We’ve come a long way since 1895. Queen Victoria was on the throne, Oscar Wilde found himself serving two years in prison for “sodomy and gross indecency”, W E B Du Bois became the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard and John Deere, the brand beloved by farmers everywhere, launched its ground-breaking customer magazine The Furrow.
Still in circulation today, the magazine is considered to be one of the first pieces of content marketing and was designed to help farmers make their businesses more profitable. Now, 118 years later, the title reaches about 1.5 million readers across 40 countries and is available in 14 languages.
Content marketing has enjoyed huge success because it has proven that it can build deeper profitable relationships with a company’s target audience. Plus, if the content is good enough, other brands will consider the media as a good advertising opportunity – a win-win situation for all involved.
The most successful content marketing strategies engage their audiences – employees, customers, other businesses – through content that is richer and more engaging and insightful than traditional advertising or sales promotion.
Simply, content marketing is good editorial strategy that considers who the audience is, the content they desire and where they are likely to read it. It’s not rocket science but it requires a specialist touch from good journalists, editors, designers, advertising sales people, researchers and analysts.
In 1895, the team at John Deere had a pretty simple job producing a print magazine every few months. Now, the emergence of digital platforms such as smartphones and tablets, as well as social channels such as Facebook and YouTube have sent marketers into a spin. Every chief executive wants an app, to accompany their blogs, video channels and social networks and not forgetting the limitless devices available to view all of this content.
However, there is hope. A content marketing-led strategy identifies the optimal digital mix on which to publish content and, most importantly, identifies the associated return on investment. The author of a recent content marketing blog says: “A content marketing-led approach is not only generating buzz, but driving measurable results from increasing website traffic, generating more and better leads, and closing deals at the bottom of the funnel.”
Every agency claims to be the king of content, whether they are focused on advertising, PR, direct marketing, social media or digital. But none of them are best placed to create great content marketing. Why? Because they are not publishers. They know how to write brand or sales copy and make great commercials, but they do not have the editors and journalists with the skills to tell brand stories.
When I look at our competitors and strip away the jargon and ‘of the moment’ terminology, it seems to me that we all make engaging, interesting and shareable ‘editorial’ content through inspiring written narrative, amazing imagery and must-watch video. What’s more, our audiences can enjoy their content on whatever digital device or printed format they desire.
Summersault is quite simply an editorial content business. We work with our clients to engage their audiences and yes, we still love the smell of fresh printers’ ink, but we also recognise the importance of making our content available across multiple digital platforms.
One of the biggest problems our clients previously encountered was matching fantastic editorial content with a digital platform that would work seamlessly across the endless different devices and operating systems their audiences were using.
We responded by building Decker – a cutting-edge, yet cost-effective digital platform that allows our clients to reach their consumers across a wide range of tablet and mobile applications. This HTML5 publishing service gives our clients the opportunity to move content into a digital space, saving print and distribution costs and opening up their messages to an unlimited audience.
Decker is the brainchild of Summersault’s digital agency led by digital director Robert Ford. He says: “Our studies show that interactive and engaging content leads to a dramatic increase in the time audiences spend viewing a page, which in turn is an attractive proposition for media buyers. We’ve seen dwell times on Decker products increase by more than 60 per cent compared to other platforms.”
Decker is cost-effective because there’s only one version to create, but content is published across multiple platforms; there’s no publishing
fee to pay to newsstands such as Apple or Android; and responsive design defends the content against future new technology. What’s more, industry-standard analytics allow businesses to constantly monitor the content’s performance.
For example, Triumph Motorcycles launched its digital customer magazine Spirit using the flash-based Ceros platform in November 2011. Four issues were delivered using this technology before Triumph came to us looking to create a magazine that would increase dwell time and referrals.
It wanted to extend its reach to existing and new customers, reflect the company’s international growth through the content and develop two-way communication that allowed the audience to provide feedback.
A measure of success
We recommended a switch to Decker, alongside a raft of improvements to its content marketing strategy. This resulted in some astonishing success.
Previously, Spirit achieved an average of around 37,000 user visits per issue. Once the switch to an HTML5 platform was made, the average number of visits increased to around 58,000 per issue.
There was a similar trend in referrals, with the average number increasing from around 6,000 for each of the first four issues to around 23,000 for each Decker edition. Dwell time has also increased, from about 4 minutes to 10 minutes per issue.
Of course, it’s not just the technology that is harnessing these results. Summersault’s editorial and design teams took on this project with the aim of producing a fully interactive reader experience with strong magazine values. The new Spirit is designed to create a community where readers share their experiences on all things bikes and riding. The magazine gives riders access to information that gets them closer to the brand and helps to generate a sense of loyalty.
Steve Lambert, head of marketing at Triumph Motorcycles, says: “We really wanted to ensure that we had a mobile-optimised solution given the fact that more than 30 per cent of emails were being opened on a mobile or tablet device.
“We look at Spirit as being something that shares a less corporate view on motorcycling and will appeal to owners and potential owners alike.”
Content agencies are best placed to help brands with their content marketing strategy because brands (and their marketing agencies) do not have the skills to create and publish editorially rich, multi media content on- and off-line. A client said to me recently: “In order to compete, you do need to become a bit of a publisher. It’s the only way your voice is going to be heard. Content is the key but positioning is the main ingredient to a viable content strategy.”
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