Beware of buzzwords.
Social. Mobile. Viral. Real-time bidding. Optimization. Engagement. And now, content marketing. Content marketing isn't new - brands have been doing it for nearly a century, from soap operas and product placements to advertorials and microsites.
Today, every brand wants to be a publisher. And for good reason: content drives engagement and can drive brand loyalty, product sales, and evangelism. That is, when it's done thoughtfully and correctly.
Content Is the Fuel of the Web
According to a study we did at AOL with Nielsen & D&MC, 53 percent of the time spent online is spent with content. What's more, a full 30 percent of time is spent on platforms where content is shared - email and social networks. As I've told many audiences over the past two years, "Content is the fuel of the web." So it's only natural that marketers are using content to insert themselves in the consumer conversation.
But many marketers I meet these days are rushing to churn out posts, tweets, whitepapers, podcasts, and videos to share with their community of customers - regardless of whether there's user demand for what they're producing, and often without an editorial plan. Don't just check the box on content marketing. After all, as Kyle Monson, chief creative at Knock Twice recently told Ad Age: "There are a few really great content campaigns out there, and loads of terrible ones."
Pre-Flight Checklist for Content Marketers
Before you embark on any content marketing strategy, here are some questions you need to ask and answer:
So Who's Doing It Well?
Here are three examples of great content marketing, and why:
1. GoPro: don't be afraid to showcase the product. A surprising number of experts caution against including product information in content marketing efforts. I disagree, and here's why: sometimes content is the best way to bring your product's story to life, as in this example of GoPro. GoPro uses footage submitted by customers, and creates some of its own, to show how great its product is.
2. Xbox "Jump In": treat ads like content. Long before Red Bull garnered a monopoly on "adventure," savvy marketers like Xbox were using content to drive brand association - even with their ads. "Jump In" is from 2006. It's straight-up cool content. You wanted to watch it, you wanted to share it. Users didn't even know it was an ad (let alone for Xbox 360) until the very end, and it didn't matter. Seven years later, it's still terrific.
3. Whole Foods: use content to create direct connections. Whole Foods' content marketing helps the brand build direct connections with individual customers. They're sharing recipes, tips, deals, and hosting forums, all within their own existing platforms. Whole Foods does a great job highlighting user submissions and feedback, and manages its social channels as a CRM tool - in a 24/7, consistent way with a voice that's true to the brand.
Checkbox image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Kristin Kovner is a digital marketing, technology, and media industry veteran. Her firm, K-SQUARED STRATEGIES, helps high-growth media and tech companies develop and execute best-in-class marketing strategies. Prior to opening her own consultancy, Kristin served as the Vice President of Marketing Strategy at AOL, where she managed the AOL and AOL Advertising brands and set and executed the go-to-market strategy for AOL's owned and operated websites, including AOL.com, Moviefone, MapQuest, Engadget, and The Huffington Post.
Prior to joining AOL, Kristin served as the Head of Industry Marketing for YouTube and held various roles on Google's marketing team. Kristin has also worked as a journalist for Newsweek and SmartMoney, The Wall Street Journal's magazine, and as an economic consultant at Bates White LLC.
Kristin graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Yale College and currently lives in New York City.
March 19, 2014