Content Remains King—But the Game is Changing
Early in the dotcom era, Bill Gates famously postulated in an essay that “content is king”. He was correct, and far from only one, to imagine a world where the marginal cost of delivering new content would be next to zero. But for many companies it’s taken a few decades—and perhaps above all, the last 18 months’ pandemic-driven disruption—to truly understand just how crucial content strategy is to the larger project of brand building and ultimately, to creating value.
The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for digital revolution across sectors, from insurance and financial services to consulting and professional services, even communications agencies. New ways of work and consuming content have spun up disruptive competition from startups, new considerations and sensitivities, lots of new noise—but also the opportunity to really examine how we build brands in this post-pandemic world. So, what is the role of content marketing in this new normal?
Narratives that Matter
First, to borrow from yet another seemingly ancient truism: if all politics is local, so too is your brand. Brands must be hyper-targeted when communicating, a priority that affects both content volume and substance. But more marketing content alone isn’t the answer. Companies today can really drill into their audiences without much effort, even down to a pocket of homeowners in a particular zip code, or specific type of investor. What’s trickier is creating a narrative that authentically converses with and is accessible to those demographics— to the lived experience and issues most pertinent to that audience. It is crucial to demonstrate how the company’s mission, culture, and values authentically align with those priorities.
Medium is the Message
Next is the association of your brand with customer care and user experience (UX). This is no surprise for marketers in the B2C world, as digitally-native consumers’ expectations for a seamless, frictionless process have risen with Millennials and Gen-Z taking on a greater share of spending power. Increasingly, B2B programs have taken on a similar approach. Today, having the best product or expertise alone is insufficient; it also about delivering it seamlessly across content types and devices. From both an organizational and content perspective, companies must adapt their voice, their marketing channels, and their services structure to reflect the UX we’ve grown accustomed to on our smartphone apps.
To put that idea into practice, many firms have blurred and integrated their PR, marketing, sales, and product functions over time. But the same should be true of their content, as well. How are you putting that interaction between company and consumer front and center, and packaging your content to match? Does that story reflect reality? Can your messaging help foreground the approach you’ll take to UX in the future?
A More Thoughtful Approach to Leads
Finally, effectively surrounding your brand with relevant content lies in ambition and design. Not so long ago, and too often still today, there was a version of digital marketing strategy that looked at content as a funnel: create a product profile generic enough and hope that with a sufficiently large reach, you’re bound to convert a few users to consumers along the way. But those days should be over—not only because there are better ways to take advantage of an algorithm as a conveyor for lead generation, but because it also dilutes your brand.
Content should always reflect differentiation, and should seek to meet the buyer or prospective customer at the stage in where they currently are. Are they doing initial research? Have they defined the problem they are seeking to solve? Are they comparing options? Are they ready to make a decision? When companies design a content strategy that looks to meet and support their customers and prospects where they already are, it leads to better outcomes and less wasted energy.
None of this work is easy; nor is it cheap. The reality is that brand building and communicating in 2021 is all about the combination of personalization and the utilization of technology to meet people where they are. Creating narratives that resonate with the end user is a challenge that requires a comprehensive content strategy, and dedicated communications partners who understand the key elements that lead to success.
But embracing this reality is a must for companies seeking to pivot from the shocks of the pandemic—and ultimately thrive in its recovery.