“Content-marketing” is no longer just the latest buzzword. It’s now an everyday element of the modern brand landscape. And it seems many companies are still struggling to make the leap from sporadic campaign activity to an always-on conversationalist.
We often find ourselves working with brands that are hundreds of years old, with established perceptions and hard-earned reputations. The challenge for them is to adapt to talking to an audience that requires more frequent contact, without trouncing all of that previous work.
How do you behave like a big brand in a world where small talk is taking over?
As long as there are no uncomfortable pauses the conversation is going well, right? Wrong. It’s the fast-track to your brand becoming the high street hairdresser. Talking is much more powerful when people want to listen.
As the need to talk more frequently with more people results in creating more varied content, the demand that places on brand consistency is increasingly intense.
Developing a content strategy is (thankfully) now par for the course, however it seems in the panic to keep pace with the market, many companies are still forgoing a full brand exploration.
Above The Line Agencies have been creating brand books and guidelines for decades, and rightfully so, it gives time for everyone in the team a chance to gain a deep understanding of a brand’s heritage and values, making the development of executions far quicker, and the work stronger. And it gives the client a strong platform from which to judge future campaigns.
Now, I know the budgets are very different, however if we think it’s worth the investment to educate the production of an ATL campaign that spans around 12 customer touch points across the year, why not put a similar level of investment into constant customer conversation?
Not only does a strong content strategy require us to have frequent interaction with customers, it also requires lightening reactions with the capacity to respond to global events as they happen. That simply can’t happen without have a deep understanding of a brand’s perspective, attitude and position in the world.
Doesn’t sound like much of a shortcut does it? That’s more work, not less. On the face of it, maybe. However, you’ll save hours of work, wasted spend and cut to the chase far quicker with some upfront consideration.
If you ask yourself who’s doing it well, the usual suspects will spring to mind, such as Nike, Dove, Airbnb, Lego, Paddy Power etc. However, it’s not just the big budget clients and the multi-nationals who are nailing it. You’ll often find small companies operating on minimal budget are punching well above their weight. Budget hostel brand Hans Brinker, start-up coffee company Extract, and niche clothing brand Hiut Denim Company are just three examples.
They may operate on different ends of the budget scale, but the one thing they have in common is they all truly understand their brand’s perspective on the world.
Airbnb’s proposition of unique experiences that allow you to live like a local, has hit home for years. Such has been the strength of their content it has actually shifted their business. They now sell curated experiences at the same level as the holiday home offering, making their product and content streams almost inseparable.
At the other end of the scale, Extract Coffee Roasters is a growing brand that promises “better coffee”. A passion for the product and an overall love of what they do is evident in every piece of copy they write and every image they post. They have grown beyond their local South West roots to become a national brand widely known within the UK’s barista culture. Their content tells the story of how much everyone who works there loves coffee. Pile that on top of a well sourced product and you have a brand worth buying.
This understanding of ‘self’ allows these brands to be more conversational, more reactive and ultimately, more relevant. It allows them to create content wisely and efficiently. It gives them the confidence to accrue unplanned assets on existing shoots, therefore doubling the value. And it means that internal content teams don’t fear responding to any eventuality. Simply put; spend more money on the “thinking” and you’ll save multiple times that investment on the “doing”.
So no, there are no “short-cuts” in the crudest sense of the phrase. As with any other space, content requires a solid brand platform. It’s the quickest and cheapest route to winning the always-on battle.