An Apple iPhone without its logo on the case is just another phone. A consumer will not pay much money even if it does all the functions of an iPhone (think of a Chinese make). Why do consumers pay so much for a logo or for a brand? A brand is an embodiment of a promise. That’s why customers pay higher price for a branded apartment, branded clothing or shoes. When it comes to marketing, sales or share value for your company, your brand name really matters.
J.K Rowling author of the Harry Potter series has sold over 450 million copies. But when she wrote a novel ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ under a different name (Robert Galbraith), she sold only 1,000 copies. When the word got out that it was written by J. K Rowling, the book made it to the bestseller list and sold over a million copies in just few months. What was important, the book (product) or the author (brand name)?
One school of thought says that if we have a great product, we can win the market but another school says that if we have a great brand we can win the market. But the fact is that we need both: a brand that embodies a promise and a product that can fulfill that promise. Branding is purely perception. Its how we choose to see distinctive value in something over other things. There are no superior products, since the perception of superiority is relatable and debatable. There are only superior perceptions in consumers’ minds.
Bottom line your brand lives in the minds of your consumers. So whatever it is that they retain about you as they go about their lives, whatever it is that they think of when your name is mentioned – that is your brand. Brands can evoke a feeling, a light emotional response and sometimes a strong one (whenever we hear their names). It’s in these emotional associations (and neuro-associations); customers make their choices and buying decisions.
Through out many decades, brands have been successful enough to send emotional signals using mass media and other means of communication, but the core of branding has always been telling great stories, whether it was told through a ten second TV commercial or through a print advertisement with picture and words.
Stories are nothing new. They are as old as human civilization. It started when humans gathered around the campfire and figured out that effective storytelling was the best way to pass on the information that was vital for survival. When you fast-forward 10,000 years or so and we see that the emergence of the Internet, mobile accessibility, and social media have changed some of the ways we tell stories. It has allowed anyone to become a publisher of content. It allows us to tell stories in as little as 140 characters (twitter) and six-second videos (vines).
Today branding is not only about what you say who you are, but also about what consumers think who you are. Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world that you are a great company with great products and services. Content marketing is showcasing to the world that you are a great company with great products and services.
Brand perception is manufactured with content and information. According to Joe Pulizzi, of the Content Marketing Institute; “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants, and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you.”
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing by definition is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. It’s bit different from social media. In social media the focus of marketing stays with the social networks but in content marketing, the objective is to drive traffic to your website followed by action. Content marketing is the creation and distribution of worthwhile stories that will attract and engage your prospects. Social media is just one medium to tell stories.
Social networks are vital to the success of content marketing. All social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ works as tentacles to grab consumer attention and engagement. Content marketing is much more broader way of story telling with the use of blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and e-books, just to name a few formats.
Today content marketing is gaining more popularity as a marketing and branding tool than ever before. According to a research by Roper Public Affairs, 80 percent of buyers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. For example Apple iPhone is launched with its chief designer Jonathan Ive presentation and Tim Cook, its CEO’s giving keynote along with press releases followed by gadget reviews. Content Marketing captures audience attention and retain the attention long enough to influence a consumer to engage with a brand.
Successful brands create and curate content that drives behavior change in their prospects. One of the oldest examples of Content Marketing go back to 1895 when an agriculture tools manufacturing company, John Deere began publishing ‘The Furrow’ magazine to educate farmers on new technologies on farming in America. Now even after 120 years later, The Furrow is still going strong. It is the largest circulated farming magazine in the world, delivered monthly to over 1.5 million farmers, in 12 languages to 40 different countries. Ever since successful brands have been using content marketing as a strategy to build their brands. Michelin, a prominent tyre brand developed The Michelin Guide in 1900. In 1904, Jelly-O distributed free copies of a recipe book that contributes to sales of over $1 million by 1906. From magazines to radio stations (In1930 Proctor & Gamble begins foray into radio serial dramas to sell their brands), followed by television soap operas, brands began telling stories to their specified targets.
The core of Content Marketing is to surround your prospects with enough visibility, authenticity and compelling stories. Today content marketing will decide what your brand is. According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research, in 2010 the average consumer engaged with 5 pieces of content before making a buying decision. In 2011, that number doubled to more than 10. In 20016, consumers are engaged with multiple media before they make up their mind to buy anything.
If you are serious about building your brand through Content marketing, this is what you should do: Create a brand connect with your audience by publishing great stories. For example if you are a technology infrastructure company, talk about how you are helping other companies in digital transformation. If you are jeweler specializing in bridal jewelry, tell real stories of bridal transformation. The heart of content marketing is great story telling. It’s all about brands creating helpful, valuable, and compelling stories that position them as trusted experts in their fields. There is a beautiful saying in marketing: Facts tell and stories sell.
Become a media company:
Red Bull is successful in making a new category in energy drink. The company has been widely successful even after so many companies tried to invade its space. How does Red Bull keep its brand dominance?
Red Bull has truly transformed itself to a media company that happens to sell soft drinks. At the center of Red Bull’s storytelling universe is a group called Red Bull Media House (also named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies List for 2012).
Red Bull has built up its YouTube presence by creating a number of dedicated channels to showcase extreme stunts and music events. It now has more than 4 million YouTube subscribers.
Jyske Bank in Denmark is another example of acting like a media company. The bank’s Jyskebank.tv covers both amazing financial programming as well as compelling stories it believes are relevant for its core audience of younger consumers and small enterprises.
Several reputed companies are now developing a media division, as a strategic arm to promote their brands. If you are a small business and if you want to build your brand with authentic content, take the help of journalists and media publishing houses to write great stories around your brand. By constantly communicating with your audience, you will be attracting new customers and sustaining old ones. By telling engaging stories and by providing useful tips, your brand can prove your business expertise and competence in the market place.
Build your brand trust through customer review
If you think your brand is really good; let customers and users of your products do the judging part. Customer review and customer rating plays an important role. For examples websites like: Tripadvisor.com for travel and Practo.com for medical professionals are reviewed by its users. By doing this, brands get to be more authentic and trustworthy to its user base.
In this information sharing age, transparency plays an important role. Biased information can no longer capture your audience attention. Audience will pay attention to only those things they want to hear and read about. They need stories that are authentic and consumers want to be apart of that story. Audience engagement is the key to Content Marketing. Remember, Content Marketing without a loyal audience is not Content Marketing at all.
If you want to be successful in content marketing, your goal should be to develop and distribute the absolute best information in your industry. If not, why should your customers care?”
Paul Robinson is a leading motivational speaker in India.