Content has been the hot topic in marketing in 2014.
Whereas once it was a pretty niche subject area at any marketing conference – found in the breakout sessions around the fringe - this year it’s been centre stage at every event I’ve attended. And that means there’s been an awful lot said about it, and some of it rather contentious too. But there were at least two nuggets of received wisdom that everybody was still happy enough to go along with. The first – content is king, and top quality content reigns supreme.
The second? That much is said of such high quality content in a very literal sense. The best stuff is shared all over the world: it’s LOLLed at, emoticonned, hashtagged, commented on and even spoken about by live human beings in physical interface, real-time multi-user communication exchange forums, like pubs n’ that. In many cases it builds a relationship between an audience and an organisation that may not have existed previously.
Clearly there’s no magic formula for gaining views or followers, and distribution strategies play a major role in determining success, but the better your content is, the greater the chances of a significant impact with your audience, whether that’s getting the audience to more readily recall that your brand exists, like it more or immediately buy your new top-of the-range Super Dooper Thing 2000.
But what are the defining factors of quality? How do we measure the quality of content, and what does it achieve?
How to approach it
Start with the audience. Content needs to attract an audience and can’t rely on interrupting them like advertising does. The audience has to choose it, so you have to put the audience’s needs and desires first. Too many brands start the content development process from the perspective of their business objective, rather than that of their audience’s objectives.
Step back and ask yourself – how can we make something interesting and unique that people will actually want to watch, read or interact with?
Get a distinctive and consistent editorial positioning. A lot of content produced by brands varies in tone and purpose to such a degree that audiences have little idea what to expect next from that brand. So how do marketers expect them to trust the brand enough to trial new content? Having an editorial positioning – a unifying thought, theme or opinion that guides your content output – is as essential for branded content as it is for good broadcasting or journalism. It allows the audience to understand what your brand represents and what they are likely to get, making it an easier choice for them to spend their precious time with your brand. And a distinctive editorial positioning for your brand is especially essential if a competitor brand is providing content for that audience in a similar space.
Use narrative. Tell us a story, and we’ll listen. Too many marketers assume narrative is just for fiction. But it’s essential for any good content. As any historian, journalist or documentary-maker will testify, a story holds the audience’s attention, engaging them emotionally. And it provides a context to make the facts more memorable.
What can quality content achieve?
Instant impact on sales
When put in the right place and measured with the right metrics, it’s possible to track online content’s direct influence on sales. In 2012 Littlewoods launched a new homewares range with a live interactive TV show on Facebook hosted by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. According to Retail Week it was Littlewoods’ most successful ever homeware launch, smashing the previous sales record by 292%, while traffic to the range was up almost 300% compared with the first week of traffic for similar collections.
And Lego’s clearly defined social media content strategy has been known to drive sales almost instantly. For Star Wars day (May 4th) in 2013, Lego used a fan-created image of a Lego storm trooper holding up a 'free hugs' sign, suggesting that fans visit Star Wars’ Lego page to see what was on offer. It certainly captured the attention of its viewers. Within 15 minutes of posting, the image and user-generated content competition had directly driven sales of over $10,000 (US) and generated 14,000 likes as a result, according to Lars Silberbauer, head of social media and search at Lego.
The key, Silberbauer suggests, is to interact with consumers on a human level. The fan-created content was a more personal approach than, say, posting a stock image of a product in a box.
Getting your brand shared and liked should be a foundation from which to develop content. That may sound obvious, but it’s the next best thing to direct sales and the purpose of most of the marketing activity on the planet.
A great example of a brand doing well here is GoPro, the video camera manufacturer. GoPro is not one of the world’s biggest brands, despite incredible growth in recent years. It is outspent by hundreds of brands in every market and media around the world. But GoPro is the 5th biggest brand on YouTube, according to the Touchstone Video Index. Its YouTube channel has 1.7m subscribers and certain films have over 22 million views. That’s millions of people choosing to spend time with the brand, which is good for awareness, and brilliant for brand preference, especially given that most of GoPro’s content involves exhilarating feats that showcase the product’s capabilities. The content it produces is tied intrinsically to what the product does and enables, and the user-generated element is strong throughout.
Good quality content will also result in being found more easily through better SEO. Good content gets you discovered in searches. Now that Google’s search algorithm frowns upon older tactics of keyword stuffing, one of the best ways to boost SEO is through unique content.
According to a Forrester research study, having a good online video marketing strategy can increase your likelihood of achieving first page Google rankings by up to 53 times. And the Search Engine Journal states that companies that blog have over 434% more indexed pages.
Top quality content elevates brands above the competition
Hyundai has recently seen greatly improved results in terms of visibility and audience engagement. Before 2013, Hyundai UK had produced some video content for its YouTube channel, but little of it stood out and very few of the videos attracted more than a few thousand views. Hyundai identified a growing audience of car-buyers using online video to research potential purchases and decided it should cater to this audience need by providing in-depth video showcases for each model. The quality benchmark for this type of video across the car market was low, with Hyundai’s main mid-range competitors opting for similar 360 degree shots of interiors and engines. It was moving brochure-ware with little to hold an audience’s attention and force memorability of the features.
Hyundai wanted to raise the quality of the viewing experience, and worked with Red Bee to create a series of videos that presented each model’s key benefits and features, whilst also entertaining the audience at the same time. The creative solution was to write a series of five minute video sketches featuring a patient Hyundai sales representative and a series of characterful customers. The results have been impressive – over 1.7 million views across four films and YouTube TrueView completion rates of up to 61%, versus an average for branded content of 8-16%. More people are seeing and talking about Hyundai’s products, which can only contribute positively to brand preference in the long term.
Aim higher with content
Clearly all this talk of high quality content doesn’t presuppose any organisation actually wants to make crap content. But rubbish stuff does still seem to get made. I think it’s because, despite all the good intentions and headlines, content is still an afterthought for a lot of marketers. It’s the added value extra bonus thing to do once you’ve sorted out the big ATL ad campaign. As a result it can suffer comparatively from less creative TLC and a vastly smaller production budget. The attitude of ‘oh well, it’s good enough to go on YouTube’ still pervades. But with more and more audiences ignoring ads and spending time online, soon ‘good enough’ just won’t be. To make it worth watching, you have to set out to make the best thing out there. Make it great. Then make it even better.
Michael Reeves, Business Development Director, Content.