With new technology opening up new media for consumer interaction, brands have a wider reach than ever before. Carving out a niche requires a content strategy that can communicate the brand’s vision and stay true to its values through a logical and emotional connection.
Seth Godin said “Content marketing is the only marketing left”. But content marketing needs to evolve to build true “Content Power” as I call it. Let’s first understand the origin of content marketing which dates back to the 19th century.
John Deere launched the customer magazine “The Furrow” in 1895. It spoke to American farmers in their language (they called it a “journal for the American farmer”) while they practised environmental stewardship. Educating farmers about the latest technology developments that focused on the farmer’s problems rather than on John Deere’s products made them leaders in the industry.
At the 2017 Content Marketing Summit hosted by The World Marketing Congress, in a panel discussion on the topic “The Present and Future of Content Marketing” I made the point that the future of content marketing would be a superior blend of technology and human creativity. According to Ann Handley, the world’s first Chief Content Officer, touching the sweet spot of quality content is a mathematical formula of: Utility x Inspiration x Empathy. If the value of any of these is zero, so is the quality of your content.
If brands today are going to use bots unapologetically, they wouldn’t be sincere on the empathy and inspiration front unless they incorporate the element of human creativity. Human creativity also needs to bring in multiple tenets like trust and personality to align to content marketing goals.
What sustainable brands need today and for the future is true Content Power. If you type “contentworthiness” in Google with or without the space/hyphen, you’d come across two kinds of results given the nature of personalization today:
- You won’t find too many people talking about it or
- You’d find people talking about improving a website’s rankings in Google or getting the maximum shares out of a particular piece of content.
Strangely, I even found an Investopedia link appear on the first page of my search results called “creditworthiness.” Contentworthiness should be spoken in the same breath as creditworthiness as this constitutes the basic fabric of trust that could be even more potent than creditworthiness. What creditworthiness has built over time, contentworthiness can destroy in no time!
True Content Power is a cascading set of interactions that can be open to interpretations but is never questionable. If we define contentworthiness along the lines of creditworthiness, it would be the validation that determines the possibility a person may default on his or her truth-telling obligations.
What brands need to be wary about is the danger of cyberbalkanization that has resulted in a division of groups by interests across religion, politics, and nationalism among other factors. We are living in “filter bubbles”, a term coined and popularized by Eli Pariser, the CEO of Upworthy. He said personalization has swept the web to the point where we begin to live in unique universes of seeing what we want to see rather than what we need to see! The algorithms of the internet are at work and are resulting in a narrow focus of what we think we are instead of projecting a better image of ourselves through rationality to set a new standard.
The world cries for high scores of contentworthiness!
In today’s post-truth world, we need to ensure brands are accountable for their words and don’t go back on their truth-telling obligations. Brands — not just their websites — need to be measured by their Content Scores.
3A model for Content Score evaluation: Authenticity, Accuracy, and Agility
Authenticity stands for trusting the integrity of the brand’s messages. It represents the combined psychographic consistencies or personality traits of individuals or brands across online and offline channels. Brands today that are using bots to connect with their customers need to ask themselves if those bots are consistent with the characteristics and messaging of their brands.
Accuracy is the specific validation of the message on the strength of its credibility and trustworthiness. A number of fact-checking websites are foraying into the cyberspace in this age of alternative facts. One bad experience through an inaccurate message is all it takes for a customer’s perception to change about a brand. A false narrative can be pushed through the use of inaccurate media content.
Agility measures the nimbleness of the brand on the ability to put out information in a timely manner to reflect the true status of their brand. If a brand has changed over time this would not be reflected by Authenticity alone but by an adaptable and changing persona. In this age of fake bot Content, it’s also the ability to take down fake Content from one’s sites proactively. Last year, a fake Facebook Live video showing a live feed of the International Space Station (ISS) went viral on social media.
The case of Citizens Bank shows how even with a solid digital strategy – simple design, intuitive UX, live chat – low conversion rates were still prevalent among Millennials due to a lack of timely contextualized engagement. They learnt the hard way that digital experience alone doesn’t cut it at an individual level unless moments of truth are identified and optimized.
Upon creating a powerful messaging service with a chatbot solution — built on authenticity, accuracy and agility — Citizens Bank transformed their Millennial relationships- experiencing a 10% increase of loan completions and a $136.4 million in booked loans. An authentic connection was built from the touchpoint whence the Millennial left off with accurate information about his/her investment journey. All this done with the desired process agility! This is one prime example of how a company has used the 3 A model to make a true connection with their audience, in this case Millennials.
In this dynamic digital landscape, not all stories have a happy ending as McDonald’s Twitter campaign showed us with the hashtag #McDstories. While they hoped it would inspire happy tales and heart-warming stories, things turned sour when their detractors turned the hashtag into a “bashtag” and shared horror stories not limited to the inhumane treatment of farmed animals, health issues with fast food and so forth. McDonalds, thus had a very low Content Score as they created a platform for user-generated content without being able to channelize it to positively affect the brand vision. As a result, Authenticity, Accuracy and Agility was called into question as in this case, more often than not, it was not the loyal customer demographic talking about the McDonald’s brand! The obverse of brand advocacy was on full display.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” In this digital era, the lie has probably travelled the world ten times over while the truth is confined to some isolated filter bubble. Sustainable brands must be custodians and genuine storytellers of the truth at all times, unblemished across the sands of time. This is only possible through true Content Power that can spark a revolution in brand engagement with reinforcing relationships that can make a positive difference in the consumer’s life. John Deere is at forefront of this movement, will other brands follow suit?
Want to develop your brand’s “content power”? Check out our Content Marketing Workshops to find out how.
About The Author
Vishwas Anand is an award-winning Content & Brand Leader who believes in the magic of a Great Content Narrative to script a brand’s success journey.
After his MBA from IIM Kozhikode, he’s working as the Head of Content & Thought Leadership at Aspire Systems. Vishwas is rated one of “The Greatest Marketing Influencers” by ET Now and the World Federation of Marketing Professionals, one of Asia’s “Most Influential Content Marketing Professionals” by the World Marketing Congress and is a Brand Leadership awardee by CMO Asia. He was a Role Player and Speaker at the 2017 World Marketing Congress; a Member of the Leaders Excellence at Harvard Square; a Speaker at BrightTALK webinars; a Jury Panel member at DMAasia; and an active Participant at Business Summits like the Gartner Summit (2015), the Futurist Business Conclave (2017) and the Content Marketing Summit (2017). He’s published whitepapers and articles covering industries like Retail and BFS for leading publications: Tech Republic, Tech in Asia, The Indian Retailer among others.