The world, it almost belabors to the point to even say it, is no longer the same. This holds the most amount of truth for marketers selling their brands.
Let’s face it: The water from the usual wells of traditional advertising continue to dry up each day and marketers are finding it more difficult to ask for more money to bankroll their promotional efforts, especially when the sales targets they projected are simply not showing up.
For many, the reason is common sense. The media landscape over the past decade has shifted in seismic proportions. For the longest time, we have all grown accustomed to the tyranny of media’s big three – TV, radio, and print. People were forced to consume whatever information that was aired and printed there, mostly ads, thus it was easy, albeit expensive, for businesses to launch and sustain their brands.
Traditional advertising can be likened to privileged noise that gives marketers total control of what and how they want their message sent to audiences enslaved by mass media. They call it disruption and this simply means they can interrupt your telenovelas with commercials or steal a page from your Sunday morning read and you had no choice but to pay attention. That is why the advertising industry over the past decades, following the commandments of icons like David Ogilvy, were so obsessed with creativity. Make the ad funny, or make it emotional, whatever you do, make the most of the airtime or ad space bought.
But then the unexpectedly rapid entry and adoption of online and social media overhauled the establishment. Their shift was not necessarily a result of the new platform; what changed the game is how digital liberated people from the autocracy of traditional media.
Suddenly, everyone can say what they want and have their piece reach as many people as never before. Today, ten-second clips of puppies get millions of views. A man with an act about pen, apple, and pineapple has become so popular that traditional news media are almost embarrassingly forced to feature it, if only to, quite ironically, remain relevant.
This is the exact scenario that puts most marketers in the tight fix. The old disruption country club has let the public in. The noise brought in more noise, and as a result, the audience learned to filter the content, preferring those that are interesting versus to those that may be interesting, but are out there to sell something.
The self-proclaimed father of modern marketing, Phillip Kotler, once said a brand is one that is intended to differentiate goods or services from their competitor. Not anymore. Fighting for brands requires marketers to compete with the noise brought about by the very people they are trying to reach, even before they can make a case on what makes their brand different.
Many ad agencies, on the other hand, try to survive by teleporting their TV creatives to digital platforms. This, unfortunately, is a move that misses the point altogether. Digital is not the enemy; it is what empowers the people to drown out their message.
This why more and more brand managers are shifting their efforts to content marketing. Unfortunately, many ad agencies deplore the concept of content marketing simply because the idea shifts the promotional preparation outside the creativity kitchen and more into publishing. Google it. More and more brands are putting less money in ad creatives, while investing more in getting former journalists and TV news producers to market their brands.
But what exactly is content marketing?
First part, goes without saying, is content, which means brands must determine what content their audiences will want to consume. Brands must learn how to draw up content the way news editors determine what their readers want – and what they DON’T want is a press release and self-serving pieces of information.
If you’re selling a ball pen, for instance, people won’t care about the technology that was used to make your ball point. Come up with something like “what your handwriting tells about your personality,” and just like that, your brand gets their attention. The simple litmus test is to ask yourself: “If I share this on Facebook, will people outside my company share it?”
Shareability, then, is what marketing your content is all about. In the old days, content is discovered in the walls of traditional media. People read or watch the news to get information. Today, content is produced to find their audiences. Luckily, digital has the tools to make it possible. Search engines and platforms like Pinterest are great for reaching out to people who are searching for something they aspire to have. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, on the other hand, lets you target a demographics of audience that you think would be interested in consuming your content and engage long term in what useful information you are selling for your brand.
So again, to succeed, brands must think more like publishers.
All in all, while the situation for today’s marketer carries apocalyptic takeaways, what we have, really, is good news. Digital liberated the platform for the public and, in the process, it liberated brands from traditional marketing platforms.
To reach and endear their audience back, marketers must stop promoting brands with a “campaign” mind set. Why? Because campaigns, by nature, is a pitch. It is akin to a salesman doing a sales talk.
We all hate salesmen.
In this era of digital – especially social media – people prefer friends. Friends don’t launch campaigns; they enter into commitments. Friends get in touch with friends. They start conversations. In that cycle of conversation, people are engaged and they get an idea what kind of a person a friend is. In the context of marketing, brands must enter into conversations, not about themselves, but about the needs of their audiences.
Every word, every content must be about the audience and how their brand personality is something worth, in today’s parlance, “friending up.” ###