover, they appeal to the readers by promoting self-care, self-empowerment, and by encouraging female entrepreneurs to share their stories.
Influencer marketing has been a core part of their marketing strategy since its inception. They partner with bloggers to ‘curate’ a certain box for a month for unique content. Other than that, the online magazine allows them to forge a deeper connection with the brand by providing value in the form of how-to’s, tutorials, interviews, etc.
Test out different content formats
Don’t limit your brand exposure by churning out content in a single format. Your target audience isn’t necessarily just reading blog posts, or watching videos on YouTube. They are everywhere (literally). A sound content strategy includes covering all the bases to attract different kinds of traffic from different channels.
GE is redefining the rules of content marketing by ceaselessly innovating and creating content on every medium imaginable. With the help of technology and social media, they are thinking of new ways to reach out to the audience. During #DroneWeek GE made use of its Periscope account to give people a live-drone’s-eye view of its jet engines, wind turbines and other machinery located in various facilities.
They even partnered with The New York Times to distribute Google Cardboard viewers for the readers to watch virtual reality content. In an article by Marketing Week GE CMO Linda Boff talks about how they’re driving disruption while ensuring that the users are getting their “value exchange”:
“Once upon a time, we all said ‘content is king’, then we said ‘distribution is king’. Really it’s about the user and how we are serving him or her.”
Go behind the scene
People love to learn more about brands that inspire them. They are curious to know what goes on in the background, to relate to the real people behind the screen, especially brands with a rich and vibrant heritage.
Chanel tells its story beautifully with the content-centric microsite Inside Chanel. The site takes the readers on a visual journey portraying the evolution of the company and its products. It provides a chronological timeline hinting at the major events in the company’s history. The head designer of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld has also directed a number of mini-films for this purpose.
Their content strategy has nothing to do with the consumers, but still, they are drawn in by the fascinating depiction of the ups and downs, the struggles of the iconic Gabrielle Coco Chanel.
Create tailored content
80 percent of marketers say personalized content is more effective than “un-personalized” content. (source)
Personalization stems from our own past interest and preferences, and brands make use of this behavioural data to display content that their customers may prefer, to keep them hooked.
Ask Netflix. They know how it’s done. They’re upgrading their personalization game by customizing the show artworks based on your viewing habits! For example, if two viewers are shown are the same movie recommendation, the covers may appear to be completely different for both of them, depending on their past preferences. Neat, right?
Humanize your brand
Create content that resonates with the audience; that makes them identify with your brand. Instead of producing content just for the sake of it, come up with contagious ideas that stick with the customers. The narrative should be aligned with your brand value, but it should also stir up their emotions.
The century-old brand Coca-Cola has been doing it for ages. They’ve been creating engaging content that ties together their value proposition and the audience interest. Take ‘Share a Coke’ campaign for example – they made people identify with a physical bottle of coke out of all things! Now that’s smart marketing.
Staying true to the motto of ‘Coca-Cola Journey’ – ‘Refreshing the world, one story at a time’, their blog ‘Unbottled’ calls attention to the history, culture, innovative mindset of the brands, and fosters a sense of community amongst the readers.
To paraphrase Drake, these brands started from the bottom and now they’re here!
It won’t do you any favours if you look for immediate gratification with your content marketing campaigns. It takes time and effort to build up credibility and win the trust of the prospects.
Experiment with formats, try out new channels, but most importantly, read the pulse of the audience to identify their needs and interests. An integrated content marketing strategy will not only boost your brand awareness and reputation but in the long-term will also act as a sustainable growth channel.