Content Marketing Kick-Start yo ur Content Marketing
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.