Giving Content Marketing Its Own Space In Time
The content marketing discipline in 2015 represents an era of value driven responsibility.
Lets briefly look at how content has shifted over the past 50 years to identify what matters today with our creation efforts.
A Quick Journey From The 60s To Today
During the 1960s and 1970s the biggest differentiator when it came to the messages that our parents saw was all about the features of a product. The conversation was wholly one sided by saying ‘this is us, now buy our product’. It was far simpler in those days to portray the target audience within the message. This method of focusing purely on product has stood the test of time. This has been handed down from one generation to the other like a game of pass the parcel, that we’re still unwrapping.
As my introduction to the world of brands from TV during the 1980s and then being part of the marketing/brand industry that started for me during the late 1990s, there was a shift from wholly product messages to establishing a brand ethos. A big difference from the preceding decades was that the actual product took a back seat for the narrative.
While we may never have wanted to read Fly Fishing by JR Hartley (Yellow Pages) or think that the Gold Blend advert was becoming a soap opera, what we started to see was what a brand stood for.
As the 90s came to an end we had the ability to create websites and then stand back and look at with pride, as these were places that we could call our own. This method of putting something out there and then standing back, namely making a website live and acceptance that the race was won, has been passed from one generation to the next. The objective for many businesses was to achieve brand loyalty by shouting the loudest in order to create value. How times haven’t changed.
During the 2000s we moved to the era of creating value. It is now the responsibility for businesses to deliver better relationships. This is achieved by having better conversations with customers that we did not have before, as they are now well and truly in the driving seat. The only conversations we could have had before was to commit sizeable budgets to paid channels and hope that our message filtered through to cause someone else to react.
As the 2000s progressed we found there were social channels where we could interact with others. Unfortunately what we had learnt from our predecessors to concentrate wholly on product and to have a limited amount of enthusiasm purely beyond what our product achieved, was still widely adopted.
What Today Has In Store
So, where are we today? As we become the year in Back To The Future 2, the rulebook of product, interruption, self-promotion and repetition has to be put to one side for an adapted way of thinking. The focus for today is the ability to create and innovate.
If we are inventive with how we use and embrace channels, which are far easier than they ever have been (and at the fraction of the cost), we have an ease to publish and create the value. Contrasted to the generation before to shout the loudest, it is the responsibility for us to solve problems through the content we create and the narrative that we deliver. Now is the time to empathise with others and understand their situation.
Lets look at it this way, we are using the same channels we use on a social basis as we do on a professional basis. Doesn’t it make sense to put ourselves in the role of both consumer and business, rather than thinking that we know everything and resort to the old ways of being completely one sided ie. this is us/our product/our marketplace, we know best. We cannot dictate to someone else that we know best because we have become the self appointed oracle.
What Is Your Utopia?
I don’t want to come across as a cliché by using a quote and I feel slightly hesitant to use it, but it is summed up perfectly from Ghandi who said, ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ If I can put this into a business context, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of a consumer to identify what others want from us and how we can provide and solve problems.I don’t want to come across as a cliché by using a quote and I feel slightly hesitant to use it, but it is summed up perfectly from Ghandi who said, ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world.’
If I can put this into a business context, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of a consumer to identify what others want from us and how we can provide and solve problems.
As a consumer what would your utopia be? The last thing you would want is to read what others brag about. The question is what do you want from a business? For instance, if I am connected to an estate agent on a social channel the last thing I would want to read about is how busy their month was and how fantastic the local area is that they operate within.I would be more interested in what are the good local schools for my children and how the Ofsted reports look. Bringing things back to an industry angle, how has my local area fared in the past year in terms of house prices? Nevertheless, this industry is still happy to rely on stock imagery of a hand holding a house shaped key on an A5 flyer, when serving a deeper purpose is in abundance throughout the communities we are part of.
We are now in an era as businesses to think and act as a consumer and the content that we create has to reflect this. If we are led by what we want to brag about and how well we are doing, then we are going to slowly fizzle out into the background. If you are winning awards that is great, but do I really care?
As a customer all I want is to know is that you will care and be able to advise me. If you were a customer looking at your business, what would you actually care about? The awards or the value created?
This is why you need to put your energy and soul in what you create. It has got nothing to do with a special offer, a free pen or how good the company customer service is on the website homepage. As a customer, I want to know what is relevant to me. Companies are still approaching this from the wrong angle as they are starting with the business proposition and not the customer need.
Don’t create content, just because you want to say it. Creating content for the sake of creating content in 2015 is one of the most dangerous places to be, if you have no strategy in place and understand what you stand for.
The World War One Analogy
Creating content today can become similar to trench warfare during World War One. The wish to move forward just doesn’t happen when you have no defined strategy. No matter how many people you throw over the top of the trench to run at someone blindly is not going to make any difference. I get asked a lot, “how many times should I blog?” It doesn’t matter if you blog five times a week or twice a month, what matters is that you have a strategy in place and have the ability to put yourself into someone’s shoes and you actually mean something to someone else.
When we are able to create something that resonates because we have strategy in place, this is when we make a change. Lets look at it this way from the trench perspective, one bazooka is worth more than 1,000 bayonettes.
Lets Get A Grip
Lets accept that we have all become part of the problem. We now have the ability to create, curate and publish with total ease. Contrasted to this is the ability to become better filters at what we consume. The IBM statistic of 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, to me is mind boggling, but I can understand it. I see so much bland, non descript content that stands for nothing and companies are happy to press the ‘publish’ button as it means more content on the company website and the belief that search engines will acknowledge that they are contributing to the belief that more content on a frequent basis is good for visibility.
We have started to lose our way a bit and whilst we look to adapt to a way that isn’t necessarily wholly product focused it becomes easy to slip back into old ways of shoe horning what has been done in the past within spaces that have been with us for less than 10 years.
Lets get comfortable and become better within the places where our audience reside, rather than thinking that we need to be represented across multiple channels. This is how we connect in a more creative and meaningful way.
We all laugh at the adverts from the 1960s that show smoking doctors endorsing cigarettes and babies drinking from Coke cans. Will people look back at us in 50 years time and laugh at how we currently create content and communicate?
This is a transitional period for all of us. An owned content approach (identifying spaces that you have 100% control of) is where marketing is heading. It can become a huge asset, just as much as it represents a huge challenge for all of us. Encouraging others to engage and create value for an audience that truly believes that you can deliver a better solution than the competition represents a new era that we are all now all part of.
Image at the top of the article courtesy of Gabriela Pinto