In marketing today, the term 'content' encompasses anything in any medium. What exactly is content marketing? While content presents itself in various forms, whether it be product content, sales content, user-generated content, and so on, content marketing concerns itself with a strategic solution to a strategic problem. It's about delivering a consistent customer experience, I.e., content, across the buyer's journey and using content to specifically support top of funnel marketing activities.
In this episode of The Marketing Remix, Mia Mendola, Sr. Social Media Specialist, and Will Price, Manager of Content Strategy, discuss content, its relationship to other marketing tactics, and how it benefits the marketer and the consumer.
What is branded content versus non-branded content?
Essentially, branded content is anything that a brand produces. This can include logos, brand messaging, and really anything consistent with brand voice aimed at providing certain solutions for the target consumer, and delivering those messages at key points within their decision phase. This usually points back to a product or something specific on a brand website, keeping in line with the brand’s overall messaging.
With content itself living in all phases on the funnel, does content marketing live in the same way at all phases of the funnel?
People traditionally think of content marketing living in the consideration phase, where a user is considering a product or a service, and that's really where content shines. We should think of content marketing as something that lives in all stages of the funnel so that we can help put ourselves in the mindset, no matter what channel that content is to live on, that it's going to best serve that phase of the funnel.
We're soon going to approach a point where “content marketing” just becomes “marketing,” as content tactically touches every stage of the consumer journey. Content marketing affects us throughout our day-to-day, regardless of where we're interacting with a brand because it's just become a part of our lives at this point.
How do you ensure consistency throughout different types of content?
The biggest pain point when we talk about content marketing right now is the fact that there's not really a corporate buy-in or a stakeholder buy-in to a full-fledged campaign. We always talk about this less siloed approach because the key to consistency is getting the buy-in from everyone.
Starting with something as visceral as a good brand book, for instance. From a creative perspective, we incorporate what we’re going to say, how we're going to say it, the fonts we're going to use, and the color codes we're going to use. That's great for branded content. In terms of more direct response content as it pertains to social and paid media initiatives, there's still a messaging element that has to work into that. Whether it's organic social media posts, whether it's native advertising, or PPC, all of that has to be consistent. That starts at the top with everyone having buy-in on the campaign from the get-go.
It’s important that every single subject matter area expert, content marketer, and member of the creative team is a part of the overall calendar development. This calendar should help decipher what content looks like on every single channel, from a singular message to a comprehensive brand book, to ensure that whatever message was created from the beginning is assimilated, across all channels.
How do you plan for content?
It definitely takes a lot of work and time. This usually starts with something such as an editorial calendar, which would start as a deliverable from a content team member. The content team looks at inputs from every single channel, trends, and past performance, and then decides what we should do for the upcoming quarter or year.
For an organic social program to be successful, you want to dig into some of these more surface- level type holidays and trends, to engage with customers in real time. With a paid media campaign, however, we're not going to talk about those surface level holidays. The content person has a large amount of responsibility to not only deliver something strategic and that's true to the brand, but that can be played with and manipulated for all different channels.
So, there are going to be times when content really drives the story and ensures that whatever part of the buyer journey being communicated is very consistent throughout channels. There will also be moments when the channels take control because there's something that's very specific, and the channel team member becomes the driver in that. So, it's very difficult to always have a consistent process because there are going be moments when content needs to create the conversation and really be super stringent in how it looks and feels, and other times where channel team members really take over.
There are three important things to consider here:
- Process: Developing a strong process from the get-go really level sets where people are going to be involved during the whole campaign.
- Adaptability: A fun holiday might be an awesome organic social media post, but only if the consumer journey calls for it and if there is tertiary content built that supports this overarching message.
- Excitement: There is a level of excitement that you have to instill when you're talking about the process with the teams. Far too often, in marketing campaigns, the process becomes boring when it gets too routine.
With content marketing, the whole industry and the whole term is still evolving. I mean, it's completely different three years ago than it is today, and three years from now, it's going to look completely different. This really allows for experimenting and trying what you want. We can learn something based on what does and does not succeed, so there might have been like two or three things that did work within the larger picture that we can replicate and then build off of.
Does paid media count as content or content marketing? If so, how?
As we talk about all stages of the funnel, we have to rethink the way that we have traditionally done paid media. If we're selling a product, there's a very clear ROI when you put dollars behind something, but that journey has become less linear in this day and age. When engaging with a brand on Instagram, a consumer would maybe navigate to their site, then not think about that brand for another six months until getting served a display ad, and then maybe sign up for their email. So, a sponsored post five months after engaging with a brand is going to resonate more with me than an advertisement a consumer sees one day after not knowing who that brand is. So paid media, whether it's native advertising, social media, CPC, or PPC, has to adapt with it too.
How is tracking playing a role in all this? Are you playing with attribution?
Attribution is becoming more and more a part of the content marketing toolset. The phones are always listening, and ads are served by content that you and people around you are speaking about. While a little creepy, it's also very much a strategic play by these brands that understand that people that are consuming content, whether it's in their real lives, or on Instagram, or whatever social network they're on, are engaging with brands in certain ways. So, there's a level of attribution and tracking that has to come into your content marketing efforts.
How do you budget for this as a methodology?
We often think through how we sell things as a full-funnel campaign, which would encompass revenue for all teams. So, how do we create an idea that stems from a collaboration with the strategy team and inputs from the SEO team to solve a user problem? How do we create a content piece and then create paid social and social media content pieces to support that? Then, how do we maybe interact with the brand's PR team to get some sort of an activation involved? So, thinking of something from full-funnel start to finish instead of really having this retainer mindset has really helped us be able to effectively sell through these solutions.
Instead of spending all this time creating a blog post, publishing it, promoting it for one month, and then moving on, we want to focus on creating content pieces that can have legs and evolve, and content-repurposing is huge in the industry right now.
We can talk about marketing budgets as it pertains to how much spend we're going to put behind something, how much production spend we're going to put behind the creation, but there's also the level of education. This includes how much you are willing to invest in your employees and how much you are willing to invest in their learnings. So, when you talk about content marketing budgets, you have to understand first what your goals are and who your stakeholders are. So, their education and their level of understanding of content, content marketing, and why it's important to repurpose a blog, versus just promoting things for one month, is important.
Where is content marketing going over the next one to three years?
Content marketing is really going to come full circle and we're going to really start thinking more about traditional avenues of marketing with an emphasis on storytelling. Consumers are more inclined to connect with a brand when they're telling a story about how it relates to consumer lives. So, it is more of that level of investment, thinking about the tradition and where we've come from, and then just thinking better, thinking smarter.
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