When a recent global analysis by Meaningful Brands took a look at content marketing efforts around the globe, covering 1,500 brands in 15 different industries, it uncovered a harsh reality for digital marketing – 60% of content being created is underperforming. This failing content is considered by consumers to be irrelevant and serves the sad purpose of adding to all the clutter on the web.
Good content marketing really does work. We’ve all seen the impact of insightful, relevant, optimized content that seems to effortlessly express a brand’s story. When done well, it goes way beyond eye-catching and interesting. It makes consumers feel like they are a part of something bigger.
Poor content, on the other hand, doesn’t work. It simply isn’t capable of building the necessary bridge to consumers, generating leads, and building long-term customer relationships. If you’re not offering something unique through your marketing, something that adds value to people’s lives, then consumers probably don’t care too much about your brand. In fact, if three-quarters of all the brands disappeared, most people wouldn’t care.
Look at companies like Google, Ikea, or Wikipedia. We’d all be upset if they disappeared. They offer too much value, too many benefits for a huge chunk of modern society. They are useful, almost necessary from the high-quality products they offer to the droves of people they employ.
As a marketer, one of the most important questions you should ask is – would people be disappointed if my brand fell off the face of the earth?
Consumers expect more from marketers today
Who knows if the chicken or the egg came first, or if brands became more meaningful in response to consumer expectations or if consumer expectations became more sophisticated because some brands started delivering more in order to compete online.
Either way, today’s consumers expect a lot. 75% of people expect the brands in their life to do something to increase their well-being. Those marketers that have understood this have been able to help bring in incredible revenue growth for their businesses. Those companies that ranked high as Meaningful Brands have outperformed the stock market by 206% over the past decade!
What exactly is it that consumers expect? The 2016 Edelman Brand Relationship Index found that consumers have a pretty demanding list of expectations:
- Help solve societal issues
- Share a strong story
- Listen to them
- Respond to consumer needs
Richard Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman, points out that these deeper expectations actually provide a huge opportunity for businesses, and for shaping an evolved consumer-brand relationship in the future. “The study shows when a consumer moves from a relationship rooted in ‘me’ to one powered by ‘we,’ a new world of buying and advocacy potential opens up for a brand.”
How to be meaningful through your online marketing
Look at some of the brilliant examples online to give you an idea of meaningful content marketing done well.
Denny’s quaint, quirky Instagram photos combine enticing visuals with a fun, witty personality, the type of energy that everyone loves being around. This marketing style holds something even greater within its messaging – a down-to-earth, life-is-simple value system that offers a respite from our complicated, high-stress modern lives. Now that’s valuable!
The Living Food Kitchen, a plant-based health food delivery company in the UK, offers customers recipe ideas and information on healthy living.
Need inspiration to get out there and conquer – or maybe put on your Nike’s and go for a run? Nike excels at motivational messaging. The company has been doing this for decades, encouraging millions to stick with their workouts and to empower themselves with Nike activewear.
In order to make your online marketing meaningful, the trick is to ensure that every piece of content you publish has a purpose – for your customers. Also, this meaning has to be consistent through everything that is published. For example, Denny’s would lose its effectiveness if it tried to put out a series of blog posts on heart healthy eating. Even though this would be helpful to consumers, it would serve the purpose of putting people off from their brand. Not that piles of pancakes and bottomless coffee aren’t good for the soul, but the heart…
SEO Consultant Hannah Smith points to three core principles that brands use to be meaningful.
1. Making customers smile
Brands that take the time to interact with customers on social media in an artful way can help to encourage a stronger connection and make all consumers feel like they are “heard” by the brand. You may not be able to communicate with every question or concern. You don’t need to. It’s more about the quality and creativity of your responses.
2. Help customers define themselves
A New York Times study on the Psychology of Sharing, found that people carefully choose what they share in order to define their own personality to friends and followers. The study found that most people tend to fall into the following personas:
- Altruist – shares helpful, thoughtful advice
- Careerist – shares intelligent business articles with a focus on LinkedIn
- Hipster – more concerned about their social identity, will only share what is considered to be hip, innovative, or cutting-edge
- Boomerangs – share information with the goal of getting a reaction and validation from peers, heavy users of Twitter and Facebook
- Connectors – focus on thoughtful information, relaxed and creative content that others would appreciate
- Selectives – share resourceful, informative content
This knowledge can help you create content that your target audience can use to express themselves on their own social networking sites, whether they want to show others how cool they are because you posted edgy visuals they can share, or because they want to demonstrate how thoughtful they are by reposting your healthy recipe article to their personal networks. Understand your buyer personas, and then give them what they want.
3. Stand for something
Give consumers something that they can be a part of. Toms does a great job of this, selling earthy, practical, yet fashionable footwear – that makes a statement of social awareness. They use their online branding efforts to help get people involved, while also offering consumers a product that they can feel good about wearing.
Your brand doesn’t have to be eco-conscious or politically active to stand for something – it can be about standing for a value or life philosophy, just like Nike do for inner strength, Apple for the spirit of innovation, or Rolex for luxury living.
Meaningful brands have figured out the boon of online marketing – that quality, value-driven, meaningful content is a gift that will keep on giving. Not only does it generate leads, but it builds a formidable brand presence – one that the world wouldn’t want to be without.
For more online marketing strategies that get results, see What Are The New Rules For Engaging An Online Community?