Brave Spark: Great content begins with special memories

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Jumping on the wave of a trend will never deliver marketing objectives. Brands should instead be focusing on fully integrated content worlds that are relevant, emotive and extraordinary.

Rob Drake

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The problem with content is that most of it is utter nonsense.

Good content marketing works because it subverts the traditional barriers consumers hold up against brand communications, and immerses them within a relevant world. But as brands scramble for a piece of the action they find themselves ill-equipped to construct those worlds effectively. The inevitable result is a disconnected experience, leaving consumers to put up those barriers all over again.

If brands carry on as they are, we are at risk of the streets overflowing with irrelevant experiential product launches, people’s social media feeds being littered with links saying “you’ll never guess what happens next”, and the daily commute being dominated by cameras ready to record pranks on every tube carriage.

What was immersive will become interruptive. And for brands that do not know how to overcome this, their content will lose its potency.

Identifying and utilising trends is important, but surfing a fad is not. You end up face down on the beach, wondering about who you were before and far from where you are meant to be. Instead, it is important to build a content world that is an extension of a consumer’s own life, a place where brands can show them who they are and not just tell them.

This world is made up of three different stories being told simultaneously: the story of you the brand, the story of the consumer and the story of shared experience. It takes different skillsets beyond a traditional team to do this, but each of these stories must be mastered for content to reach its potential.

Often the world of the brand is one that is either told too keenly, or not at all. One of the reasons content is so exciting is because it lets brands step into their casual clothes and show off their more interesting side.

But in the rush to show off this new you, it is important not to forget what made your brand special in the first place. Often brands rip up everything that has been at the heart of their marketing before, under the perceived wisdom that new platforms mean new techniques.

In reality, content allows marketers to do more with the techniques that exist in their arsenal already: they are filming the same things they were in black and white, but now it is in colour.

And relevance is crucial to a successful customer story. What is it that makes them laugh, cry or worry? When they are not busy buying things, what do they do?

Brands need to build their content world around the consumer

If a brand can overlap into this world, it can become part of it – and overlap brands must. Your customer owns his or her own world and a clever brand looks at how they can fit naturally into that with relevance, not dominate or imitate it.

Social media (which is content if nothing else) has not just given the power of consumption to the consumer, but also the power of construction. They will construct your world how they choose – not based upon rigid customer profiles – so you need to have the flexibility to move with that.

The intangibility of a phrase such as ‘content world’ creates its own problems. Talk of creating touchpoints both online and offline, with ‘always on’ strategies supplemented by ‘burst content’ and ‘big ideas’ to drive velocity and scale are the mainstream concepts these days.

But believe it or not consumers do not spend their lives as consumers – they are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives and husbands.We can track and target them as numbers who will be watching pre-roll advertising on YouTube at 1.30pm on their lunch break, or feeling hungry while waiting for the bus home opposite prime ad space.

But content can and should go beyond this. Content does not just know how you feel, it knows what that feels like. And it can remind you of that feeling another time.

Experience has always been drawn on by marketing departments. And with good reason. Imagine a man on a first date with a smart and beautiful woman. He quickly realises that he wants to see her again.

Rather than find out all the things that make her tick, he begins to act like an authority on the first thing that she mentions which interests her. Before he knows it, he has told her that he also likes country music but his words are empty and he fails to engage on an emotional level because the subject has no relevance to him.

If he had found a subject of common interest and experience, he could have built a more genuine and powerful conversation. In the same way, content based upon experience, particularly video, can be incredibly powerful.

The first concern of a piece of direct marketing is where do the call to action and logo go? Conversely, content’s aim is always to make the consumer ‘remember’. Remember when you worried about this? Remember when you laughed like this with your friends? Great content triggers memories and those memories lead to an emotional reaction and immediate empathy. If you have empathy, you (almost) have a customer.

A TV spot is 20 seconds of messaging and 10 seconds of story. Video content is all story. Your story. Their story. A shared story.

If you can do all three of these stories at the same time, you can deliver the holy grail of content: return on investment. A carefully constructed world can move a viewer through the customer journey within a single video – from awareness, to engagement, to conversion and into mobilisation; all of which are now  fundamental basics of a successful content strategy.

This streamlined process can then be unpacked into an integrated story, told across multiple platforms to multiple audience groups.

We were recently tasked with expanding one of our client’s customer bases into two different demographics. As an established international organisation, it had issue with unprompted awareness, and struggled to find relevance in a competitive market.

Instead of creating two different campaigns, we created one – a content world under which sits two demographically relevant strategies. Or to go easy on the jargon, the same brand stories, but told in different and relevant ways that immerse, not interrupt.

It is time for content to grow up. Short term‘trend jacking’ and pursuit of the zeitgeist will only isolate customers and never deliver marketing objectives. Instead, we can welcome the user to fully integrated content worlds that are relevant, emotive and extraordinary.