How Publishers Can Help Brands Navigate The Content Marketing Crossroads

jimmcgintyThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jim McGinty, senior director of content marketing at IDG.

Brands churn out massive volumes of content in hopes that it resonates with their customers. At the same time, customer expectations are higher than ever – and their tolerance for mass-market campaigns that don’t address them as individuals is waning.

Marketers are having a hard time keeping pace, forced to create more content assets than ever. At the same, 62% of brands believe that “producing engaging content is their greatest content marketing challenge,” according to a Content Marketing Institute study.

Simply adding mass isn’t the solution. Savvy marketers must use their knowledge of the customer, market and purchase consideration process to ensure that they provide a steady supply of content to move their initiatives forward.

We hear often that brands must “think like a publisher.” In this case, brands must leverage their own knowledge and the experience of their publisher partners to create, sequence and analyze their content marketing efforts as a cohesive whole. They need to drive sustained context and relevance and understand where to be and when and how to weave their story across platforms where their customers engage.

Increasingly, publishing companies are offering content marketing services, drawing upon their expertise as media experts and storytellers and helping brands develop and execute their content marketing strategies.

Thinking like a publisher means moving away from editorial calendars designed to support marketer’s product road maps, for example, to a cadence and themes that are more meaningful to customers and prospects.

How can publisher partners that want to get into the content marketing game deliver real meaning to truly connect with brands’ target audiences? The triumvirate of personalization, emotion and authentic thought leadership is worth a close look.

Personalization

Customers appreciate personalization: They want to be treated as individuals, not as part of a mass marketing effort. Delivering content based on individual habits and preferences can go a long way toward increasing engagement and fostering goodwill.

However, a February Demand Metric survey explored some reasons marketers aren’t personalizing content and found that 59% don’t have the technology or necessary resources. Real opportunity exists for publishers to act as partners to brands to help them over these hurdles.

Emotional Connection

Emotional connection is another key pillar of a truly noteworthy content marketing campaign. For example, how does a soap brand broaden its audience and turn a household product into a much-talked-about social commentary? Think about Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign and the #MyBeautyMySay campaign throughout the Summer Olympics.

Recalling the taunt, “You throw like a girl,” P&G’s Always brand ran a successful and widely known #LIKEAGIRL campaign to redefine the phrase to mean a force to be reckoned with.

While some of the massive success of these two emotionally driven campaigns can be attributed to intuition, customer data played a very large role in determining the campaigns’ direction. It’s not easy: A July Forrester study showed that 50% of senior marketing executives from the US and Europe found it difficult to leverage behavioral and attitudinal data to create emotionally engaging content.

Again, this is where publisher partners can set themselves apart from the pack if they can tackle the data component. Not only is the art of storytelling key, but publishers also should be equipped to mine and analyze customer data. A little left brain and right brain is required.

Authentic Thought Leadership

The Dove and Always illustrations also work well to demonstrate true thought leadership. That term is overused, but thought leadership isn’t just about giving speeches or writing blog posts – it’s about turning convention on its head. It’s about taking chances, doing something radical or unexpected and blazing trails with entirely new concepts.

B2C companies don’t have a lock on doing thought leadership right. Consider GE’s Imagination at Work campaign and its content highlighting how magnetic resonance imaging is helping with earlier diagnoses of a variety of diseases.

Content marketers need to dig deep and go beyond the norm if they want people to keep reading, listening and connecting. Overall, there’s a great deal of opportunity for publishers to help brands launch themselves into the content marketing game or improve their current efforts.

Both an art and a science, the best content marketing will reflect that balance and so will the publisher partners that can lead the pack.

Follow IDG (@IDGWorld) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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