Is Your Content “Essential Business”?

Remember, your goal isn’t clicks, it’s brand building.

By Geoffrey Director

The deluge of coronavirus content pouring out of the marketing community was predictable, but also indicative of what plagues marketing generally—and content specifically. It tends to be reactionary, surface-level, self-serving and insensitive to the audience’s emotional reality. Topical yes, valuable no.

For some of our clients, now is go time for content. Online learning companies, packaged foods, telework technologies, e-commerce businesses and others find themselves in the spotlight. This post is not for them. No thought leadership is required to know that if your brand’s content could be of use to people conducting their lives from their living rooms, go forth aggressively.

No, this post is for the travel companies. The automakers. The retail businesses. Those businesses and brands on the front lines of an economic mess, for whom churning out a few more articles is nowhere near the top of their priorities.

If content is about bringing value to your audience, why not use this murky time to ponder some of the bigger questions that most of us rarely allow time for? Namely:

  • Why are we doing the content marketing that we always do?
  • Is our content really working?
  • How could we streamline our content so it’s more effective and more tightly connected to our brand?

Identify What Only You Can Do

Making your brand stand out in the world of content is not as daunting as you might think. Yes, the marketing clutter in your category seems stifling, but remember, it’s all the same. Do not assume the way everyone in your category does content is the right way. Find no comfort in the herd.

Write out all the conventions of content marketing in your category and then consider what might happen if you did the opposite. In the generic world of male-centric automotive content, full of tech features and performance factoids, Subaru has built a loyal and emotional following with women and the LGBTQ community by talking about love. It’s not just men who love cars, and it’s not just payload or horsepower that matter.

In all likelihood, that which makes your product different can make your content different. If your stores are eclectic, make your content eclectic. If your tourist destination is adventurous, turn your content into an adventure. If hordes of people aren’t already searching for the thing you’re best at, it’s probably because no one has made it interesting yet. Take the challenge.

Figure Out What Your Audience Really Needs

Valuable content is the stuff your audience may not even be aware they want or need. If folklore holds true, Henry Ford was on to something when he purportedly said, “If I asked the consumer what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

The consumer banking and finance industry is particularly guilty of using the same obvious content themes. These brands churn out redundant, perfunctory savings and retirement blog posts. Chase, on the other hand, has invested in consumers’ financial literacy in a big way with “Chase Chats,” an in-branch, in-person learning platform. That is content marketing.

Learn what your target audience needs or wants instead of just reflecting back to them what they currently have or do. Determining what that may be is, of course, hard. But we know exactly how to do it: market research. A good old-fashioned mix of qual and quant methods, and smart secondary research. Yes, look at the data.

Crystallize Your Content Program’s True Value

Think of it as a simple phrase that sums up your entire content strategy: an articulation of the value that your whole program should deliver to the audience.

It’s the centerpiece of our model for developing a content strategy, which we call the Content Value Model. Once you nail it, you’ll find that making all the other tactical decisions gets a lot easier.

At some point this mess will be over, and we’ll be asked to get the marketing machine cranking once more. Do you really want it to return just the way you left it? Use this forced pause to think through what the machine is for in the first place. Who knows when you’ll have another chance?

Geoffrey Director is our SVP of intelligence at Manifest.