Why content marketing is important to the success of your brand

By Ben Howden29th January 2013
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Content marketing seems to have found a way into most marketing managers 2013 plans. However, despite the recent buzz surrounding content marketing, it is not a new concept. Some brands have been telling stories and creating value through content for a very long time. It's only recently that more brands have started to take notice, in part thanks to the rapid rise of social media that requires brands to create and source engaging content for their communities.

We are now starting to see a fundamental shift away from a pure transactional marketing model (e.g. focus on price, features, benefits) to a conversational marketing model (e.g. telling stories and creating value beyond products and services). Get the conversational and value part right and the transactions will follow as you build an emotional connection with your brand.

But what does content marketing really mean? From our experience content marketing involves creating unique, engaging, relevant and compelling media that adds value to its intended audience. It can take the form of advertisements, campaigns, articles, info-graphics, research papers, applications, websites, social media, newsletters, presentations, blogs and videos. But the best content is not always created by a brand (or its agency). It is users that often play a key role in creating great content if they are given the right tools and incentives to do so. User generated content not only adds authenticy to your brand but can also engage users on a deeper level than internally created content. If you can find a way to unlock the creative consciousness of your audience and encourage them to share what they have created the results can be very rewarding.

So you've created great content but how do you get it out there? Content distribution should form a key part of your content strategy. Social media is a great place to start given that unique and engaging content is critical to success in social media communities. Make a list of all of your owned media assets and consider what type of content is suited to each channel. Start with your website, emails, blogs and publications and tailor your content to each channel and audience. Which of your partners or affiliates can help you distribute content? Can you support content distribution with paid media? If you create and seed amazing or unique content your audience will feel compelled to share it with their social connections and amplify your distribution and reach.

If you want to take a look at a brand that has gone 'all in' on content marketing, then Coca Cola is it. Coca Cola is a global brand that operates in over 200 countries and brings in around $50 billion in revenue every year. And content marketing is now at the center of their marketing strategy. They recently set a goal of doubling worldwide consumption of Coca Cola by the year 2020, and they believe it's content that is going to help them achieve this goal.

The strategy is called “Content 2020” and involves taking a collaborative company and consumer approach to storytelling and content creation that is intended to move the company from "creative excellence" to "content excellence". The goal for Coca Cola is to leverage the opportunities in the new media landscape and transform one-way storytelling into dynamic storytelling hoping to add value and significance to people's lives. You can learn more about Coca Cola's content plans in this video:

So what's in in it for your brand? Here are some of the high level benefits of developing and executing a quality content strategy:

  • Build awareness and reach. Great content gets shared amongst social circles and quickly extends the reach of your brand to new audiences
  • Engagement. Traditional one-way media is not very engaging. Today's consumers are great at filtering out your ads and marketing messages. Great content adds value and engages consumers with your brand beyond traditional advertising.
  • Adds personality and authenticy to your brand. Creating great content provides an opportunity to really show off the personality of your brand.
  • Data. If you've got the right analytics in place you're quickly able to understand what type of content resonates best with your audience. This gives you deeper insights into what your customers want and can help tailor future development of your products or services.
  • SEO. Content is king when it comes to getting your brand in search results. Produce unique and valuable content and over time you'll drive more traffic to your website and social channels through improved organic search rankings.
  • Conversion. While content generally sits at the top of the traditional sales funnel and is generally not directly attributed to driving conversions, over time if you produce great content your will build strong relationships. If you build strong relationships you will ensure that you're in the consideration set when it comes time to purchase your products. That ultimately results in more sales over the long term.

One last point. Creating and executing an effective content marketing strategy is not an easy task. A halfhearted attempt is likely to do more damage to your brand than good. Your goal should be to create amazing content experiences that engage your audience on an ongoing basis and this requires creativity, resources and most of all commitment.