Being part of a digital ecosystem means reaching out beyond the core product to draw people in. But how do brands create quality, interesting content to communicate with customers?
What does it mean to be a digitally innovative company? Having a great website is no longer enough in the age of Digital Darwinism where the winners will be the companies who go further: “Pioneering enterprises are fundamentally changing the way they look at themselves. Leading enterprises are quickly mastering the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’,” wrote Accenture in its Technology Vision 2015 report.
This broader outlook may take on different shapes for an individual business, but what often tends to happen is that companies are finding themselves becoming content creators. UK2 is an example of this: its core business is as a global group of web hosting brands, but quality content across the various brand blogs makes the company part of a wider ecosystem.
This is also good for business: research from Forrester shows that it’s more efficient to market to the people who are already interested. “[People] who want to stay in touch with your brand are three times more likely to visit your site than to engage you on Facebook,” said Nate Elliot, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. “Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers have found branded communities create more loyalty and lifetime value than Facebook and Twitter marketing.”.
So if brands are content creators now, how should it be done? One element that many companies get wrong is not giving credit to the people who created it, argues marketing consultant Brian Honigman. Businesses may think acknowledging individual authors dilutes the impression that the content comes from the same brand, but Honigman says this is misguided: “This fundamental mistake is only made by brands who don’t fully understand the implications of what it means to embrace a content-centric strategy. Publishing is a collaborative effort, and a lack of proper attribution undercuts that spirit and will diminish the effectiveness of the content being produced.”.
The reason it’s even worth going to all the trouble of creating your own content is to produce something that feels authentic: “We’ve made something we think you’ll like!”. Author-less content feels like copywriting, but including the names of individual writers gives the reader the impression that it is personal. Think of if this way: The Times newspaper doesn’t brand its articles as written by the paper, but gives credit to the journalists.
“Organisations who understand content marketing know that they need to find people who are capable of creating things (articles, videos, images, tweets…whatever) that foster and strengthen the community around their product or service,” says Honigman. The role of the brand should be something more akin to a patron, with the goal that over time customers come to recognise and trust that the content promoted by this patron is of quality.
Having said that, good content marketing will often work in a manner not dissimilar to good copywriting: creating a story around a brand that inspires positive connotations. Red Bull is a great example of how a brand has reached out beyond its core product – energy drinks – to generate a buzz. The main message on the Red Bull website is adventure: skateboarding, motorsports, surfing, biking, and the company often goes further by sponsoring events, publishing magazines and even making films. The logo of a red bull on yellow background is always there, but there’s little mention of the product. Red Bull has been tight-lipped about its strategy, but it seems clear the company has opted to draw people in by creating content without the big sales push in the knowledge that people will associate the brand with someone who delivers quality.
“Nobody is going to go to a website and spend 45 minutes looking at video about a drink. But Red Bull has aligned its brand unequivocally and consistently with extreme sports and action. They are number-one at creating content so engaging that consumers will spend hours with it, or at least significant minutes,” Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group, told ‘Mashable’. And is it working? Yes, says Lieb, absolutely: “One measure of success is, are they selling more Red Bull this year than last year? Another might be brand awareness. Another might be purchase intent. I think Red Bull’s brand awareness accomplishment is through the roof.”.