Branding gets a bad name. Many people use it as shorthand for slapping a logo on something and calling it a branded campaign. Branding is just objects with a logo. A brand only exists in the hearts and minds of end users and consumers. It is no longer what a company tells you it is—it is customer perception. Companies must walk a mile in their customers shoes and be connected to what their target audience values, make a promise to them and deliver on it.
In short, we have to change our marketing efforts from mythmaking to truth telling.
Brand itself is nothing more than an idea that is viewed with specific qualities and benefits. That only happens over time and with careful and consistent intention. Handing out baseball hats or frisbees with your logo are only reminders of your brand and useful in a chain of events that equals awareness and preference. But these actions are sub-tactical, which leads us to the more important area of tactics.
Getting Tactical with Content Marketing
There is no big science here, and content marketing is simply another tactic we can use to pipeline the idea of a brand into people’s minds at the right time and in the most engaging way.
You are always in competition for mindshare in a world that is always on and hyperconnected through a dozen modalities. Creative content that is targeted to an audience activates and brings meaning to a brand. Your content cannot be not propagating a myth of a brand but must be focused telling the truth about values and customer experience.
Questions to Set the Right Goals
Goal setting starts with understanding the motivations and options of the audience, which comes with research followed by consistent and qualified targeting of these motivations. You must be able to answer these questions from a consumer perspective:
- What unmet needs are there?
- What do customers want?
- What is a substitutable alternative to your product/service?
- How do these questions and answers cause consumers to behave and why?
The Need for Research
Maybe we should take a step back here. Every one of those previous questions can only be answered with research and planning that serves as a foundation of architecture. This can be, and probably will be, its own blog entry in time, but for now let me just reiterate the absolute need for a deep understanding of your market before you can jump into tactics. In our case, the process is called Groundwork. It is informed by many different kinds of internal research and outside partners/software that allow us to find and target different personae online.
Content Is a Tool, Not a Magic Bullet
Think of content marketing as a tool in a toolbelt where you can choose how a thing is used. If we understand the needs of the target audience, then we are addressing the tools of the customers. And we are filling those needs at the right time. We know how to create content and get it in front of them. It must be informed by the same science/thinking/research/commitment as the larger marketing operations so it is effective as can be.
Create content that makes people feel like they’re a part of something bigger. Make them invested in your business by showing shared values. Positive sentiment, engagement, interest and other top funnel successful branding indicators will rise making your key sales messages resonate more down the sales cycle.