Blurring the lines between content and marketing
If you work in a company that manufactures a physical product then the communications about that product have always sat with the marketing team. They are the ones who decide what you say to your customers, when you say it and how. In a media environment though, talking to your audience IS the product. Decisions about what you say and how you say it are made by journalists, editors, producers and talent on a minute-by-minute basis - sometimes with the benefit of a strategy, often a plan, rarely a roadmap.
These days, this sort of communication also offers real insight into what's happening in all sorts of businesses in Australia. Increasingly whether or not they have a product or service, more and more businesses are becoming content providers – from full offerings like ANZ's Blue Notes to a simple Facebook page for the local ice-cream shop, brands are creating direct content relationships with their customers and their customers are becoming their audience.
The very smart people at PWC say this is a growing trend. In their most recent "Australian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2014 -2018 – Revolution not Evolution", PWC published the results of its survey with the Australian Marketing Institute, which found:
• One in four [businesses] spend between 20 and 30 percent [of their marketing budget] on building and maintaining internal channels, including creating content.
• 70 percent [of businesses] have seen a shift from spending on external to internal channels.
This creates really interesting opportunities for content producers to move out of media and into marketing, using the basic principles they apply each day to create brand-specific content strategies. This was a hot topic at the recent Social Media Week event in Sydney. You can get some great insights from the #SMWSyd hashtag including:
• Helen Crossley from Facebook describing the need to create "Thumb stopping" content.
• Simon Crerar from Buzzfeed explaining how separate teams create editorial versus paid-for content.
• Neil Ackland from Sound Alliance describing their strategy as "mobile first, social at the core and a native commercial offering".
While this is an exciting time for marketers, content producers and hybrids, branded content or owned content is at risk of becoming a fad. It's easy to see a scenario where these efforts are last in and first out of the marketing budget when the screws turn and someone asks "do we really need journalists to sell our product?"
So rather than jumping on a bandwagon, here are three things I think brands need to consider when developing a content strategy:
• Who are you talking to? This one is relatively easy for good marketers who know their audience, but it goes beyond "35-plus female grocery buyers" or even "busy working mums", you need to think about what their interests are and the way they like to see themselves defined and reflected. Busy working mums don't like to be told they're busy, they (we) know that. They (we) want to be entertained or amused in snackable portions, with a sense of insight about their lives (see the image as an example).
• What do they want to talk to you about? At a recent conference I heard collective gasps when a speaker announced "I don't want to be friends with my shampoo". And you might not want to be friends either but possibly 'trusted adviser' or 'courteous colleagues' are more appropriate. When developing a content strategy, you need to think about the unique perspective you offer and how you can make it "thumbstopping". "5 reasons our shampoo is good for your hair" is not going to stop the scroll, but "5 quick tricks for bad hair days" or "Red carpet dos we love" might.
• Do you have more to offer? People like facebook pages because they think they are going to get a benefit. In addition to your cracking content what else do you have to offer? Free samples? Competitions? Sale details? Trials of new products? There is a wealth of insight you can get by using your own media channels to encourage people to try new things.
Whether your customers want to be your friend or not, and whether creating content is your core business, considering social and engagement as part of your strategy is fast becoming essential to the modern marketing mix.