Using content for brand marketing is not a new idea. In 1904, when Jell-O published its first book of recipes using its product, consumer response to the book turned the company’s dwindling fortunes around. A century of content marketing followed, with businesses producing books, radio and television shows based on providing useful content that would help sell products.
With the arrival of the information age the delivery method changed, and the advent of search engines and social media that greedily feed off content ensured the continued growth of the concept. But why is content marketing necessary, and what does it do for brands?
Advertising is passé. Consumers want information they can use, and businesses that supply it gain credibility in the arena of knowing-what-they-are-talking-about. Sure, there are still companies creating ads for various media, but with billboards going electronic, users blocking virus-spreading pop-ups, and news on paper dead in the water, companies are finding other ways to deliver their messages. Instead of marketers paying media, they can deliver it themselves through content that offers information of value.
In a recent study of the top 50 brands using content for brand marketing, credit card supplier American Express stood out with its AmEx Open Forum, a website aimed at providing expert information for small business owners on everything from managing employees to accessing start-up capital. The brand scored top marks on the content marketing index and has more than a quarter million followers on its social media profiles. The company’s credibility makes it the first choice for businesspeople needing financial products.
Content Marketing Platforms
Websites and blogs provide ideal platforms for content marketing in the form of articles, blog entries and social media posts. Sites that speak naturally to the individual consumer are ideal opportunities for business to consumer (B2C) companies to publish branded content aimed at potential customers. These include:
Business to business (B2B) marketers, however, also need to find ways to deliver their value proposition, and a blog that focuses on the company’s target persona is one of the fastest ways to do this.
It’s all about finding customers. Brands need content marketing to enable them to generate qualified leads, which are critical to meeting revenue goals and growing business. Inbound marketing, the science of attracting clients to you rather than pushing products at them, is an exciting way to sell to customers who have knowledge of your brand and want it. But for customers to show interest, they have to know what you offer. Brand marketing using a variety of content options can create a potential customer base hungry for your product – and leads that are ready and waiting for you to close the deal.
To generate really strong leads, it’s necessary to use a variety of different types of content. In a recent DemandGen survey, white papers and webinars offering real value as opposed to advertorials were found to be the primary avenues respondents made use of to learn more about the brands. The most valuable brand marketing comes from word of mouth, however, and in the Internet age this means user-generated content such as comments, reviews and blog posts.
Another reason why brands need content marketing are search engines. With the recent algorithm updates by Google, keyword stuffing is out the door and original content is in. To be indexed by the major search engines and appear high up in the search engine results pages (SERPs), companies need to publish regular content updates that are immediately recognizable as unduplicated, well-written and free of commercial links. Whether the format of the brand marketing content is text or audio-visual the same rules apply, and a recent survey by the Custom Content Council showed North American marketers spent a whopping $40 billion on content creation in 2011, with video leading the pack.
Create unique brand marketing content or make use of content curation, by seeking out information of interest to your client's reader and presenting it on their website or a platform of their choosing. Pinterest does this really well – for a company offering carpet cleaning services, curating content about the manufacture of carpets or environmental issues associated with production of materials can be easily combined with photographs. Post these on Pinterest on virtual pinboards in different categories, with links to your client's website or blog, and include calls to action to turn reader interest into qualified leads.