More and more brands are getting into content marketing and those that are already onto it are doing more and spending more. Digital opens the door, says Neal Farrell, Narrative’s CEO, but quality and relevance are key.
It was 1997 and I had just left my lucrative sales position at Car magazine to launch the publisher’s first website, cartoday.com. We were “going digital”. Fast-forward a decade to 2007 and companies were still talking about going digital, but a lot had changed and social media and search engine optimisation had been thrown into the mix… and smartphones were on their way in.
Today, nearly a decade later, we no longer talk about “going digital”, as digital has become a hygiene factor in brand communication.
As a business today, if you are not online you are not relevant and your customer base will likely wither away into insignificance until eventually you close shop or sell to a competitor. Dramatic, I know, but often the case.
Let me explain
2016 feels a lot like 1997 in that in the same way we were talking about “this website thing” I’m hearing a lot of conversation about “this content thing”, and from the most unlikely of brands. From big construction companies to small coffee shops, they’re all talking about content marketing and storytelling. Unlike digital, content marketing has been around for more than a century with John Deere credited in many circles as having kick-started brand communication using content, in a printed magazine, The Furrow, which is still going today.
In the Content Marketing Institute’s research report Trends and Benchmarks 2016, 77 percent of marketers surveyed said that in 2016 they would produce more content with an average of 32 percent of marketing budget going to content marketing activities. Leading the tactics is social media and Facebook as a channel. 32 percent sounds like a lot, but when you consider how many of your customers are online and how much time they are spending online, you soon realise that without content to attract and engage your existing and potential customers to your digital platforms, you have no conversation starter and no way of building affinity. So content it is.
Digital gave birth to content
But all of this was made possible by digital because before website blogs, social posts and video we had printed magazines and newsletters. As a consequence, content marketing was for the elite flush brands that had the budgets to print and distribute magazines. With digital, the majority of a content marketing budget can go towards the generation and promotion of content. Owned media is the way to go with brands developing their own media channels. Digital has made it possible for brands of all shapes and sizes to own their own media.
The role of content
Content for content’s sake is not worth the effort or the money. Content because it is useful, helpful, relevant and entertaining is worth the effort and the money. After all, it’s there to attract customers to your website, to create a ‘want’ through inspiration, to fulfil a desire through ideas and to change the perception customers have of your brand. But ultimately to build affinity and help grow sales leads. Get it right and you’ll have customers talking about you and buying from you.
So where does that leave your brand communications?
If you are already content marketing, then it’s likely that the conversations happening today are about how to get better at it and, importantly, how to measure success to ensure that the investment is worth it. If you aren’t content marketing then I suggest you get online and start looking for global examples of companies similar to yours in industries like yours, that are. This will kick-start your thinking and desire to go for it.
Quality and relevance are key
Media companies have been telling us for years that content is king – and it is, by the way – but quality and relevance are key to success. Get either of these two things wrong and you’ll likely do more damage than good. That’s where a sharp content strategy and the best talent come into play.
With digital content marketing, it’s never been easier to get started, but it’s also never been so difficult to get it right.
Neal Farrell is the CEO of the content marketing agency Narrative, a division of the Publicis Machine group based in South Africa. Narrative’s clients include blue-chip brands such as Sanlam, Massbuild, FirstRand, adidas and Jeep.