By 2020, the average individual will have 10 connected devices, and the average household of four will have 50 connected devices. Technology has helped marketers become more efficient with targeting individuals and driving engagement, but new challenges have surfaced as well—particularly with user experiences, development, and content distribution. On the latter point, marketers also have to tailor content specific to the channel used to promote it, while still dealing with the challenge of effective storytelling.
But good storytelling—combined with the tools to manage reach and frequency—is where successful marketing practices are going. The golden rule: Know your audience before you pull the trigger on that next marketing campaign. When it comes to the Millennial generation, you’re targeting an extremely diverse audience, with ages ranging from 16 to 35. You won’t appeal to everyone by using one popular song, TV show, or even social media channel.
To shed light on how marketers are coping with these challenges, I spoke with Troy Brown, SVP of digital, social, and mobile at MSLGroup, where we discussed his strategy of producing content in today’s digital world and balancing brand exposure and effective storytelling.
Among the many intriguing topics discussed, one point that stood out to me was how the much-thrown-around word “content” has evolved in marketing. Indeed, the definition of what is actually considered content has grown tremendously, largely due to the increased use of digital. Content today is comprised of everything from blog posts to whitepapers, videos to pictures, infographics to tweets.
According to Troy, “Content is any object or ability to story-tell with context across every screen.” The two prominent words in Troy’s definition are “story” and “context.” In order for your brand’s content to stand out, it should be informative, but, above all, it should be entertaining. Successful storytelling encompasses both.
More specifically, effective storytelling involves five components, the first of which is trajectory, or a time sequence/plot that evokes momentum with the brand. Second, authenticity is important; the brand’s story should be authentic by portraying its unique perspective. Third, the story should have a form of call to action to inspire people to act and, fourth, a hook that catches the viewer’s or reader’s attention. Last, and most importantly, the story should have an effective character with whom the target audience can relate.
MSLGroup took this approach when it worked with Comcast to create a series of videos that encompasses the brand’s story while also demonstrating the new features that Comcast Xfinity has to offer. The videos divided brand exposure and storytelling in a 30% to 70% split so as not to oversell. Moreover, the key factor in the video series’ success was the choice of protagonist: “Ty” possessed characteristics that enabled the audience to easily relate to him. As Jonah Sachs depicts in the book “Winning the Story Wars,” the best stories are those in which you make the audience the hero of the story.
In addition, the videos have traits that made them appeal to Millennials, who comprise a large portion of Comcast’s customers. Primarily, the videos were short, divided into two-minute or less clips that quickly got the point across in an entertaining fashion. An important note for marketers to keep in mind is that the majority of digital media is consumed via a mobile device rather than desktop. Thus, your digital media content should be mobile-friendly. So before you post that 45-minute video, think of the last time you spent more than 10 minutes watching a video on your phone.
All too often, brands produce content just for the sake of producing content. Unfortunately, most of it never meets a pair of eyes. In fact, a study by Buzzsumo and Moz illustrated that a little more than 75% of web content never gets viewed. Before producing content for clients, Troy said he and his team at MSLGroup first assess the content’s purpose, how its success will be measured, and how it will be distributed. Remember: The channel used to amplify your brand’s message is tantamount to the message itself. “Content should serve as the catalyst to the conduit to serve to meet the KPI,” Troy told me.
As Marshall McLuhan infamously said in the ’60s (yes, way before my time), “The medium is the message.” With channel choice for content distribution and amplification playing such a significant role in today’s multimedia environment, it is crucial that marketers use the appropriate media outlet at the appropriate time, and in context. This was never an easy task to begin with and has become even trickier with individuals possessing more than one device.