Let’s start by defining content marketing. Content marketing is an age-old tradition dating back to the marketplaces of ancient Rome, when traders and peasants would gather around to hear tales about the great conquests of Caesar from royally sanctioned storytellers. This is where content marketing has its roots – advertising and content merging together to draw audiences in with the purpose of engaging with a brand without them even realising it. There are no preachy RTBs (reasons to believe). No functional claims or creative taglines. Content marketing is simply a way to sell without selling and exciting people about your story.
A great example in modern times is Lego. The Lego brick was invented in 1948. It is an old product without any new and flashy technological advances.
A decade ago, Lego went through a crisis until the company realised that they needed to connect with their audience on their own terms. Lego didn’t want to have consumers; they wanted to create passionate fans. And so they created something much more authentic than TV or print ads – they created games, TV programmes and even a Lego movie... perhaps the biggest content marketing exercise ever. Now people don’t just purchase Lego, they passionately consume and share Lego content.
Another example is Commander Safeguard. Safeguard is an antibacterial soap and one cannot imagine this product creating any sort of affinity with schoolgoing children. That is, until Commander Safeguard came along.
Through Commander Safeguard, P&G created stories that were not only educational and informative, but extremely entertaining for young viewers. Commander was able to battle germs and make heroes out of children everywhere who pledged to create a safe and pure Pakistan. What a remarkable strategy. P&G capitalised on peer pressure in the subtlest way. Rather than think like an advertiser, P&G thought like a publisher and instead of just consumers, it created a new generation of emotion-fuelled fans who shared and talked about Commander’s latest adventures at every opportunity. That is the second most valuable lesson in content marketing: create content that continues to work long after airing.
My final example is National Foods. In National Ka Pakistan, we follow Chef Saadat and Chef Mehboob as they travel throughout Pakistan cooking all kinds of regional cuisines. Women everywhere flocked to watch this programme because it offered them entertainment as well as useful recipes they could try out at home. In this case, content acted as a value addition for National Foods; a place where consumers could learn new stuff that was relevant to their lives. This is the third very important lesson in content marketing strategy: be relevant and useful to your consumer.
There are many more great examples of content marketing out of Pakistan, which should be analysed in detail if we are to develop a mindset whereby understanding consumers, their interests and their issues are central to the communication.
Creating content worth sharing is very simple thanks to the presence of numerous social media platforms, each with their unique offering and different content formats. Brands can connect with their consumers and speak their language. Storytelling using social media and mobiles has become easier and way more effective than a TVC with a dance sequence.
The question is whether Pakistani branding and marketing are beginning to think along the same lines. Do brands have a clear understanding of the audience, their interests, issues, and habits? Are we adding any value by just being aspirational?
From an overall advertising perspective, I believe these lessons are yet to be learned by many. Most brands are still not able to understand the long-term benefits of connecting with their consumers, standing up for something and owning that platform. Mega celebrities, great locations, glamorous shots remain the trend. In fact, it is almost a sin to consider a piece of communication without heavy branding and showcasing the benefits. Very little thought is given to the consumer and yet it is imperative to understand that there is no recall to this method. With all due respect to Fawad Khan, in the last five months he has sold chips, phones, tea and even deodorants. We all know how much money is spent doing this, yet consumers barely remember them once the campaign is over. Marketers need to start experimenting and allocate budgets for content marketing.
The examples shared above were developed after taking into account the following key points: understand the audience and their environment; identify their issues and interests; select the platforms and formats they like and create and curate content that addresses issues or adds value.
With a massive population under the age of 25, brands should start using digital media to create and curate content that is able to grab the attention-deficient Millennial. At Digitz, a simple way of strategising is based on a seven step framework created by The Content Marketing Institute:
1 Plan: What do you want to accomplish? What is your USP? What issues do you want to address? What are the risks of experimentation?
2 Audience: Understand your consumers. Develop their personas. How do they want to receive the content? What are their interests and issues? How can your brand speak to these issues and interests?
3 Story: Don’t try to sell. Instead, tell your brand story that reflects your passion and what you stand for. Develop strong relationships with your consumers by being emotional. Keep evolving your story along with your customer’s journey.
4 Channel: Define where your audience is going to consume your content. Identify the right platforms (social media, SEO, mobile, activation) where your audience can best interact with your content. The context is as important as the content.
5 Process: Define how you will execute your plans and the process of redefining your strategy. How is your content being consumed and how can you optimise it? What conversations are happening and what opportunities can you find to interact?
6 Converse: Start with listening. At Digitz we have deployed multiple tools just to listen to what the audience is saying about our brands, our competition and our products. Without listening we will never know if our content is working. Listening should be followed by conversation.
Real value only comes when we are able to converse and connect.
7 Measurement: What are your end goals: brand awareness, increased leads, customer retention? Define these and develop a framework to track them. Goals can be as simple as consumption metrics (views, impressions, downloads, etc.); engagement metrics (shares, interactions, etc.); and lead generation (opt in, submissions, user-generated content).
Content marketing is not a new concept. The only difference is that it is way more relevant now. Consumers are going to flip the channel. They are not interested in what your product will do for them. Unless you are able to address something close to them, they will move on. We should start investing our time, effort and money in answering the questions defined above and developing content strategies that will last for a much longer time to come.
Azam Jalal Khan is COO, Digitz. firstname.lastname@example.org