Learn how their newfangled wisdom might impact your content strategy.
If you read; part one of our blog series on the blurring lines of advertising approaches, then you already have a sense that times are indeed a-changin’. What was considered leading-edge not long ago is quickly becoming “traditional” again. There’s an easy answer for why that is: your customer has become more vocal, more savvy and more aware that their loyalty shouldn’t be taken for granted. They crave connection on many levels. Smart brands—stopping at nothing—will give it to them. Here’s how you can, too.
The illusion of value has officially been dethroned.
For much too long, brands have cajoled customers under the false guise that they’re helping—and that a genuine connection has been forged from that. Phooey, we say. Think of the many companies built atop online catalogs and ordering systems. Suddenly, in an opportunistic effort, those assets were replaced by fluff content and product finder tools. Why is this problematic? Because those updates aren’t truly offering the value and connection that customers seek. They’re more of a digital sleight-of-hand, using increasingly theatrical methods to communicate advertising’s oldest saying in the book: our product will solve all your problems. Somewhere down a dark hallway, a scheming laugh echoes out.
In 2018, there’s absolutely no place for content marketing without strategy. It’s time to ground content in things that customers want. Pure sales-focused functions will only encourage isolation. If you think you’re falling victim to this, don’t worry… yet.
They’re simply asking to be treated like a human.
Every brand and marketer likes to rest their head at night thinking they’re smarter than their customer. In some ways, this should be true. But don’t ever undermine their intelligence. As a customer experience agency working with brands across the U.S. and Canada, we can tell you that numerous age-old tricks have been exposed in recent times. Customers can now easily discern what’s organic vs. a paid placement in their online feeds. They’ve realized the thin veneer that is influencer marketing—especially in an era where very few celebrities manage their accounts. They also know that brands wrongly interpret previous loyalty as being locked-in for the future.
The fundamental idea to keep in mind is that your customer isn’t a means to an end. They’re a partner in this whole thing, a fellow fish in the ocean. Sharks will only sink to the murky depths, still rubbing their fins together trying to figure out what “connection” means. And the ocean? Well, it’s not always as vast as one might think.
We know a few good places you can refine or regroup content.
Before you start wondering how much content marketing is going to cost, there’s an option you’re probably already using: your blog. This cost-effective space is being used by many companies to create an inspiring experience that goes beyond just a list of articles. Blogs today often feel like an extension of the core website experience, rather than a supplementary piece. They’re replete with rich multimedia that engages customers in different ways: it helps, it entertains and sometimes it simply reinforces the notion of this brand is awesome.
Content hubs are another outlet brands are effectively using to share content with the world. Unlike a blog, these allow for a slight change in look and feel that’s distinct without forfeiting brand identity.
Because hubs can combine disparate content into a more cohesive and controllable experience, it’s not surprising that financial and insurance companies have adopted them at lightning speed. They’re the perfect host for the countless tools, calculators and educational content that those industries are known for. Two of our favorites are The Hartford Small Biz Ahead and Navy Federal Credit Union’s Making Cents.
Follow their lead but tailor it to your own audience.
Though it might sound surprising, a famed toy company—who arrived way back in 1932—is dominating today’s content marketing space. We’re of course talking about LEGO®, the global icon creating customer-approved content one colorful block at a time.
Tech advancements have helped the brand churn out feature length films and streaming content at inimitable pace. On their website, they offer up building instructions, links to app store games and family building ideas. Fans are even encouraged to submit photos of their creations through a platform called LEGO® Life.
Looking at such content, it’s plain to see why customers like it. The “product-forced-in-face” approach of yore is absent. In its place is an editorial experience that highlights products as they relate to the larger story. Brands like this approach, because it’s the key to fostering connection, loyalty and an authentic—not just perceived—level of value. It’s not so hard to spy faux-authenticity when customers are inundated with brand messaging day after day.
Authenticity is the key to meeting customer needs this year.
The modern brand wears many hats—educator, entertainer, facilitator and the list goes on. No matter what role(s) you’re assuming at a given point, it’s never been so important to stand for things that align with your core values. Customers are in pursuit of value, and have no time for those turning a blind eye or deaf ear to their expectations. Mark our words: you will lose your credit card-wielding herd if you fail to champion a genuine, untainted customer experience.
Most importantly, you must be comfortable with the fact that while your product is critical to your success, it’s only one part of a bigger journey. Your brand is better than a “Buy Now” call-to-action. There’s a unique story to be told around your history, your products and your future. Dare to tell it, and find ways to infuse value everywhere you can.
Look for the next installment in this blog series soon. Until then, brush up on how customer experience is evolving overall and how you can alongside it.