Here we are. The last piece in our 12 Days of Marketing series – and what a journey it’s been! (Deep breath, don’t get emotional). But we’re not here to look back on the past, we’re here to talk about the future. And with that, we give you our one big theme for 2019:
Brands as Publishers
Before we get into it, we should tell you a couple things.
1 – This is not a new concept, by any means – brands have published content for as long as they’ve existed. We simply believe that now, more than ever, brands truly understand the value of content and (perhaps more importantly) how and where to leverage it within the marketing funnel.
2 – Being a publisher doesn’t mean pumping out dozens of pieces of content every day – it’s about consistently delivering interesting, valuable, and (this is critical) non-branded content.
That said, we’re convinced that 2019 will be the year that brands prioritize consistent, cohesive content as the driving force behind growing awareness and establishing deeper connections with customers, ultimately increasing customer lifetime value (LTV) and conversion rates.
Digital advertising is getting more expensive every day with increased demand. More and more brands are advertising on cluttered digital platforms like Facebook, Google AdWords, and Amazon, while inventory remains mostly stagnant. Rather than burning more cash to win out in the paid acquisition battle royale, brands will be wise to build repositories of owned media, making their websites more than just a purchasing destination for customers. But how?
The Upside-Down Pyramid
Good content follows the framework of the upside-down pyramid:
At the top is foundational, intent-driven content like articles and how-tos, designed to offer solutions or answer questions. Representing the bulk of a brand’s content offering, foundational content should be both evergreen and brand-agnostic. With the right SEO strategy, this content will rank for relevant keywords, increasing brand awareness every time a potential customer comes upon it in their search for information related to the brand’s products or services.
The next step is to deliver content that increases engagement by educating or inspiring audiences, increasing engagement, like videos or interactive quizzes. With engagement comes trust and an increased likelihood that readers will share content, ultimately becoming brand advocates, feeding back into the first stage of the pyramid in a positive feedback loop.
No disrespect to direct-response marketing – it’s the primary element to ecommerce success – but investing in paid acquisition establishes a purely commercial, buy/sell relationship with customers. Digital ads and email marketing are great for generating need in the minds of consumers, but once a purchase is made, customers have no reason to engage with the advertising brand until the next time the need to purchase arises. With content, brands can not only stay top of mind by engaging with customers beyond and between those points of sale, but also create additional purchase moments that wouldn’t have otherwise arisen. We call this shaping interest.
For example: I went camping over the summer with some friends. I was new to camping at the time and had to buy my own equipment. Let’s not kid ourselves – I wasn’t about to drive over to a giant big box store to be bamboozled by a salesperson with a monthly quota. I did what any millennial would do: sat on the couch, put on an episode of The Office for background ambience, and asked the internet.
Right away, I was targeted with search ads. I tabbed out a few of these and some organic results. After visiting a few websites, I decided I’d think on it and make a purchase later. Over the next few days, I was retargeted (pretty aggressively) in my Instagram feed and got a few promotional emails from brands I’d subscribed to. All of this influenced my customer journey, and ultimately I bought a (very expensive) tent and some gear – a big win for the brand I ultimately chose.
But the bigger win occurred a few days later, when I got an email from the retailer that included a link to an article they’d published titled “5 Gourmet Meals You Can Make While Camping”. Before reading the piece, I was under the impression that camping cuisine was limited to granola bars and dried fruit. Little did I know you could sear a pretty mean filet mignon, with the right equipment. I bought some camping cookwear – and because I already trusted the brand, I didn’t leave the site.
By shaping my interest, this little piece of content earned the retailer a few more bucks – but more importantly, it deepened my trust and intrigue. Whereas before I may not have come back to the site after grumpily gnawing my way through a dozen Clif bars in the woods, after reading that piece, not only was I more interested in camping, knowing I could eat like a king out there in the wilderness, but I also trusted the brand as a source of valuable information. When brands engage customers with content between purchase moments, they remove need from the equation – or, better yet, create a need for content. Content takes the place of a sales associate.
By turning audiences into brand advocates and shaping the interests and needs of new and existing customers, brands can increase the number of potential purchases, extend the length of customer relationships, and enrich customer/brand relationship. As brands become increasingly cognizant of the relative value of content as a supplement to direct-response advertising, we expect to see consumer brands large and small putting more time and effort into carefully developing a voice beyond their products.