Brands must be brave in marketing through content, whether taking on social issues or highlighting vividly a core characteristic of the brand, and in measuring whether content works. Providing value through content will strengthen brand affinity. Here are some examples.

Will Phung, group account director, Jellyfish Online Marketing US

Will Phung, group account director, Jellyfish Online Marketing US

The term “consumer journey” has never been more apt, and the role of marketing today is no longer to simply lead the consumer through that journey.  Today’s consumers are not simply passengers along for the ride; they are empowered actors who demand to be partners on a purposeful journey.

This brave new world requires brave advertisers; it requires brands to be willing to change the way they do things because consumers have changed the way that they think about and interact with brands.

We see a brand brave enough to provide value to the consumer for no immediate return with the understanding that the brand equity built will lead to return down the line.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways advertisers must be brave in approaching content marketing.

Be brave enough to stay true to your brand identity

Trust is the holy grail of content marketing, and consumers are savvy enough to quickly recognize when a brand is not being true to its brand identity—when it is trying to be something it isn’t.  A brand can’t simply put a commercial out there that tries to co-opt a social issue; they have to earn it by making it part of their brand identity.

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During the 2018 Super Bowl, Dodge aired a commercial for its RAM line of trucks that featured the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  While Dodge surely had good intentions, it hadn’t earned that association.  The combination was so incongruous that Dodge had to release a statement that it had actually worked with the MLK estate to produce the commercial.

That’s not to say brands shouldn’t tackle social issues.  Indeed, consumers want to do business with companies that are making an impact, so brands should highlight that work—if that is who their brand is.  Look at Toms. They do not shy away from taking a stand on tough social issues, even gun control.  Toms’ brand identity follows through on that promise: the brand donates to non-profits related to gun violence; they feature the issue prominently on their site and provide ways for their consumers to get involved.  Toms can make content around this social issue because that social issue is part of their identity.

The other side of the coin is being brave enough to let your brand be who it is. Not every brand has to center their brand identity around a cause.  GoPro, for example, puts its brand identity—passionate, active, creative—front and center with its

GoPro Awards that recognize consumers engaging in the active lifestyle GoPro represents.

Be brave enough to not expect an immediate return

When it comes to content marketing, avoid salesy language.  Consider it radioactive material.  Focus on providing value.  As you consistently package and deliver riveting value-added content, you will strengthen brand affinity.  Consumers will become your zealous evangelists who will proclaim their allegiance.

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Take Warby Parker.  Every pair of glasses comes with a free microfiber cleaning cloth that tells the story of the brand in 100 words, and it actually counts each word.  Warby Parker is providing value to the consumer, literally telling its brand story, and contributing to its charming brand identity.

Alternately, look at the lifestyle brand Away.  The company sells quality luggage at a lower price point. Additionally, Away maintains the magazine Here, which provides rich travel content.  Again, we see a brand brave enough to provide value to the consumer for no immediate return with the understanding that the brand equity built will lead to return down the line.

Be brave enough to measure twice… and cut your losses, if necessary

Just because content marketing isn’t a point of sale does not mean it escapes measurement.  In fact, measurement needs to be more stringent and executed more deliberately.

If your content is digital, be sure to measure any interaction or engagement your consumer may have with that content.  The level of engagement should be a guide to what content is resonating, which is also the content that should continue to receive investment. Alternately, track to see if your content investment is correlating with higher overall sales or lifts against key brand metrics.

Not every brand can be Budweiser, showing its funny side with an Official Dilly Dilly Button and its thoughtful side with water stewardship programs.  Most brands are going to face real financial constraints that prohibit having that wide-ranging a brand identity. That reality is why it’s important to understand the impact your content is having.

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At the end of the day, the company’s cause may not resonate with its consumer. The brand’s attempt to be funny or charming may not land.  If the right measurement is in place, and the return is negative, that is when a brand needs to decide if it will continue down that path, resources be damned, or if it’s time to switch tactics.

Not all content will be successful, but today, all brands need content to succeed.

Jellyfish is a digital marketing agency based in the United Kindom.

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