Most of us marketing types are well practiced at talking about our brands via paid media. Hell, we excel at it. However, creating contextually relevant content, and distributing it via social and search channels, isn’t in everyone’s wheelhouse yet. It’s no wonder the content marketing landscape is littered with misplaced product messages. But content allows us to serve a purpose beyond promotion.
Since content may very well be the most ambiguous term in marketing, we should start with a relevant description. Not from the perspective of a marketer, but rather from that of a person. To us, people, content is all the stuff that fills the media channels we turn to for entertainment and information. It’s the TV shows and webisodes we lose ourselves in. It’s the pranks, recipes, how-to’s, and cat videos that pass time between responsibilities. It’s the reports, reviews, and exposés that keep us up-to-date on important topics like upcoming elections, new products, and celebrity love triangles (guilty). We, people, love content. We love it so much we’ll pay for it. Why? Because it’s stuff we care about. It’s stuff we search for. It’s stuff that adds value to our lives.
Brand content is any and all of that stuff, but designed to help promote or sell a brand. It’s a branded prank. It’s a recipe or how-to that features a product. It’s a cat video featuring a brand logo (the very occasionally awesome, but all-too-often failed, agency go-to). It’s even a really funny commercial that people search for or share with their friends.
“But that’s, like, everything!” you say.
“I know!” I reply.
That’s why trying to define brand content (or content marketing, if you prefer) by channel or format is a waste of time. Instead, focus on its purpose. Brand content allows us to serve our consumers, helping them accomplish a goal, solve a problem, or express an opinion. In other words, content empowers us to do more than pitch value – it allows us to add value.
For instance, Disney Parks helps aspiring guests dream, plan, prepare, and share their vacations with all kinds of content including Pins. AmEx helps educate, empower, and connect small businesses via Small Business Saturday. Oreo gave people a way to express a shared value with a rainbow-colored cookie post on Facebook. And Weber reminds me how long to grill chicken every time I forget (which is pretty much every time for some reason).
Each one of these brands went beyond pitching its products, and used content to serve its consumers. In doing so, they’re marketing became a brand benefit, improving, even differentiating, their consumers’ overall brand experience.
So what are your consumers using content for? Are they using it to weigh their purchase options? Are they looking for new ways to use your products? Are they looking for ways to socially express their opinions and beliefs? Or is it all of the above? Answer a few of these questions and you’ll be one step closer to a content strategy that serves a real purpose. Put one of those in action and it will benefit you and your consumers.