Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Content Marketing (or, as many marketers would call it, Brand Storytelling)

A vital component of building brand communities, which was the topic of one of our recent blogs, is producing content that is relevant to the target audience. Content marketing is also known by many other names such as brand journalism, branded content, branded media, corporate media and corporate publishing. But what exactly is it?

Content marketing is essentially a technique that involves producing and distributing valuable content to engage a brand’s target audience. It is about displacing interruption-based practices with more immersive experiences. It has become one of the biggest ‘buzzwords’ recently, but examples of it exist since long before the digital age.

The Michelin Guide, originated in 1993, is a well know form of content marketing. Tyres can be a fairly uninteresting product, so the company gave its audience a reason to buy their tyres by offering restaurant reviews. A venue with ‘very good cuisine’ is awarded one star, ‘excellent cuisine, worth a detour’ receives two stars, and the exclusive three stars are given to restaurants with ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’.

Today, companies like Red Bull are one of the most notable examples of content marketing success blending online and offline marketing to become synonymous with extreme sports. From exclusive films and action features to live broadcasts, the Red Bull Media House has fresh content being uploaded continuously. Red Bull could now be considered as much a media-content company as an energy drinks company.

However, producing quality content to suit the different needs of the target audience for each type of channel on a regular basis is a large endeavour. Many brands end up trading off quality for quantity and getting lost amongst the media noise. Customers are increasingly bombarded with content choices and are inevitably tuning out anything that does not interest them.

To embrace this growing trend, companies need to move from occasional creative campaigns to engaging content delivered 365 days a year. Earning attention requires original content that informs, teaches and motivates the audience. Content also needs to be matched to the different platforms. How to engage audiences in Twitter is completely different from Pinterest and YouTube.

So what does this mean for marketing professionals? As the core of great content is storytelling, the focus of the marketing role will likely shift from process-oriented tasks, such as producing a print ad or organising a product launch, to a wider skill set that resembles a brand storyteller. Now more than ever, marketers will need vision and creative direction to capture a brand’s story and share it with the marketplace through the different channels.

How are you approaching content marketing in your company? In what other ways do you see this trend reshaping the marketing role?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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