Everyone’s talking about a particular buzzword in the marketing industry: Content. This buzzword embodies a powerful tool that’s pushing standard advertising to the back of the queue. It’s nudging traditional marketing methods off the platform, and, how about this for an idea, it’s putting the customer’s needs and wants at the top of the list.

Allow us to introduce you to “Content”. You’ll run into her a lot in the coming years.

 What is Content Marketing anyway?

Throw the word marketing after this seemingly esoteric term, and you have the new normal in the world of marketing. Coke is doing it. NRMA is doing it. McDonald’s is doing it. And so is CBA. So exactly what is content marketing?” Let’s consider an explanation from one its grandfathers, Joe Pulizzi – the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and champion of this marketing tactic.

Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Despite commercial knee-jerk reactions, Content Marketing is not about making quick sales. It’s about creating a two-way communication channel between a brand and its target audience. In the short term, this new dynamic with the customer has a positive impact on brand awareness and experience, setting the company up as an expert in its field. In the long term, if a brand’s content marketing acumen remains sharp, the sales should flow.

So instead of pitching products or services to the consumer, in a content marketing strategy a brand delivers information that makes its potential buyer more intelligent and more empathetic to its brand values. If a brand embraces a “content strategy”, delivering consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, it can be confident that it will ultimately be rewarded with the consumer’s business and loyalty.

Why Content Marketing?

The golden days of sales and marketing are on their way out. No longer does Josephine Blogs buy a Coke because it’s one of only three softies in the vending machine. There are more brands than there are people to buy them. But no longer does Joe Blogs watch ads on commercial television – seen any ads on Netflix lately? Competition is fierce. There are more channels for brands and consumers to interact with than ever before.

And the customer journey has changed. The power has moved from the hands of the brand to the control of the consumer. The overnight evolution of social and digital technologies has created a rich and varied smorgasbord of information, and consumers are turning to these new channels to figure out where their brand allegiances lie.

So, as a brand, you have a few choices: hitch a ride on the information superhighway and put your brand in the middle of the conversation; or, leave an empty space for your competitors to fill with their own valuable content or, worse, allow your would-be customers to publish damaging feedback on your brand.

So how to Create Content?

For many marketers, it’s a path less travelled. Creating content requires the editorial processes of planning, development, production and measurement. It’s a precarious journey into unfamiliar terrain. You might say that content marketing has more branches sprouting from the publishing tree than it does from advertising or marketing. So perhaps this why we are seeing a slow wave of journalists transplanting themselves into the content marketing space.

What we know for sure is that content marketing is only as good as the positive engagement it drives with your consumers. A brand publishes content that its customer needs and wants. The goal of content marketing is to create helpful, informative pieces (from white papers, webinars and blogs to videos, recipes and animated gifs) that your audience finds valuable, in order to drive positive engagement with your customers.

And you don’t start making content unless you’re sure of its purpose. Remember, content marketing is all about your customer. Let’s take a look at one of the big guys doing content marketing well.

McDonald’s has shown that it can evolve with the market – the world suddenly becomes health conscious and what do you know, McDonalds introduces its healthy options menu. Burgers become high-end restaurant fodder and here comes McDonalds with its “Create Your Taste” campaign where consumers build their own burger from 30 gourmet ingredients.

So it’s hardly surprising that McDonald’s entered the content marketing space at full speed with its “Our Food, Your Questions” initiative. McDonald’s Canada began with a campaign a few years ago to answer customer questions about its food (it was subsequently rolled out in many countries including Australia) – and not all the questions shone a positive light on the brand. All questions were showcased on its website – from the benign “Where do your potatoes come from?” to the confronting “Does 100% beef mean all the yucky bits no-one likes to talk about?”

So why would McDonald’s do such a thing? Customer service. The brand is answering all the questions its customers have never had a forum in which to ask. It’s showing transparency and honesty in a market with a scarcity of brands that speak the truth. Jay Baer, inventor of the “Youtility” concept, author and all-round marketing guru, interviewed Joel Yashinsky, CMO of McDonald’s Canada, about this initiative. Here’s one of the CMO’s insights behind Macca’s motivations:

“If you have a good story to tell, tell it. But you have to do it in a way that’s authentic, and you have to have that conversation with the customer. You can’t just preach to the consumer these things that you know are true. You have to engage them so that they can come to learn it and believe it and build that trust with you.”

Best things, small packages

So that’s an example of how the big guys do it. But it’s the small operators who are proving the most innovative in the content marketing space. Take a look at Best’s Great Western (a Mastermind Consulting client). This historic winery has fully embraced the brave new world of content marketing since engaging Mastermind several years ago, and the brand has seen the benefits roll in. From social media campaigns and creating consumer tasting panels to embracing old-school printed material to tell the “Story of Shiraz” on the Great Western front, Best’s has been agile enough to respond to its consumers’ needs and created meaningful engagement with those consumers – both long standing and brand new.

In short, there’s a need for brands to talk to their consumers in a new language – it’s called content marketing. It’s not just consumer-driven campaigns that are making an impact; business-to-business content marketing is also on the rise. If you’d like a bit of guidance when you take your first steps on the content marketing journey, give us a bell at Mastermind Consulting. We can help with your plans – big or small.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about where to start with a brand’s content marketing initiatives.

By Sophie Knox