Along with the countless articles out there extolling the wisdom of engaging in content marketing, there are some naysayers. In my observation, the majority of content-marketing-cynics "came up" in the business during an era, not very long ago at all, when marketing was Advertising-only. I believe the resistance to content marketing is primarily based in Fear. People like to keep doing what they've been doing; it's just more comfortable that way. To change, perhaps even drastically, in order to keep up with the times in your industry, can be a threatening concept.
I admit that I, too, was initially cynical about it, because I learned my craft of copywriting during an era of Advertising. I have since come to be a believer in and earnest practitioner of content marketing AND advertising.
Why? At this point in time it should be pretty obvious. Given the revolution in how we consume messages and have taken control of how we search out products and services, any brand would be foolish to keep their head in the sand.
To me, content marketing is another tool in the tool belt.
You use the tools that make sense to engage the interest of your target audience(s), where they live, and how they live. You do what works. This has always been the case.
As an example, I worked on Jiffy Lube business in the early 2000's — the Los Angeles and San Diego franchise group. The marketing tools that made the most sense then and there were radio commercials and outdoor billboards. You spoke to people when they were captive in their cars, likely to be aware of strange new noises coming up from under the hood, more likely than not to be receptive to a message that said, hey, if it's been awhile, go get an oil change, because it will help you to keep your car running smoothly. It was entertaining creative, because it needed to be; getting an oil change is not exactly a high-interest sell. So we made people smile with our advertising. (Yes I can use that word without cringing; it is advertising and I'm proud of it. Part of the pride comes from knowing that it worked. The radio ran on a rotating schedule, and during the weeks that it aired, more cars drove into Jiffy Lube stores. When the radio spots weren't airing, the numbers dropped. It was like magic.)
If I was Southern California Jiffy Lube's marketing consultant today, I would recommend that they continue to be on the radio and on billboards, because it still makes sense to remain top of mind; but I would highly encourage online content as part of the new mix. Why? Because people don't trust car mechanics very much, certainly ones that are part of a big national company. The more actual stories of human, friendly, helpful interactions between Jiffy Lube employees and customers that you can share, helps to build trust. Then, as people search online for the nearest oil change place, Jiffy Lube earns a higher ranking in people's minds, because they've got a better story to tell and share.
They could tell a story like the one that happened to me here in North Carolina.
A while ago, I needed to install a new headlight bulb in my car, and couldn't manage to fit my fat thumbs into the tiny space to install the bulb. The woman at the auto parts store told me that Jiffy Lube (right next door), would do that for me. I brought the car next door, asked about the installation, and was told it would be $10 to do so. I said sure. They put the bulb in. They said, have a good day! I said, what about the charge? They said, skip it. (Yes, they were kind of busy, and maybe it served them not to take more time to take my ten dollars, but on the other hand, it was a friendly and helpful gesture that I have not yet forgotten, about 10 months later). Would I consider that store the next time I needed an oil change? Yes.
Simple stories. Relevant and memorable stories. Informative stories that people may find of interest, and help to build a brand's reputation. To me, this defines good (and effective) content marketing. And it can be ever more powerful when the stories are told by your customers. I'm all in. How about you?
Consider the machine but
Write like a human
I didn't start out in advertising. After acting in college I banged around New York City as part of an improv comedy group called The Fresh Air Cab Company.* Being onstage in some dingy nightclub, armed with nothing but our bare wits and passion for play, was amazingly fun. When it worked it was magic. There was (pretty much) nothing better!
After awhile, I looked for a way to use my gift for making stuff up for a slightly more regular paycheck. Advertising fit the bill. Banging around in a conference room with other fringe human beings, making up s&^@, throwing pencils into the ceiling tiles like Tom Hanks in "Nothing In Common," well it was like improv theatre all over again, only with health insurance.
I haven't looked back. And what's kind of cool about this era of consumer-driven social marketing we're living in, is that it's becoming more and more like doing improv. You put a message out there, and messages come back from the audience! What's more, the brands that are willing to improvise — "play along and play nice" with consumers — are winning in the marketplace.
That's my story, and I'm sticking with it. If you'd like to look deeper, my resume is on LinkedIn.
What's your story? I can help you uncover it, and share it with customers and potential fans. Let's have a conversation!
*NYC, back in the day. Peter Freedman, Betsy Beers, Michael Berliner, Winnie Boone.
Michael Berliner is a copywriter based in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). Get in touch with Michael