Rebel Con­tent’s Laura Roberts and Raush Salhi say con­tent is king and queen of com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS - Raush Salhi & Laura Roberts, the co-founders of Rebel Con­tent

While we’re not here to give a his­tory les­son on the sub­ject, us­ing con­tent to drive busi­ness leads has been around a lot longer than we’d like to think. There are brands that are re­ally push­ing the bound­aries when it comes to great orig­i­nal con­tent in all forms (writ­ten, vis­ual and video). We’re not just talk­ing about the Ap­ples or Ama­zons of this world, either. Rather, it’s the niche and tra­di­tion­ally very dry in­dus­tries that are caus­ing a stir. Take the in­sur­ance sec­tor, for ex­am­ple. No one ever gets ex­cited about pre­mi­ums, terms and in­vest­ments, yet per­cep­tions are shift­ing that this ‘bor­ing’ sub­ject mat­ter can be en­gag­ing, as long as the con­tent is. State Farm, a large in­sur­ance cor­po­rate in the US, re­mains a very rel­e­vant ex­am­ple in il­lus­trat­ing this. They re­alised early on that for them to be top of mind in the typ­i­cally in­sur­ance-shy mil­len­nial mar­ket, they needed to cre­ate con­tent that pri­ori­tised en­gage­ment. Their ap­proach has been multi-faceted, part­ner­ing with Buz­zfeed and Gawker to cre­ate share-wor­thy lis­ti­cles in­di­rectly re­lated to their prod­uct, as well as tac­ti­cal part­ner­ships with TV net­works to pro­mote their ‘here to help life go right’ slo­gan and in­te­grat­ing their brand val­ues into the nar­ra­tive it­self. No sales, no gim­micks, just nat­u­rally seeded con­tent that con­nects with the au­di­ence they are try­ing to tar­get.

Over in the other cor­ner, you have a much eas­ier sell with fast food chain Wendy’s. Known for their wicked wit, they were one of the first to use con­tent mar­ket­ing tac­tics to roast their ri­vals and con­sumers alike on Twit­ter. By lev­er­ag­ing quirky vi­su­als and quick-fire re­sponses, they have be­come sass personified on this plat­form, re­sult­ing in an un­shak­able brand iden­tity, vi­ral cov­er­age, mil­lions of retweets and the sort of free pro­mo­tion oth­ers can only dream of. Re­mem­ber Carter and his nuggs? That, friends, is how it is done.

If we haven’t quite driven home the point enough yet, this au­di­ence-first men­tal­ity goes be­yond just cre­at­ing a strong per­sona for peo­ple to en­gage with. There also has to be some­thing in it for them. As se­ri­ous cof­fee con­nois­seurs our­selves, we ap­pre­ci­ate when brands go the ex­tra mile to re­ward loy­alty, and this is cer­tainly the case with a busi­ness like In­tel­li­gentsia and their Brew Guides. While it’s ob­vi­ous that they’re in the busi­ness of sell­ing cof­fee, their guide doesn’t men­tion that fact once. In­stead it shows you how to make the per­fect brew ac­cord­ing to pref­er­ence, bean and ori­gin. Your brand affin­ity ratch­ets up a notch with­out a sec­ond thought, be­cause they’ve mas­tered what we all tend to for­get in the heat of ex­e­cut­ing the per­fect brand cam­paign: ev­ery­one is a con­sumer. If we see through the fluff, what makes you think they won’t as well?

It’s lit­tle ex­tras like this, or points of dif­fer­ence that will help brands stand out against all the white noise. Po­si­tion­ing them­selves as an ex­pert is one way to win the day, but that means cre­at­ing con­tent that is not only in­struc­tional and valu­able but en­gag­ing too. Let’s weigh that up – if it’s a choice be­tween a 20-page guide on how to do some­thing, ver­sus a video in­struct­ing you on the same topic, well, let’s be frank, you’re al­ready watch­ing it, aren’t you? Look at the likes of fash­ion blog­ger, Wendy Nguyen, who at­tracted mil­lions of views thanks to her in­for­ma­tive se­ries, of­fer­ing ad­vice to as­pir­ing trend­set­ters with pop­u­lar videos, like “25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Min­utes”. She’s cred­i­ble, un­der­stands her au­di­ence and uses con­tent mar­ket­ing as a gen­uine means by which to reach them. We could go on with a never-end­ing list of ex­am­ples, but you get what we’re driv­ing at. 2019 is only go­ing to fur­ther fuel brand am­bi­tions when it comes to pro­duc­ing killer con­tent-mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives. The ex­cit­ing part is see­ing where this will take them, es­pe­cially given the many medi­ums and chan­nels open for this type of mar­ket­ing. Here are the five trends we pre­dict will shape con­tent for the com­ing year.

1. Voice search: “Alexa, are you lis­ten­ing?” Let’s talk about the ele­phant – or in this case the Alexa – in the room. She’s lis­ten­ing to ev­ery word you say, but how can you use her to talk to your au­di­ences? There’s a much-loved sound­bite sur­round­ing the po­ten­tial for voice search: It is ex­pected to hit at least 50 per cent by 2020. This may sound in­cred­i­bly high, but think about how our own at­ti­tudes as con­sumers have changed; we have come full cir­cle, pre­fer­ring to speak rather than type. It’s a for­eign, yet ex­cit­ing ap­proach for us to tap into, es­pe­cially given it uses what we value most as con­tent mar­keters (words) and throws them up in the air. It’s a game changer re­ally, tak­ing skill in un­der­stand­ing the con­sumer men­tal­ity in how they re­act to what they hear, and how they take in and act on what you’re pro­vid­ing. Think of it as a new lan­guage of conversational con­tent that’s a com­bi­na­tion of speed (quick replies are es­sen­tial) and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion, also in­jected with that es­sen­tial layer of SEO to op­ti­mise the out­come.

2. The power of a pod­cast: Re­mem­ber when bell­bot­toms made a come­back, or when flip phones were rein­tro­duced? Well, we all thought that ra­dio was dead at one point as well, but had we taken a page from the cycli­cal his­tory of nearly ev­ery­thing, we could have avoided get­ting this so wrong. As much as we all love a great vis­ual, our imag­i­na­tion as hu­mans makes ver­bal sto­ry­telling the first point of ref­er­ence for mar­keters. The power of a good pod­cast can’t be un­der­es­ti­mated, given to­day’s on-the-go life­style, and as a means for soak­ing up in­for­ma­tion. It’s some­thing brands have caught onto with rev­er­ence, util­is­ing the plat­form to en­ter­tain and ed­u­cate at the same time. What’s more, it fits the need to put the au­di­ence first, forc­ing busi­nesses to pro­duce use­ful ma­te­rial that is not so brand-focused. It’s a re­la­tion­ship of trust at the end of the day: earn your lis­tener’s at­ten­tion or lose them with a sim­ple click of the but­ton. As far as your cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion strat­egy goes, cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful pod­cast could prove a shrewd move, adding a new layer in which to at­tract and re­tain ac­tive buy­ers.

3. Long form is back with a vengeance: The writ­ten word lives. De­spite de­creas­ing at­ten­tion

2019 is only go­ing to fur­ther fuel brand am­bi­tions when it comes to pro­duc­ing killer con­tent-mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives. The ex­cit­ing part is see­ing where this will take them.

spans and an increasing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for video, there is also a real and in­sa­tiable in­ter­est in long-form con­tent as well. Not that we need to val­i­date its value or ef­fec­tive­ness, but hu­mour us a sec­ond, be­cause long form does af­ford brands the op­por­tu­nity to develop ma­te­rial worth shar­ing be­yond its ini­tial dis­tri­bu­tion. And as much as we all love a cute cat pic that we’ll blindly re-share to our net­work of friends, to en­sure the longevity of your col­lat­eral means by­pass­ing the shal­low cap­tioned memes and of­fer­ing well-versed and -rea­soned ma­te­rial in­stead. Re­search has proven that what ac­tu­ally re­ceives the most shares is pieces with 1,000 words or more. It’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion as your SEO rank im­proves too, land­ing your brand or­gan­i­cally (well, as much as any­thing can be these days) in the Google top spots as well.

4. Learn live: We­bi­nars are an ef­fec­tive, yet so far largely un­tapped form of con­tent mar­ket­ing, but we reckon that is all set to change this year. Aside from be­ing a great in­ter­ac­tive plat­form to con­vey your mes­sage, they al­low you to en­gage live and in real time with your au­di­ence. Don’t get us wrong, putting your­self out there in this way can be ter­ri­fy­ing, but when the re­ward (the Con­tent Mar­ket­ing In­sti­tute lists this as one of the top five types of con­tent that nat­u­rally at­tract links to your site) is worth tak­ing the risk, you at least need to have this on your radar. Mak­ing a suc­cess­ful we­bi­nar hinges on pick­ing the right topic (broad enough that peo­ple will want to lis­ten yet nar­row enough that it of­fers some­thing new) and then con­sid­er­ing its for­mat and length, and the tools you will use to go live.

5. Shape shift­ing and the UI/UX fac­tor: How and where con­tent will sit is in con­stant evo­lu­tion, which is why our fi­nal pre­dic­tion is humbly say­ing that we can’t be suc­cess­ful on our own. We need to col­lab­o­rate with var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tors that are driven by aes­thet­ics and un­der­stand the func­tion­al­ity of dif­fer­ent plat­forms. It has never been more im­por­tant to value and ac­knowl­edge all as­pects of de­sign, not be­cause we should have a say on colour or sound, but be­cause the con­tent of any plat­form drives the user ex­pe­ri­ence; fail to de­liver on either side of the equa­tion and no one wins. The fact that we’re all con­nected through mul­ti­ple de­vices in ev­ery sense of the word (wear­ables, hear­ables, etc.) makes things even more com­pli­cated. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all ap­proach. Be­ing able to de­liver on both ma­te­rial and de­sign is the win­ning com­bi­na­tion we all need to strive for. So, there you have it. Con­tent lives to see an­other day, and won’t be so eas­ily drowned out by other, more flashier com­mu­ni­ca­tion gim­micks. The chal­lenge for con­tent mar­keters to­day is re­tain­ing what makes them unique in the first place; pro­duc­ing amaz­ing con­tent and not some­thing that plays it safe with medi­ocrity. We don’t need a best prac­tices check­list to suc­cess, be­cause the more we colour be­tween the lines, the less we are free to be cre­ative with our out­puts. Just be­cause con­tent, like so many other tools be­fore it, has be­come em­broiled in cor­po­rate red tape and reg­u­lated by in­dus­try stan­dards with a nice lit­tle tick box to check off, doesn’t mean you need to fol­low that lead. Go on, live a lit­tle… it’s a new year af­ter all.

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