“Rome was not built in a day but they were laying bricks every hour.”
~ John Heywood
If John Heywood was a 21st Century Marketer, he’d have said, “Brand image was not build in a day but they were writing content.”
Branding is an acquired perception of your product/service by your customers over a period of years. It happens day after day, experience after experience. However it is quite possible to build a positive image with the right branding strategy from the outset.
at do you think would have been Steve Jobs’ brand strategy when he started out? Make a perfect product and it will sell itself? No. Though we cannot say his products are less than perfect, he surely had a sound brand strategy.
Apple’s strategy was to focus on human emotions. Jobs started out by focusing on innovation, experience and feel of his product. Then he focused on his customers’ lifestyle, imagination, passion and aspiration. He focused on giving more power to people by subtracting complexity and multiplying simplicity. And to this date, Apple is true to this branding strategy. From their logo to stores through to their ads, they stick to a simple and minimalistic approach.
Now let us see how their content strategy is in tandem with their branding.
Just like their minimalistic branding approach, Apple’s content strategy is simple. You won’t find Apple on any content marketing sites or social media sites. However, since they couldn’t afford to neglect this channel, they came up with ‘Your Verse’ campaign.
This campaign highlighted stories of people using iPad in different scenarios, doing exciting things. It has a beautiful story about a hearing-impaired travel writer.
Their next campaign was for iPhone called ‘Dreams’; it had the same premises and gave a glimpse into the inner worlds of a doctor, a pilot and many more.
Simple, inspiring and full of feeling! Just like their branding and advertising efforts. So did it help their brand image? A big yes. Their content strategy was success right from the start. What was the reason of this success?
- They didn’t waver from their core branding value.
- They took time to come up with their online content strategy and refused to follow their competitors’ (Samsung) route.
- They decided to stick to short campaigns instead of perpetual social media presence, thus minimalizing their efforts and chances to make mistakes.
However, Apple is a relatively young brand and hence it was possible for them to get their fundamentals right. How can old businesses with a fixed brand image benefit through content marketing?
The most apt response to this question is – give it some time and a lot of positive efforts. Wouldn’t AXA, France-based insurance provider, give anything to be not considered ‘cold and hairsplitting’ and rebuild a better brand image for itself?
Brand building is an immensely time-consuming and frustrating exercise involving everything from the way your logo looks to your marketing and customer service, from the way the CEO speaks to your stock market prices. And today, content marketing has become a major influencer for brand image.
So how does content marketing affect your brand? For starters, it allows you to express more, something that your product / service doesn’t. Your product simply states that ‘I am good, use me’ or ‘I suck!’ Content marketing elaborates on this and gives a voice to your product / service.
Newsletters and press releases s tell the world what’s happening in your little world, Facebook helps you share amazing stories with your fans, Twitter makes you look intellectual and informative, and videos and presentations allow you to drive your point home!
Starbucks says, “I sell good coffee!”
Starbucks’ content strategy says, “Every sip, every place, every street has a story to tell. Stories that will tell the world until everyone believes Starbucks is synonymous with coffee.”
However, today with most businesses venturing into the online world, it is difficult to determine where branding and content marketing coincides.
- Your brand image may be hurting your content marketing efforts or
- Your content marketing efforts may be seriously impairing your image.
We have two classic scenarios here.
Scenario 1: Verizon is doing its best on social media to acquire people’s faith but it seems their poor ground services and brand image isn’t allowing them to progress much.
Scenario 2: Volkswagen, one of the leading car manufacturers, is time and again ridiculed for its lackluster performance on social media and online content marketing.
So it is important for businesses to brush up their act and get their content strategy right.
Here’s how businesses can improve their brand image through right content strategy.
Have a parallel voice – Is your brand image and content strategy synonymous?
If you look like a grandfather and talk like a kid, no one will take you seriously. Content marketing is not a way to channelize what you think but a way to channelize subtle messages that your audience wants to listen. For instance, if you are a book publisher, people are looking for knowledge on authors, information on new books, inspiring quotes from esteemed literati, not cute kitten pictures. On the other hand if you are a trendy coffee shop down the road, having a cute cat sipping on a coffee wouldn’t be a bad idea! Understand your brand value first and then create a similar content voice.
Let’s take an example. How do you see the Economist?A – IntellectualB – Highly principledC – Long standingThe Economist, UK’s 170-year old newspaper, started with the vision “to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”, and stuck to it even when it ventured into content marketing.However, according to their community editor Mark Johnson, when they tried to deviate a little from their image and be a bit more creative on Twitter, there were occasions when they received negative feedback.He said, “One thing that we’ve learnt, and one thing I’d recommend, is not to dumb down, not to try and be something different, or something that you’re not”.
A sexually-suggestive video was released from Mercedes Benz service dept. offending many US bloggers
Don’t be narcissistic – Are you all about me, me, me!
While the essence of content marketing is promoting yourself, you must remember that not everything is about you. Give out informative blog posts, how to articles, life hacks, guides etc. instead of just rambling about how wonderful your brand is!
Newsjacking has also come forth as a new content strategy but it’s a good idea only if it’s done tastefully. Consider the Oreo post below (and almost all their posts which revolve around themselves). On the other hand, look how Play-Doh used an amazing creative dough palace and Will-Kate with the new baby for a congratulatory news post. Not a single word of self-appreciation!
Not so cool:
Be consistent – Are you being funny, clever and beautiful all at once?
Some brands are vying so much for attention that they are being witty, altruistic and funny all at once. However it pays to be consistent. If you are a capitalistic company focusing only on profits, covering your act by donating a paltry sum just so you can make good, is not the right strategy.
Techy or Pushy?
Charlatan or Samaritan?
Witty or Not?
Eat24 app’s content is consistently funny and weird everywhere. They are notorious for their double entendre and eccentric content but it gels nicely with their image; if you want a laugh, seriously recommend their mind-numbing funny posts.
Don’t be loud – Are you overdoing it just to be heard?
Many times, businesses create superb content only to realize that they are not getting results. So what could be possibly wrong? The fact that they can’t separate brand from content.
Overusing logo in tutorial or help videos, too many product mentions during short films, keyword-stuffed educational blog posts are all examples of product-centric promotions.
Learn the art of subtle. Be there without being too there. Day after day, Burger King posts pictures of their products, oozing out praises and kick phrases! They don’t respond to negative reviews or give out free coupons and offers; in short they do nothing but toot their own horn.
The same goes for PETA here.
But not all companies are that brash. A company has got to be subtle right? It definitely has to be General Electric. If you still haven’t seen GE’s Pinterest page, you must check right now; it’s informative, vibrant and useful. They have varied posts from something as serious as cancer to as sumptuous as food. They give equal importance to art, science and philosophy, a remarkable strategy to ensure your audience is never bored.
Carve your niche – Make a mental picture of yourself and get others to see it
Usually customers form a mental picture of your business – you are old, reliable, young, energetic, smart and techy or you are just a snack no one thinks about but nibbles on. Oreo found itself in the last bracket and decided to change its game. Social media came as a knight in shining armor as now they could show the world that they are not only the oldest biscuit brand but also the funniest and quirkiest of them all!
See how Etsy has managed to stick to its branding here. On their website they say – Open an Etsy shop with just $0.20 USD and your imagination to set up a global business. Their strengths are creative, unique and handcrafted items. This blog post clearly echoes the same values thus strengthening their brand position. Etsy is a prime example of how you can carve a niche in your segment by reinforcing your position. You don’t necessarily have to say I am the best, here the seller is by admission ‘a haphazard maker’ and still it doesn’t discredit her.
Explore new channels – The world doesn’t start and begin with Facebook and Twitter
Most small and medium businesses think that having a website, Facebook page and Twitter will sort them out. However, many B2B companies find themselves losing out on important years channelizing their efforts on these mediums when they could have built more meaningful content on platforms like Quora or Slideshare. Many software companies, industrial parts manufacturers etc. found this out quite late in the game and had to change their tactics. This happened because of their informal nature of business and they could have immensely benefitted from conducting case studies and making video demos, rather than making cute cartoons on Facebook. For your content strategy to excel, you need to understand your product / brand positioning and then venture in the harshly judgmental online world. Having said that, one must not ignore Facebook or Twitter completely, just get your content mix right, and decide which platform gets how much attention and then roll out your content accordingly.
These figures will tell you why!
Some Fun Figures
- 86% small businesses have stated that Facebook is a valuable marketing tool for their brand1But why take only businesses’ point of view?
- More than 50% Twitter users follow their favorite brands and 79% of followers recommend the brands they follow2
- According to SmartInsights, Online PR has 23% share in 2015’s Online Marketing Channel, while email marketing had 51% share
- According to ZenithOptiMedia, online video market increased by 34% last year, thanks to its precise targeting
This reiterates the fact that there’s a world beyond social media too.
These figures make 3 things clear – 1) Businesses can’t ignore online content marketing, 2) There is a definite influence of content marketing on brand image and 3) by following simple rules, businesses can rule online as well as offline marketing.
Every brand success or failure has a story to tell. But before we dwell on these stories, it is better to introspect.
Questions to Ask
- What kind of voice does our brand have? What people want to listen?
- How will my content possibly enrich their lives? Or at least help them to use my product better.
- How will I ensure my branding and content tones are similar?
- Is there a way to gauge my brand’s image before embarking on content marketing?
Analytics give us a figure but an open eye and willingness to hear gives a complete picture of your brand. Use this picture to devise your content strategy. It might not be beautiful or artsy but it can be impactful and useful to your audience. Make sure any tweet, newsfeed or blog you write adds something of value to your customer’s life and your content marketing will improve your brand image.
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