The secret is out: Content marketing is instrumental to modern branding success. Branded content has transformed the way we market our products, affecting not only the look and feel of advertising, but also shifting the consumer’s perception of what brands have to offer beyond their tangible wares. To a degree, branded content has become synonymous with delivering value. We use it to dispense useful, interesting, entertaining digital information to a content-hungry audience of consumers.
But there’s a problem. Content marketing is becoming too popular. It’s so prevalent now that its efforts are cluttering up the web. Consumers are being bombarded in much the same way as they were 10 years ago, when banner advertising had started to take off. One of the advantages of investing in content is our ability to differentiate ourselves from our competitors; but increasingly, our competitors are doing exactly what we are. How, then, are we to continue to attract a crowd? What can we do to maintain our audience’s attention and mitigate the risk of “content blindness?”
1. Do what your brand does best
The simplest, most logical route is to identify what content formats and types set your brand apart, and commit to producing that style of content moving forward. Over time consumers will come to think of your brand in terms of its “signature” — the content that is unique to your brand, and your brand alone.
For example, Whole Foods Market has experienced great success by identifying its sweet spot early on: Whether it takes the form of a blog post, Facebook update, or tweet, Whole Foods content focuses on discussing healthy, high-quality living.
Within the parameters of this specialization, the Whole Foods marketing team creates a variety of branded content that appeals to its key buyer personas. There’s “Fast Food for Babies” (targeting the mom demographic) and gluten-free recipes (consumers with special dietary needs), foodie-friendly posts about heirloom tomatoes and, for the thrifty who won’t compromise on quality, budget-friendly meal ideas and money-saving tips. For example, its YouTube video content explores issues consistent with the brand’s image, like supporting endangered bee populations and local farming initiatives.
Consumers know exactly what to expect from Whole Foods’ branded content, no matter where they find it. By establishing itself as a reliable source of the specialized information it focuses on, and creating content that is deeply rooted in its brand philosophy, it has built a content platform that none of its competitors can mimic.
2. Don’t let a lull in content production give competitors an edge
When you visit a blog for the first time, what do you look for? Chances are that after assessing the nature and quality of the writing you’ll check to see how often new stuff goes live. And if you find that the blog isn’t dependable in its updates… well then you’ll probably leave and try to find a blog that is.
Not all consumers are consciously keeping tabs on the frequency with which you release new material, but slack off and you’re sure to see engagement — and loyalty — dip. Don’t give your customers a reason to seek out an alternative (read: rival) source of content. Instead, demonstrate your dedication to them by keeping all your content marketing channels up to date.
If you don’t already have an editorial calendar for blog posts, email newsletters, infographics, Facebook updates, YouTube videos, and everything else you plan to create, that’s your first step. Give your content developers plenty of time to meet their deadlines, and contributors a thorough understanding of the marketing objectives their content should help to achieve. Outsource the work if necessary — whatever it takes to avoid “dead air.” A single piece of good content will attract an audience. A regular flow of good content will keep consumers coming back for more.
3. Startle and surprise in order to stand out
When web page clutter was banner advertisers’ main concern, the industry developed bigger, more engaging ad units to surprise and delight internet users and, ultimately, combat banner blindness. Maybe it’s time for content marketers to do the same?
Consumers are accustomed to getting HTML-based email newsletters… so consider including something more innovative in your next email, such as an animated GIF. They’re used to Facebook pages that put product front and center, so try putting your company’s employees on display for your next few posts. Setting an expectation of dependable, quality content is critical to your content marketing success; but throwing in something unexpected now and then can do wonders for setting your brand apart from others in your product category and vertical market.
British apparel company Boden did this earlier in the summer by way of a unique email campaign. In anticipation of the royal baby’s birth, Boden supplemented its standard email newsletter on its latest collection or seasonal sales with a message that announced it would be hosting a “virtual Royal Baby Shower.” All customers were invited to visit a microsite where they could supply parenting advice for Prince William and Kate. There was even a $500 prize for the person who correctly guessed the baby’s name.
Be creative. Be clever. Challenge your team to push the boundaries of each content channel. Mash up otherwise predictable formats. Your customers are sure to appreciate the fresh approach.
Content marketing may be more popular than ever, but by producing useful, branded material with an edge and a niche focus, your brand can rise among the ranks, rather than getting lost in the crowd. Establish a content creation system that works for you, and create branded content in your own unique style. When you do, consumers are bound to seek you out.
For more insight on how to stand apart from the competition with killer branded content, read Joe Pulizzi’s new book, “Epic Content Marketing.”
Cover image via Bigstock