Content marketing has been around for many years—from the Michelin Guide to Huffington Post’s Easy Recipe Videos. This type of marketing, if well executed, enables a brand to connect with its target consumers in their own communities in ways that are resonant, authentic, and valuable to the consumer in his or her own daily life.
And it is effective—often far more so than traditional advertising formats—across the entire marketing funnel. Research has shown consumers look at thoughtful branded content marketing pieces far more frequently than banner ads. “Thoughtful” is the operative word.
Since programmatic has matured, we’ve arrived to a point where the multichannel infrastructure for deploying these assets at scale is in place. With prolific adoption of social media and a constantly connected consumer at play in the marketplace, there is at once an appetite, a forum, and the automated means for broader content distribution and making an impact with your target audience segments.
Therein lies the aspirational marketer’s rub, since you still must achieve voice and authenticity to yield the returns of content at scale, even in the age of automation. Content marketing, with myriad formats and seemingly endless distribution channels, can seem daunting or exciting. But at any scale, you’ve still got to resonate.
Once you embrace programmatic and the opportunity it affords, the imperative becomes ensuring authenticity.
As such, strategic content distribution at scale and across platforms is about more than simply seeding branded content as broadly as possible; it is about seeding it consistently, wisely, and contextually within the communities and among the influencers that will really impact ROI. Brands that are doing it right understand this mindset and dependency. Within a highly automated audience-oriented environment, mindful brands are thinking about the following when it comes to content marketing:
Authenticity: It’s Not Just About You
It’s important to know your value and your voice before you begin. What does your brand stand for? Is it about pushing the limits? Getting back to what’s true and right? Is it about value? Utility? Luxury?
All of this is reflected in your voice. It would be off-brand if Red Bull, for instance, created content marketing that was dull or if Gatorade had a couch potato as a spokesperson. The adherence to the brand voice is even more important than the content itself.
In the media environment of 2016, brands really do act as personalities. On Facebook, there’s really no delineation between the brand you follow (or are psychographically predisposed to like) and your college roommate or your buddy from work. They are all presented in the same milieu.
But it doesn’t stop there. Committing to brand values and voice allows for a certain continuity, but it’s also critical to bring consumers into this equation. What makes them passionate about your brand? If they advocate a brand, their passion is likely aligned with a brand’s values. However, consumers invariably put their own spin on things. So understanding the way consumers connect with your brand, where they “go” based on their interaction and engagement, is critical learning that will allow you to really dial in the content experience you are delivering.
Form Follows Function
It’s true of architecture—perhaps even more of social media. While you can repurpose your content, you have to carefully think about ways to make it come to life through those specific channels.
A video on one channel might be a picture narrative released over several days on another channel. The creativity needs to come not just in what the message is, but how it is delivered and the device on which it is typically consumed. This is especially crucial as you increase your understanding of your brand’s consumer and glean the audience intelligence noted above.
Creative iteration needs to keep a sort of discipline and thought for engagement mechanics, “how it all works” in a given environment, as you tune to suit different channels and forms. The emergence today of dynamic creative optimization also eases the process of iteration and creates efficiencies as you serve your content to target audiences at scale.
Getting More Out Of Metrics
To define the levels of audience intelligence needed to tune your execution, hone your voice, and crystallize the value exchange, measurement is key. And today, thanks to the state of tracking and attribution technology, there’s more to gain through measurement.
But the most important evolution is the idea of a “closed loop” in content marketing. You can find out a lot about what your target consumers and loyal audiences think and prefer by how they’re interacting with your content. You get a sense of what engages, compels, and converts them—and in the process, as a bonus, you get a beat on their personalities.
It’s all a more intricate consideration today, with a multitude of environments and touch points to plot and address, but programmatic and the automation it brings is a framework and a gateway to scale, to be sure. The exercise of establishing and relaying the brand’s authentic voice and fostering audience engagement out of it requires a bit more discipline and delineation on the purposes of different types of content. But then, thanks to our systems progress, so much more is possible.
In the era upon us, content marketing is becoming increasingly important as a foil against ad blindness, general consumer apathy, ad blocking, and message saturation. When a brand focuses on connecting on values, keeping a clear and resonant voice, and delivering connective, empowering experience, they by definition strike the chord of quality.
Therein lies the greatest antidote to avoidance. Quality, connective content across platforms at scale is certainly a positive for all involved.