I love to read. Books, magazines, dosage instructions on drug bottles – it doesn’t matter. If I’m bored and it’s there, I’ll read it. Conversely, my wife is all about visuals. If the picture ain’t moving and compelling, it’s not worth her time. She rarely reads, even when she’s bored, seeking out other content on her phone and enjoying that more than reading.
A brand’s newsroom will probably reach me at some point throughout the day because I like that sort of thing. But to say “brands are now publishers” is reducing the world to people who enjoy reading over other things, which is a shockingly low number of people.
To say brands need to be publishers means brands need to be more than self-centered. They need to reach out and give their customers happiness, thoughtful anecdotes and a general contribution to their life.
The answer, in my mind, is not surprising. Brands have to deliver content. Disruptive content to be exact.
“[A brand] is the experience that we create at the entirety of the funnel…and at the heart of that is content.” – Robert Rose on ‘The Marketing Craft’
Brands are opening up the floodgates for media and content. They’ve realized the importance of content generation and the (now cliche) ‘value of storytelling.’ The more pressing issue now is: customers really care? After all, the more content there is, the harder it is to get noticed.
With the only examples of great branding and content coming from major players like Red Bull or companies starting media companies, it’s hard to tease out what really matters for entrepreneurs starting businesses and other lesser known brands.
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Disruption means engagement
The thread that ties content marketing to customers is engagement. Red Bull shows people doing incredible things and says, “people who drink Red Bull do things like this.” Note: classic Seth Godin saying.
Dropbox’s product demo video focused on a niche market that would actually get a lot of value out of what their product does. That one demo video was targeted to a specific type of person, imagine that.
Content that disrupts someone’s day and engages them on a deeper level will build your brand more than a blog post, guest post or product description guaranteed. Customers want to support brands that tell stories – about themselves, their customers, and their worldview. They want stories that move them, illicit emotion, and all round ‘get’ where they’re coming from.
So when Robert Rose talks about the entire funnel, that means from awareness to relationship. That means using disruptive content to define yourself for your customers. The most important lesson however, is that disruptive content is not limited to the publisher.
Here are three examples of disruptive content from incredible brands that go beyond the ‘publishing’ mindset.
Build your brand by showing, not selling
Flixel is an app that creates beautiful cinemagraphs. What are they? I have no idea. But I just watched their ‘coming of age’ video and fell in love. They basically make some parts of a picture move and other parts of a picture not move. Check it out, it’s amazing.
The video they released recently tells the story of how they came to be. It’s a vision statement – a testament to why they do what they do. The video takes us on a journey from inception, to loss & hardship to success. And the best part is, they didn’t ask for a damn thing.
No selling, just showing.
Showing people the value and beauty this app brings to photographers, models, and marketers. It shows the basics of what a cinemagraph is, why people should care, and how they make it extremely easy. If that doesn’t pull people into their sales funnel, I don’t know what will.
Keep customers in your universe
One of the most addicting free app games right now is Bethesda’s Vault game. Completely free, almost no in-app purchases, and it’s fun as hell. Why would they spend a bunch of money creating an app? Because it keeps their customers (gamers) in their product’s world and brand. experienced.
Bethesda may have realized they needed to work on retaining their existing customer base. So why not give users a similar game to their flagship product, Fallout, for free so they can play it throughout the day on their phone? Not only does this keep them engaged with the brand, it also gives them a way to promote the next game or product or other cool app to customers who are already playing in that world.
Content beyond your brand
Beer is big money right now. The craft brewery market exploded over the past couple of years, and along with it, came the Millenials. We love beer that has a story: locally sourced hand picked hops; roasted grains; oak-aged lagers; black IPA’s; Spruce Tree Ales. The list goes on.
So with this flood of competition in the market, and a not-so-great reputation for their beer, large breweries like MillerCoors needed to up their game. MillerCoors turned to content to reestablish their brand online, focusing on their brand as ‘a modern pioneer.’
Enter a beautiful piece of ‘branded’ content. MillerCoors produced a 5-episode series on the modern pioneer, almost completely untouched by their logo or brand — only 3 seconds of the video had their logo on it, and it wasn’t even about beer! The episodes feature creators. Humans who are craftsman, experts in their field and create because they believe in it.
What did MillerCoors get out of it? They got the chance to reach the large (and difficult) Millennial market who shared the crap out of those videos, the earned media of press/news organizations picking up on their story, and above all reestablishing their brand in tradition and craftsmanship. It instantly brought them to the same level as craft breweries. Something I never thought a large beer company could do.
Now all they have to do is make great beer.
Consider the buyer’s decision process
The B2B market is a tough one. Customers aren’t spending their own money (typically), so naturally they have approval processes and a few different ‘players’ in the decision making.
Enter the buyer’s decision process. Who is your ‘customer’? Who makes the final decision on your product? The CEO, CFO, CTO? The list goes on. Content marketing in the B2B space is best served with different personas. How can you attract an IT guy to your product while at the same time simplifying your solution to garner the attention of the operations manager? You can’t. Each of these people are a part of your customer segment and sales process.
So your content marketing must be as targeted as your audience is. If your solution touches multiple people in an organization, you need to figure out how to engage with each one!
(Major H/T to April Dunford for her killer article on this.)
In the age of content, context is king
When brands first look at brand building with content marketing, the variety of ways to spend money is overwhelming. The point of content is not to generate sales. The end goal is to build an asset that you can leverage – your brand’s audience – for future gains.
An audience who believes in what you’re doing and feels that you contribute to their life/job/personality will be infinitely more likely to buy your product vs. a new group of people who don’t know who you are. Hint: they don’t wait their whole life to go through your sales funnel over and over again.
So when taking a look at your content marketing strategy, how can you make it more disruptive or reach an audience outside of the ‘publishing’ world?