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A couple of decades ago, marketers had undivided attention. With not much more than three or four marketing channels to choose from, brands could secure blocks of time in front of their customers. TV wasn’t malleable — if anything commercial breaks were an opportunity to grab a snack — and radio was the only platform that we could find out about the latest band or artist.
The advent of the internet has ensured, even in developing markets, the growth of available entertainment and information resources, marketing channels and, in turn, noise. Marketers have become increasingly good at interrupting consumers — almost as good as consumers have become at ignoring them.
Consumers have become sceptical. They know when they are being marketed to. They know when a brand is using tactics to try and grip their attention, and they know how to turn it off.
Content marketing, however, is a means to attract that attention rather than steal it.
Building the foundation
Some marketers have realised that they have been “building on rented land”; investing the majority of their marketing budgets into other platforms in an effort to leverage credibility. Smart marketers, however, have taken that a step further and begun building their own audiences. They have identified the power of creating value outside of, but related to, their products and services and begun producing content that speaks to their audiences’ needs: content marketing.
That isn’t to say that every brand does it well.
In South Africa, marketers have caught wind of the power of content as a marketing tool from more developed markets, yet often lack the publishing experience to engage audiences. This has resulted in a bit of scepticism towards the effectiveness of content marketing. That’s not to say it is ineffective; like all marketing, the success depends on the coupling of strategy and execution.
The Content Marketing Institute defines Content Marketing as follows:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
There are two terms that are critically important in their definition: value and relevance.
Value and Relevance
Value is a completely relative term; what is valuable to one person is not necessarily valuable to another. This hints at why relevance is so paramount. Relevance is identifying a group of people based on their needs and creating, or providing, something that is valuable to them specifically.
Content marketing is a profoundly powerful way for brands to do just that.
South African consumers have grown weary of business blogs that lack the finesse of media owners.
Brands are still grappling with the concept of adding value outside of their core service in order to build a loyal audience and have, instead, utilised their content platforms to “push product” — essentially, reworking traditional advertising executions in another format.
Generally, customers follow a process when purchasing. Many thought leaders have published their view of what that sales cycle is, but ultimately it is founded by five questions:
- What is preventing me from doing something? (Identifying a problem)
- What can I do about it? (Researching a solution)
- Is this the best solution for me? (Comparing solutions)
- Is it worth the money? (Consideration)
- Can I do that thing now? (Satisfaction)
A successful cycle will see a customer go through all five phases. Traditional marketing assists in the final two phases while content marketing adds value at every point.
In developed markets, content marketing is far more mature than it is in South Africa. Most of the big international brands are doing it in some form.
All State has a business blog that publishes articles ranging from how to declutter your apartment to packing efficiently. It’s currently ranked in the top 5000 websites (by traffic) in the world. Not bad for an insurance website.
Content isn’t just editorial either. Blendtec (above), for example, created a video series to show the power of its blenders. What do they blend? Random objects, and the channel has almost a million subscribers.
Probably one of the most successful examples is GoPro (above), with a video they created to promote its Hero 3 camera. It’s a five-minute-long commercial that was published on YouTube. People watched it by choice… over 42-million times.
What makes these examples powerful is that the brands have figured out how to add value over and above their product/service offering. When you’re reading about how to declutter your apartment, you naturally think about all the stuff in it. From there, insuring all your valuables is not such a big leap.
This is indicative of an intelligent content strategy, something that is less prevalent in the South African market.
Many brands in SA have recognised the importance of content and begun publishing, but content without a robust strategy is just a blog — — not doing much in the way of adding to the bottom line. It’s vital to begin a content marketing venture with objectives; a strategy is the game plan on how to execute those objectives.
As we move out of the of the Information Age and into the Experience Age, brands need to think about how they are communicating to their clients. With so many options available, brands need to create marketing that consumers want to consume, not avoid.
There is only one metric that really counts: quality.