The marketing landscape has evolved. Vast changes in technology, consumer mindsets, and organizational structure have influenced a multitude of changes in recent times, one of which stands out above the rest – and it is focused on content.
Though many perceive merely a change in rhetoric – after all, companies have been developing and safeguarding content strategies for decades – the atmospheric rise of content is undeniable. Business communications have, it seems, evolved beyond simply discussing social media personnel and search marketing strategies into integrated, holistic, living and breathing parts of the modern organizational makeup.
These next-generation, real world content beings have garnered audiences for reasons far beyond simply buying their next product. If you’re still not on board, then you are most definitely among the laggards that fall outside of the nine out of ten organizations that are marketing with content.
We now find ourselves at an important juncture, one of corporate enlightenment: the rise of the content-aware organization. The difficulty is two-part, residing in both company-wide understandings of the discipline and measurement of its goals. The question is, then, how – given this contextual shift in the landscape – do we embrace this opportunity at an executive level?
Content’s Stratospheric Rise
The changes that we are witnessing in content have risen from the grassroots. Customer preference is driving the agenda such that the infiltration of online mediums into every aspect of our lives has demanded a level of maturity in how companies are expected to advertise.
Gone are the days of overly pushy sales messages splashed across website portal takeovers; the modern landscape demands subtlety as the order of the day. The Content Marketing Institute states that 70 percent of consumers would rather learn about a company from an article than an ad. Storytelling has taking center stage while other traditional marketing practices are failing to deliver value.
Brands taking ownership of their content, establishing editorial standards for their brand communications and doing so with a substantiated idea of what their target market is receptive to have changed the methods in which we market. The focus is now more commonly placed on internal resources over major external agencies, and this rise in brand publishing is forefront to an increasing inward investment for smaller businesses and major brands alike. Content is, by that factor, taking the power back. And nobody communicates their own story better than themselves, right?
The familiarity that we hold with companies like Airbnb, Tesla, Elance, oDesk and many others are no coincidence; they are the product of a focus to carve a path for generations to come through the medium of content. These new organizations have identified the importance of storytelling as part of their future vision. They recognize the importance that a new form of brand recognition – truly knowing and familiarizing oneself with an organization – now holds.
A Change in the Marketers Mindset: Marketing Is Business
In this context, a common flaw in marketers’ mindsets is too great of a focus on buyer behavior alone. Instead, taking a more holistic view that examines broader social, psychological and emotional factors shifts this focus to that of behavioral economics. Multiple touch points and the audience’s psychological state-of-mind when encountering them are paramount to understand.
You may notice a familiarity here to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (2012), albeit their focus on ever-on/ever-aware marketing was such that search and cross-device considerations were forefront. Just two years since publishing, this has been somewhat undone – superseded now with the power of brand publishers and content-driven organizations.
Of course, a purely economical view (such as marginal utility theory, or that the consumer acts entirely rationally) is also falsified. Irrational consumer behavior, as cited in Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, is to be expected. And, as marketers, we must equip ourselves to deal with this. Content enables us to resonate with customers, speak to them on their terms and provide value beyond the basic customer buying cycle.So how do we leverage behavioral economics into our content organizations? There are some tactics that are harnessed by those companies that are deemed to be effective in their content marketing practices, such as:
- Social Proofing (Caldini) – Leveraging testimonials, case studies, and endorsements – whether celebrity, customer or otherwise.
- Avoiding Decision Paralysis – Be selective on what you publish and avoid the arrogance that everything you publish is interesting.
- Justify Your Means – When faced with a decision, many of us will opt for default or nothing; breaking this ‘default’ cycle is key to differentiation (especially in over-saturated markets).
However, a fundamental change in perception may also be required, such that purely economic principles are superseded by consideration of behavioral economics.
The output of the application of these principles is the creation of creative content by organizations that truly live and breathe it.
General Electric: Living & Breathing Content
This leads us to companies like GE, who could typically be recognized as a stagnant,and even boring organization with little to share or generate content about; however,this is not the case. They are, in fact, one of the pioneers of content marketing. This is demonstrated by:
- The prominence given to social channels on their homepage:
- The frequency and quality of updates on Tumblr-powered science and technology blog Txchnologist, sponsored by GE:
- And the entire section on the website (linked to from the homepage) focused on data visualization:
This content goes a long way to position GE as a thought leader, industry champion, and content innovator.
Make Selling Superfluous
Content has therefore become complimentary. It provides reasons for audiences to return by searching for information, not just looking for the next purchase from your website. Customer intention to buy is, therefore, less relevant; the focus instead should be dedicated to creating a brand identity and voice.
Providing value above and beyond a product or service offering ensures customers understand you as a brand – and that understanding is core to any symbiotic relationship.
Perhaps Peter Drucker said it best:
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself… The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” – Peter Drucker