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Content marketing: start with the audience

02/10/12

At the moment everyone in the marketing world is talking about content

Content marketing, branded content, social content, call it what you will, the suggestion that it’s an important part of the marketing mix is universally greeted with vigorous nodding and rapturous applause. But when it comes to actually making the stuff, it all goes a bit tumbleweed. Many brands seem to be puzzled about where and how to start.

Broadcasters as role-models

I think that’s a real shame, especially when the broadcasting world is packed full of inspirational content role-models for brands to follow. I’m talking here about the undisputed kings of gripping content: broadcasters.

So over the course of several blogs, I’m going to pass on a few tricks of the broadcasting trade that I think brands could use to shape their content strategy, and make their output more effective.

But where to begin?

Start with the right word

If you move from the world of marketing to the world of TV there’s a certain linguistic quirk you notice after a while. It’s the absence of a familiar word oft-spoken in the world of marketing and retail: consumer. In the world of TV it’s replaced with another more evocative word: audience. Audiences are attracted by things that interest them. Consumers are interrupted by messages that often don’t.

So when approaching a content marketing initiative, that crucial change of vocabulary, from consumer to audience, can help you reappraise who you’re talking to, and shift your approach to the conversation with them. Using the word audience means that you’re more likely to start from their perspective and ask ‘What’s entertaining or useful for them?’

That’s a far cry from beginning with your brand’s message, and scheming and finessing some elaborate ruse to get your target to swallow it.

Now, I’m exaggerating a little the nefarious nature of the advertising model to make a point, because, yes, it’s true that many marketers using interruptive advertising do indeed build their products and campaigns around a consumer insight. But that’s always done within limited parameters. The first question from the marketing team is often ‘How can I make Product X appeal to the consumer?’ It should be ‘what does our audience actually want to watch or do?’

Brands as broadcasters

Recently the likes of B&Q, Bacardi and Waitrose have been asking that very question. In so doing they’ve begun to inspire their audiences by behaving more like broadcasters. B&Q and Waitrose in particular have successfully identified where their audience’s interest dovetails with their brand’s specific expertise. The useful nature of their content means that their content sites will become trusted destinations for advice and ideas. That will boost web traffic, increase dwell time, deepen engagement and move those brands higher up their audience’s consideration list to purchase - which with Waitrose TV is simply a couple of clicks away.

The commercial impact of Bacardi’s content is perhaps less direct, but no less powerful in the long run. With TrueOriginals.com Bacardi targeted one of its most influential audiences: bartenders and mixologists. And by starting the content development process with an understanding of their audience’s passion, Bacardi were able to make sure that their content had the almost nerdy level of obsessive detail required to ignite conversation amongst these potential advocates.

Different brands, different objectives and different audiences. But they’re all united in their commitment to creating content that audiences will want to seek out and watch, rather than messages that consumers might just about tolerate.

So then trepidacious marketers, be strong. Like broadcasters and the brands above, begin by thinking about audiences, not consumers. Start there and you’ll be on your way to entertaining and useful content ideas that drive measurable results.

Michael Reeves, Business Development, Content