Content Marketing, yet another buzzword added to the business lexicon. Let’s not go the jargon way. Let’s just talk.
All human interaction is a conversation of a sort. Negotiations are conversations. Transactions are conversations. Information exchange is a conversation. Relationships are a series of evolving and shifting conversations. The power to communicate leads to two human beings creating something bigger than themselves together – something that could be fuel to build bigger things like profits, a building, a government and even a philosophy.
Seen in that light, what else is marketing but a conversation between the marketer and the consumer? Isn’t every marketing effort about telling the consumer a story that they can identify with, one that gives them a guaranteed payoff, that keeps them engaged and (it is hoped) paying and loyal? Content marketing uses story as a vehicle to connect to, interest and engage consumers as an audience.
Custom media published by commercial establishments that were otherwise not involved in content production, were the early harbingers of content marketing, of which in-flight magazines and trade journals are examples, continuing up to this very day. Procter & Gamble created and backed a series of serial stories on radio, then television captivated their target audience for Ivory Soap. The product these were created for, gave its name to the content format known now as soap operas. Thus for over a century now, brands have seen value in catering to, even pampering their customers by giving them information and entertainment to hook their attention.
John Deere’s publication ‘The Furrow’ has created such a loyal reader base among its audience of farmers because of its articles on agri-business entrepreneurship, that it continues being published even today, over a century after its first print. Who do you suppose a farmer is likely to ask for advice on what tractor he should buy? A brand that he interacts with only when he speaks to its salesmen or one that sits at his table every day and gives him ideas on how to be more profitable in his work? For brands willing to look beyond visibility to recognize the value of long-term trust, content marketing is the answer.
What are some of the advantages of telling a good story? It goes beyond one’s interest and right into the realm of engagement. A great story pulls its listener into a new universe, makes him/her feel emotions and form attachments to the things that the story is about. Consider the effort that brand managers invest in trying to build, understand, and sustain brand personality and perceptions. It isn’t a precise science but there is a craft to it and it’s the craft of storytelling. See the brand as a person, or a character in a story that will grip the customer. The Sex & the City series single handedly made the shoe a hero in a woman’s wardrobe, lifting it up from its previous status of an accessory. At a more superficial level, the story relentlessly plugged the Jimmy Choos and the Manolo Blahniks, but look at the larger picture – the story created a new context of consumption for the entire category of women’s footwear.
Content marketing today takes the form of print, audio and video media. It also turns up in interactive media in the form of gamefication and online communities. It makes its presence felt in the form of events that aren’t simply brand launches or press conferences, but well-crafted experiences that make its participants come together with the brand.
To sum it all up, content marketing uses the fundamental premise of a good story to convey a commercial message in a way that it is received by an interested audience. Unlike advertising, which also does the same thing, content marketing helps establish a deeper connection with the consumer. And finally, in an increasingly interactive age, content marketing can turn a brand and its customers into collaborators as they join in conversations to build a common story.
I gave a talk called ‘Content Marketing: Powering brands through stories’ at the Technology for Marketing & Advertising (TFM&A), Delhi earlier this year. Here’s a video shot taken during that talk.a workshop on Content Marketing this week, where we will talk about content as it pertains to brands and how to develop brand stories into conversations with customers. We will also work with the participants to build a content strategy for their respective brands. We are still taking registrations so if you’re interested, you can look up the event here.