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10 February, 2014 - Source: McCann Manchester

Content marketing has been the buzzword of the last eighteen months and the lines of where content marketing starts and ends are becoming increasingly blurred. For some it sits in the domain of social media and for others it is all about creating relevant content to fuel SEO. Arguably, given we are all digital multichannel consumers, content needs to be placed at the heart of a brand's strategy and thought given to how you create content that can engage, inform and entertain at every touchpoint. Head of Earned Media Abi Whitfield takes a look at some of the things brands need to think about in getting to grips with one of the marketing buzzwords of the moment that shows little sign of going away.

  • Abi Whitfield Director of Earned Media
    Abi Whitfield Director of Earned Media

In the last decade we saw social media create a fundamental shift in how people think about brands, how they relate to brands and ultimately how they buy a brand's products and services.

The power shifted from marketers telling people what marketers wanted people to hear (and in some cases do), to people getting the information from many different sources and not necessarily from the brand's communications campaign.

In fact, companies were often cut out of the communication process, with people getting the information they needed from other people, in many different ways, from tweets, photos and short videos to infographics, and ignoring what brands had to say completely.

From 2011 to today, things have balanced out. People have realised that there is a lot of guff in social media and that just because someone says something about a subject or product on Twitter, it doesn't necessary mean they are an expert on that subject or product.

The other important factor that has helped tip the balance of power is that brands have responded to the change created by social media and started communicating to people in a different way. They listened first and talked with, not at, people.

All this has netted out in a situation where people are used to seeing many forms of content, about many different subjects, all of the time. Added to that, people are turning to experts more and more [illustrated by Edelman's trust barometer 2011] and company employees and representatives in particular.

Brands responded to this situation with 'content marketing'. The idea being to end the age-old conflict of brands making content that brands want people to see vs people consuming content that people want to see. Some brands do it well and the names that tend to spring to mind are Red Bull and Oreo. Some don't and we end up with content pollution.

Those brands that are successful in content marketing do four things really well:

  1. Make content that is interesting i.e. stuff people want to watch

  2. Make content that is relevant to the brand i.e stuff that the brand has credibility to talk about

  3. Make content that people do something with i.e. share or comment on and make sure this is seen by others

  4. Make content that is discoverable i.e. make sure people see their content, by promoting it via paid media and making sure it is optimised for Google

The thing is, one could argue that brands have always used content as a marketing tool: newsletters, press releases, photography, product videos and even TV commercials. However, it's only now, with content needing to be suitable to lots of different outlets and media types, and for content to drive more interaction that is shared, that content marketing is becoming a discipline in its own right.

The Content Marketing Institute's 2013 report into Content Marketing in the UK revealed that 42% of UK marketers have a documented content strategy and 71% have someone in place to oversee content marketing.

To blatantly steal the words of Gary Vaynerchuk from a recent episode of Social Media Marketing when he talks about how to be good at social media marketing: "I know exactly what to do to get a six pack. I don't have one, because I don't do those things. But I know exactly what to do to get a six pack."

This applies to content marketing. Brands know exactly what to do to create great content that people want to see. Not all of them do it, but they know exactly what to do.


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