Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Kick-Start yo ur Con­tent Mar­ket­ing

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Whether you’ve al­ready got a con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­egy in place or con­sid­er­ing one, here are some ideas to kick-start your think­ing. If you don’t have a strat­egy, you’re prob­a­bly us­ing a range of dig­i­tal tac­tics to gen­er­ate web­site vis­i­tors, SEO, email, paid search, etc. Th­ese tac­tics are typ­i­cally de­vel­oped over time and in­de­pen­dently of each other so it’s dif­fi­cult to unify mea­sure­ment back to ROI and proac­tively man­age cam­paigns and leads. So avoid back­fill­ing your strat­egy based on th­ese ex­ist­ing tac­tics; take the time to de­velop your strat­egy from the top down. If you al­ready have a strat­egy in place, here are some things to con­sider that will help you re­fine your ap­proach.

One of the defin­ing fea­tures of dig­i­tal’s ubiq­uity is the chal­lenge it poses to agency si­los.

Much has al­ready been writ­ten on how dig­i­tal is bring­ing ‘cre­ative’ and ‘me­dia’ dis­ci­plines closer to­gether. It’s caused many cre­ative agency lead­ers— in­clud­ing James Mur­phy, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Adam & Eve/DDB Lon­don in a re­cent ar­ti­cle—to ac­knowl­edge the in­evitable re­turn of the full ser­vice agency model. So whether fo­cus­ing on col­lab­o­ra­tive pro­cesses or op­er­at­ing a truly full ser­vice model (as we do at FCB), me­dia and cre­ative agen­cies are work­ing on get­ting along in the dig­i­tal age.

But while the va­lid­ity of the cre­ative/ me­dia divide grabs head­lines, dig­i­tal is qui­etly in­tro­duc­ing a sec­ond chal­lenge to his­tor­i­cal agency sep­a­ra­tions: the divide be­tween ‘me­dia’ and ‘di­rect’.

To date, me­dia and di­rect mar­ket­ing agen­cies have been al­lowed to flour­ish in rel­a­tive in­de­pen­dence. Their re­la­tion­ship could be de­fined along fairly ar­bi­trary lines, like mass vs. 1to1, ac­qui­si­tion vs. re­ten­tion or per­haps ad­ver­tis­ing vs. CRM. In a world where mass me­dia was gen­er­ally pretty mass and data sets— whether cus­tomer or pub­lisher—lived in rel­a­tive iso­la­tion, this seemed to work fine.

But what hap­pens when mass me­dia is 1to1? Or when paid ad­ver­tis­ing can be used to re­tain a known cus­tomer?

The abil­ity to merge non-per­son­ally iden­ti­fi­able datasets from first par­ties (client data) and third par­ties (me­dia own­ers) is chal­leng­ing those ar­bi­trary lines be­tween me­dia and di­rect dis­ci­plines. It isn’t a new chal­lenge; but it’s about to scale, fast.

Any­one that’s run a cus­tom au­di­ence cam­paign on Face­book has al­ready used paid me­dia as a ‘CRM’ chan­nel. By up­load­ing your own first party data to tar­get ex­ist­ing cus­tomers, or prospect for lookalikes, you’ve blurred the lines be­tween ‘me­dia’ and ‘di­rect’. Face­book does the data match, but that’s only ac­tion­able within Face­book’s—ad­mit­tedly vast—ad­ver­tis­ing ecosys­tem and re­lies on an email ad­dress or phone num­ber. In this re­spect it’s a ‘light’ ver­sion of the blurred fu­ture our in­dus­try faces.

The col­li­sion point re­ally comes when you can un­der­take this process across the en­tire dig­i­tal me­dia land­scape us­ing ‘off­line’ as well as ‘on­line’ cus­tomer data. By us­ing data on-board­ing to merge his­tor­i­cally dis­creet datasets—cus­tomer first party ‘off­line’ data (typ­i­cal CRM datasets like a postal ad­dress) with third party ‘on­line’ cookie or de­vice data (the typ­i­cal dig­i­tal me­dia pub­lisher dataset)—dig­i­tal me­dia can now buy a known in­di­vid­ual at scale. It opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of a cus­tomer con­ver­sa­tion that can seam­lessly mi­grate from phys­i­cal mail to web ban­ner.

To me­dia agen­cies it’s tar­geted ad buy­ing. To di­rect agen­cies it’s an­other chan­nel in their CRM tool kit. Both have a le­git­i­mate claim. But nei­ther have the skills or re­la­tion­ships to fully re­alise it in iso­la­tion of one an­other.

Ei­ther way it re­quires new skills of the agency broad­en­ing its scope. The ‘di­rect’ agency has to nav­i­gate the com­plex­i­ties of dig­i­tal me­dia buy­ing, build re­la­tion­ships with plat­forms and pub­lish­ers and look to repli­cate the scale benefits me­dia agen­cies en­joy. Like­wise, the ‘me­dia’ agency has to learn di­rect mar­ket­ing tech­niques and em­ploy them with bal­ance, re­mem­ber­ing that just be­cause me­dia can be more tar­geted, it doesn’t mean it should be. Some­times a shot­gun is more ef­fec­tive than a ri­fle.

It also ques­tions client si­los. While agency re­la­tion­ships may be de­lin­eated along ‘me­dia’ and ‘di­rect’ lines, the same can be true of mar­keters’ own in­ter­nal re­source. Dig­i­tal’s knack of dis­re­gard­ing si­los isn’t just an agency chal­lenge.

Of course, this is all the­ory un­less the data match is pos­si­ble in the first place, de­mand­ing a breadth and qual­ity of third party data sets to ‘find’ your cus­tomers across. New Zealand me­dia pub­lish­ers are mak­ing great progress: the in­tro­duc­tion of a lo­gin to TVNZ’s new On De­mand plat­form for ex­am­ple, or Fair­fax’s in­ten­tion to con­sol­i­date its data across dig­i­tal and print plat­forms. 2015 prom­ises to be a year in which New Zealand-based third party me­dia owner data takes a ma­jor step for­ward.

In this con­text, the va­lid­ity of silo­ing ‘me­dia’ and ‘di­rect’ dis­ci­plines is in­creas­ingly un­der pres­sure. At FCB our full ser­vice model is en­abling us to em­brace this blur­ring. But ir­re­spec­tive of your op­er­at­ing model, those busi­nesses and agen­cies that can bring the two to­gether— and soon—will stand to gain most.

At the start of each year, just as we’re get­ting back from that glo­ri­ous sum­mer break, there seems to be an ever-in­creas­ing ar­ray of trend pre­dic­tions – from re­tail trends, to sports, Os­cars, ca­reers, celebri­ties, cars, the work place, share­mar­kets, tech­nolo­gies, the list goes on. I find th­ese lists re­ally in­ter­est­ing, as I’m sure half the things on them wouldn’t stand a chance of get­ting any­where with­out th­ese trend pre­dic­tions and then our own in­nate hu­man cu­rios­ity. In­ter­est­ingly self-ful­fill­ing.

The de­sign in­dus­try isn’t with­out its own pre­dic­tions. Th­ese need to be nav­i­gated care­fully in or­der not to sim­ply fall into the trap of be­ing rel­e­vant one minute and not the next.

Un­til last year, some mar­keters had con­sid­ered cross-de­vice op­ti­mi­sa­tion as a fringe ben­e­fit. No more. ‘Mo­bile first’ is the catch cry for on­line de­sign now. Agility mar­ket­ing (likes and tweets) looks to in­crease as mar­keters and au­di­ences talk ‘face to face’ more on­line than ever be­fore and rich me­dia and video be­come more com­mon­place. There’s a grow­ing de­sire for sim­plic­ity and clean­li­ness in com­mu­ni­ca­tions with flat sim­ple graph­ics con­tin­u­ing to lead the way. Coun­ter­ing this de­sire for clar­ity is a resur­gence of crafted ty­pog­ra­phy with an ex­pres­sive per­son­al­ity and hu­man­ity. The colour for the year is ap­par­ently masala (PMS 18-1438), with Pan­tone claim­ing it is ap­peal­ing to both male and fe­male, hearty, yet stylish, uni­ver­sally ap­peal­ing and trans­lat­ing to fash­ion, beauty, industrial de­sign, home fur­nish­ings and in­te­ri­ors.

Part of the trick is know­ing when a trend is rel­e­vant to your com­mu­ni­ca­tions task and when it’s not, but more im­por­tantly un­der­stand­ing what’s be­hind the trend and rel­e­vantly ap­ply­ing this to a project. As a rule of thumb, it’s safe to say that if you’re work­ing on a one-off cam­paign or com­mu­ni­ca­tion that speaks to a more youth­ful au­di­ence you’ll want to be em­ploy­ing vis­ual el­e­ments and lan­guage that res­onate as be­ing ‘on trend’. Hav­ing said that, part of a designer’s role is al­ways go­ing to be en­sur­ing that the vis­ual lan­guage they are us­ing res­onates with their pri­mary au­di­ence.

Our work on the NZ Su­per Fund’s web­site is an ex­am­ple of this. The NZ Su­per Fund was set up for the Gov­ern­ment to save now in or­der to help pay for the fu­ture cost of pro­vid­ing Na­tional Su­per to Ki­wis. They have a clear un­der­stand­ing of what their au­di­ences are look­ing for and speak to them con­sis­tently over a long pe­riod of time. Our de­sign ap­proach needed to be cur­rent and, more im­por­tantly, rel­e­vant to many au­di­ences and for a num­ber of years to come.

Their pri­mary ex­ter­nal au­di­ences in­clude in­vest­ment man­agers that fol­low them closely with strong re­la­tion­ship-based com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­ter­ested mem­bers of the public and in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal me­dia. We’ve worked with the Fund for a num­ber of years on vis­ual iden­tity stream­lin­ing and var­i­ous off­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­clud­ing their an­nual re­port, which has achieved in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion.

The web­site held quite dif­fer­ent chal­lenges, speak­ing pri­mar­ily to au­di­ences that look to track the Fund’s per­for­mance and un­der­stand its in­vest­ment ap­proach. Work­ing closely with the client and un­der­tak­ing user testing, we built on their ex­ist­ing web­site’s good bones by re­fin­ing the in­for­ma­tion ar­chi­tec­ture (IA). We put a lot of fo­cus on the user ex­pe­ri­ence (UX), look­ing to op­ti­mise in­tu­itive site nav­i­ga­tion with an en­hanced site search to achieve trans­par­ent, clear, ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion. Gain­ing clar­ity through clear de­sign think­ing.

The de­sign so­lu­tion in­volved mov­ing the ex­ist­ing ab­stract im­agery to more hu­man im­agery of chil­dren, par­ents and grand­par­ents in­ter­act­ing in nat­u­ral New Zealand en­vi­ron­ments. Once again look­ing to the trend of con­nec­tiv­ity and be­long­ing, th­ese give an es­sen­tial re­al­ity to why the Fund ex­ists. This ap­proach also de­liv­ered on the in­ter-gen­er­a­tional as­pect of the Fund – sav­ing now to ben­e­fit fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Rich con­tent such as video was used to ex­plain more com­plex con­tent, once again on trend but clearly func­tional and ben­e­fi­cial to the end user, putting a face to the in­vest­ments. The de­sign uses a com­bi­na­tion of sub­tle but im­por­tant hu­man­ist de­sign as­sets such as soft shad­ow­ing in the nav­i­ga­tion and lay­ered colour tones. While th­ese go against the flat graph­ics trend, they cre­ate a warmer ex­pe­ri­ence that sup­ports the fund’s pur­pose.

The NZ Su­per web­site is a well-de­signed site that, although isn’t slav­ish to a trend, is clearly in­formed by them. It just takes a bit of courage and judge­ment.

When num­bers start to get into the bil­lions they cease, for me, to lack any real con­text. So when I heard that Face­book had pur­chased What­sApp last year for $19 bil­lion the fact that stuck with me was that this was over twice the value of Dis­ney Pixar. Se­ri­ously.

So, how are th­ese un­be­liev­able val­u­a­tions jus­ti­fied? Sim­ply put, peo­ple love mes­sag­ing. Around the world, there are now 12 ‘over the top’ (OTT, mean­ing they run on the in­ter­net rather than the cel­lu­lar net­work) ser­vices with over 100 mil­lion users. Year-on-year growth is sit­ting at an un­be­liev­able 203 per­cent and in 2014 there were 50 bil­lion in­stant mes­sages sent com­pared with just 21 bil­lion SMS.

The dig­i­tal land­scape is fun­da­men­tally chang­ing. With three bil­lion smartphones ver­sus 1.5 bil­lion com­put­ers, the fu­ture of con­sumers’ on­line ex­pe­ri­ences are go­ing to be mo­bile and per­sonal. Cou­ple this with the ex­plo­sive growth in mo­bile mes­sen­ger apps and a new com­mu­ni­ca­tions par­a­digm starts to emerge, one that moves away from search or dis­play ad­ver­tis­ing in favour of a more di­rect ap­proach.

Mes­sag­ing apps are a means of tap­ping this new par­a­digm; an op­por­tu­nity to reach a huge (yet highly tar­geted) au­di­ence in a per­sonal, yet eas­ily share­able, way on a plat­form that is al­ways in peo­ple’s pock­ets, the smart­phone.

The pop­u­lar­ity of mo­bile mes­sag­ing is helped by a grow­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion within youth de­mo­graph­ics of the one-size-fits-all ap­proach of the tra­di­tional so­cial net­works. The mes­sag­ing space of­fers an an­ti­dote to those plat­forms that are try­ing to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­one.

As Heather Galt, head of mar­ket­ing at Kik In­ter­ac­tive (a Canadian based OTT ser­vice) says: “There are many public spa­ces where you can find con­tent but peo­ple don’t want to talk to each other in public, they want to talk to each other one-to-one and have real con­ver­sa­tions.”

For brands look­ing to test the wa­ters, there is one over­ar­ch­ing golden rule. Re­mem­ber why peo­ple are there. If you are not im­prov­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumers then not only is it a waste if your time, but you will also be cre­at­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on/ex­pe­ri­ence of your brand. With that in mind, here are three sim­ple places to start. The fun­da­men­tal of the most ef­fec­tive ways to get no­ticed in this space is to cre­ate con­tent that does not hang around.

Ephemeral mes­sag­ing—con­tent that van­ishes af­ter a few sec­onds—by its very na­ture is hugely in­ter­est­ing to brands as the scarcity of the con­tent means peo­ple place more value on con­sum­ing it and give it their full value for the short time it ex­ists.

This of course in turn raises the bar for con­tent providers. If con­sumers are go­ing to give you their full, un­di­vided at­ten­tion then you bet­ter not dis­ap­point.

A great ex­am­ple comes from the NFL where the Philadel­phia Ea­gles use Snapchat to pro­vide con­tin­ual, year round be­hind the scenes con­tent, giv­ing their con­sumers a view of the team and the or­gan­i­sa­tion they wouldn’t usu­ally see. Their so­cial me­dia direc­tor Linda Thomas notes, “the en­gage­ment rates on this plat­form are huge, av­er­ag­ing be­tween 42 per­cent and 56 per­cent”. When com­pared with a Face­book av­er­age of around one to two per­cent the value of this plat­form starts to be­come clear. A study last year, pub­lished in the So­cial Neu­ro­science jour­nal, found that the hu­man brain per­ceived sym­bols such as :-) and ;-) in the same way it does with ac­tual faces. This means, as we un­der­stand them in­stantly, emoti­cons ac­tu­ally speed up com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

So, love them or hate them, we are all now in­creas­ingly us­ing icons to con­vey what we mean when it comes to mes­sag­ing apps. In a 2014 in­ter­view, Bene­dict Evans of ven­ture cap­i­tal firm An­dreessen Horowitz, noted: “There’s a frenzy of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion go­ing on with fu­ture of mes­sag­ing with new ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing on mo­bile that go be­yond typing some­thing and hit­ting send”.

Lead­ing the charge are apps such as Line that’s de­vel­oped more than 500 sticker sets for users to pay for, down­load and use. From Hello Kitty and Barcelona FC through to the slightly un­ex­pected, such as Paul McCart­ney, th­ese mean big busi­ness. From mid 2013 to mid 2014, Line earned over $500 mil­lion for sticker pur­chases alone. New ways for con­sumers to con­sume con­tent on th­ese plat­forms are be­ing in­tro­duced con­stantly, the lat­est com­ing from Snapchat. Its new ‘Dis­cover’ func­tion­al­ity al­lows its users to view ar­ti­cles, images, and videos from a va­ri­ety of pub­lish­ers in­side the app.

Dis­cover sep­a­rates con­tent into a va­ri­ety of ‘chan­nels’ from me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions like Com­edy Cen­tral, Vice and Na­tional Geo­graphic. Users see pre­views of the con­tent, de­cide if they’re in­ter­ested in it, and then view the en­tire thing in the ap­pli­ca­tion.

When an­nounc­ing Dis­cover, Snapchat stated that it’s “not so­cial me­dia,” which tells peo­ple “what to read based on what’s most re­cent or most popular.” In­stead, it’s fo­cused on mak­ing it eas­ier for pub­lish­ers and brands to dis­trib­ute their con­tent to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. It’s the work th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions are proud of, not the work that’s most vi­ral.

Pub­lish­ers will cer­tainly be quan­ti­fy­ing how well their con­tent per­forms in Dis­cover, but Snapchat’s po­si­tion­ing the fea­ture as a tool meant to cre­ate a real con­nec­tion be­tween brands and their au­di­ences. It won’t re­quire the per­fect head­line, or the right mix of hash­tags to make some­thing go vi­ral — it’s all about the con­tent. So the cre­ative gaunt­let is thrown: can your con­tent stand out and gen­uinely en­gage your au­di­ence? En­sure you are tar­get­ing the right plat­form for your au­di­ence. Fo­cus on adding to the con­sumers’ ex­pe­ri­ence (think about what is of gen­uine in­ter­est to them rather than just ram­ming a prod­uct down their throats). The abil­ity to cre­ate be­spoke con­tent on th­ese plat­forms is key. Share­ableby-de­sign think­ing needs to be at the heart of ev­ery­thing a brand does, as does un­der­stand­ing the mo­bile-only na­ture of th­ese new net­works (and cre­at­ing con­tent ac­cord­ingly).

One of the per­sis­tent public views that ex­ists around mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing is that th­ese in­dus­tries are great ma­nip­u­la­tors of us all, cre­at­ing in us silly de­sires and pass­ing fan­cies that di­vert us from a vir­tu­ous life path and empty our wal­lets with the skill of a pick­pocket.

And when one looks at some­thing like the furore cre­ated by Lewis Road Cream­ery around choco­late milk, it’s pretty easy to see how peo­ple might start mus­ing on this.

But the truth is that we are a much less Machi­avel­lian lot than our fancy milk would sug­gest. In­deed, when one con­sid­ers what is ac­tu­ally known via the so­cial sciences about the ease with which hu­man de­ci­sion­mak­ing is in­flu­enced, you can’t help but feel that most mar­ket­ing prac­ti­tion­ers are ei­ther in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate to the plight of ev­ery­day peo­ple or sim­ply miss­ing a trick.

Let me il­lus­trate this with a clas­sic ex­am­ple from be­havioural econ­o­mist Dan Ariely re­lat­ing to the rel­a­tiv­ity that ex­ists around our de­ci­sion mak­ing. The Econ­o­mist mag­a­zine once of­fered three op­tions for po­ten­tial sub­scribers—a $59 in­ter­net-only sub­scrip­tion, a $125 print-only op­tion or a $125 in­ter­net and print of­fer. Okay, weird pric­ing struc­ture I hear you say, and not sur­pris­ingly no-one took up the $125 print­only op­tion and some­thing like 84 per­cent of tested con­sumers took up the print plus web ver­sion. In­ter­est­ingly how­ever, in a sec­ond test, when the use­less print-only op­tion was dropped from the list of pos­si­ble op­tions, the num­ber of peo­ple choos­ing the all-in $125 op­tion also dropped. Rather than 84 per­cent choos­ing the big pack­age, only 32 per­cent took up the print and web op­tion.

The prin­ci­ple il­lus­trated here is the idea that hu­mans don’t judge the value of things in ab­so­lute terms. Of­ten we have no idea what things are worth un­til they can be con­sid­ered in terms of the rel­a­tive ad­van­tage they present and what we think this might be worth in value terms. By putting a ‘dud’ op­tion in the mix, The Econ­o­mist al­tered the rel­a­tive value of the print edi­tion and pushed up sub­scriber spend.

Things get even more in­ter­est­ing when you start think­ing about some of the other ideas that per­me­ate the be­havioural sciences, such as the over­rid­ing power of con­text in shap­ing our de­ci­sion pro­cesses. Daniel Kah­ne­man talks to the topic ex­ten­sively in his pow­er­ful book Think­ing Fast and Slow, cit­ing that the chances of a judge grant­ing a prisoner pa­role was over­whelm­ingly in­flu­enced by how hun­gry they were.

So given that th­ese ideas are em­pir­i­cally proven con­cepts, one im­me­di­ate ob­ser­va­tion is to won­der why mar­ket­ing does not place more stock in util­is­ing them in how it goes about the busi­ness of max­imis­ing sales. If hu­man de­ci­sion-mak­ing can be in­flu­enced in proven ways, much as the eye can’t help be­ing fooled by op­ti­cal il­lu­sions, why is this not the back­bone of the mar­ket­ing in­dus­try? Are we just gen­er­ously giv­ing con­sumers a head-start, or is there some­thing we fun­da­men­tally don’t want to ac­knowl­edge in the idea that mar­ket­ing could be made more ef­fec­tive through the rig­or­ous ap­pli­ca­tion of ‘science’ over ‘art’?

The sec­ond ob­ser­va­tion is that if all hu­man de­ci­sions are rel­a­tive and fluid, de­pen­dent en­tirely on the con­text they are pre­sented in, what does that mean for the whole idea of a cus­tomer-cen­tric busi­ness? How do we go about build­ing a busi­ness around max­imis­ing the value we de­liver to cus­tomers if they them­selves have no fixed idea of what they are look­ing for? This is a re­ally im­por­tant ques­tion for mod­ern busi­ness, be­cause what it sug­gests is that great care has to be taken in how we in­ter­pret what peo­ple want from us. They can tell us one thing, but the truth be­hind what will gen­uinely connect us most centrally with what they need to feel happy is likely some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

In­deed, cus­tomer cen­tric­ity is prob­a­bly bet­ter thought of as the cre­ation of a con­text that makes peo­ple feel good about a de­ci­sion they make than it is about max­imis­ing the ac­tual prod­uct or ser­vice it­self. It’s the scarcity rather than the choco­late milk that drives us. We feel good about buy­ing in this con­text, so value has been cre­ated.

The end game for this line of think­ing is by more ef­fec­tively util­is­ing a knowl­edge of what in­flu­ences hu­man de­ci­sion-mak­ing, we ac­tu­ally be­come more ef­fec­tive at meet­ing peo­ple’s needs rather than more Machi­avel­lian. We cre­ate, in the warm rush of se­cur­ing a near myth­i­cal bot­tle of choco­late milk, a far greater value than could even have ex­isted in taste or pack­ag­ing max­imi­sa­tion.

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