Want to take your content marketing strategy to the next level?

So far, you must have come across several content marketing trending stories. Most of them talked about how gaming and esports are going to be the talk of the town. Technology to enable content marketers, social commerce and shorthand content to flourish, vernacular and audio content to rule content marketing, and more. The list below is a compilation of pointers that every content marketer should pin to their desk or workstation as regular reminders to stay on top of their game.

With the experience of writing countless content marketing articles over the past four years and speaking to hundreds of content marketing practitioners, this might still be an outrageous attempt, but I took the liberty to share my thoughts on how one can improve their content marketing strategy in 2022.

Give it a read.

Don’t forget to tell stories

The art of storytelling is a very valuable skill that human beings have possessed and treasured since ancient times. There are reports that prove telling a story makes the information much more memorable. In the current scenario, it has become very difficult to tell stories on multiple platforms where the brand has to be present and tell the same story in different forms. Sounds like a lot of work, right? But that shouldn’t deter brands from telling stories, keeping consumers at the heart of them. Brands should try to keep the human element intact even when marketing at scale. However, one must ensure that while telling the story, the brand must not speak to consumers and preach to them. Also, not all stories have to be heartbreaking or even extremely funny. A simple, lighthearted story can also have as much impact as any humorous or emotional narrative. All one has to do is be relevant, meaningful, keeping consumers at the center of it all. For example, the film “Munni” by P&G Shiksha. It’s simple, not heartbreaking, but it touches the heart. The film does not attempt to create a tsunami of emotions in anyone’s mind, but is capable of creating ripples in anyone’s heart.

Create a community of people with common interests

When telling stories, brands need to remember to help people find commonalities. People enjoy interacting with each other based on common interests and a chance to experience new things together. It gives them a sense of belonging. We must not forget that smart mobile phones and the advent of short form content applications have put content creation in the hands of the public. Marketers need to remember that they have millions of potential content creators at their disposal. Brands need to find them and make them their advocates. Brands rely on existing communities or create their own. In 2020, OnePlus released a documentary called “United by Hope”. The documentary was shot on OnePlus. Aligned with OnePlus’ community orientation, the documentary is an ode to the OnePlus community that brings to life the relatable feelings and emotions experienced capturing the lives of these people during the new normal.

Culture does its own marketing

So many times I’ve heard marketers talk about cultural marketing. A brand can help shape culture, but not create one. Brands need to realize that creating a cultural movement is not in our control. All brands have to do is immerse themselves in the culture that is being built at any given time. It’s okay to be part of pop culture, but don’t try to rule it. The themes and narratives one chooses to adhere to in content should come from a place of thoughtful intent and should not feel like naïve accidents. The brand must decide if it wants to test the limits of what is acceptable in a culture or play it safe. It should be in the brand’s DNA to understand that it thrives. It’s not just the marketer’s job to take care of the cultural aspect of the brand.

For example, Unacademy’s marketing was a clear winner in engaging with young people through pop culture. But he caught the attention of trolls when he found himself in the middle of a raging controversy after a paper of questions in an online assignment on the Indian Penal Code (IPC) went viral on social media platforms. The question read, “In a city named X, a group of Muslims were gathering on the occasion of Eid. They chanted their slogans and celebrated their holidays. As they passed through the streets of a Hindu-dominated settlement, local Hindus began throwing stones at them and claimed they were outraged by the religious feelings of Hindus. Is the statement correct? This question caused religious feelings, it went viral on social media and no amount of marketing could save the brand which had to remove the question from the log and issue an apology.

Is your content useful enough?

The Havas Group’s 2021 Meaningful Brands report indicates that compared to the pre-Covid era, “useful” content is on the rise as consumers figure out how to navigate their new personal normal. Unfortunately, nearly half (48%) of all content provided by brands is meaningless to consumers. The Havas report should serve as a wake-up call for content marketers, especially as we continue to emphasize “content” in every conversation we have. From time to time, a content marketer needs to check if they are offering the right content that consumers actually need. Understanding the mindset, psyche, interests, habits, preferences, lifestyle, behavior, anything that better and more accurately describes the consumer can allow us to create more relevant content. There has been a conscious shift towards spiritual consumption. For example, people are more interested in engaging with content focused on health, mental well-being, and social upliftment.

Content experience is the new content marketing

We have always talked about content marketing, its aspects, its growth and ways to improve it. But now is the time to start talking about “content experience”, an important aspect of marketing. A villager consumes content in a very different way than a woman who works in a metropolitan city or a gamer, a teacher or even a CEO of a multinational company. How audiences consume content varies, and that’s what it’s all about. It consists of the consumer’s content touchpoint and their engagement with a brand’s content across all media and devices and how they engage their senses and emotions throughout their journey.

Today, brands are actually collections of experiences. People don’t really remember logos or ads. I remember talking to a marketer. During our conversation, he recalled the famous “Great Khali ad” but attributed it to Ultratech Cement, instead of Ambuja Cement whoever made it. This proves that curated brand experiences not only provide unique interactions for customers, but also have more impact because they are more likely to be retained in long-term memory. Therefore, it must be understood that great brands are not only built on media screens, but when consumers experience them through various touchpoints, whether offline or online.

Work on a clean slate every time

Often, marketers and their partner agencies/platforms face creative blocks. In fact, even after doing everything to make sure a campaign reaches its audience in every nook and cranny, it ends up not being that effective. One thing that gets overlooked is that what worked for one particular campaign may not work for another. Instead of the “leave no stone unturned” approach, marketers should “work from a clean slate every time.” Quite often, agencies and platforms flood marketers with hundreds of marketing options to choose from in the name of integrated marketing communications. It can certainly overwhelm anyone. Instead, what to do is to start from scratch each time, define the objective and the target audience, then choose marketing routes to engage with the audience. Unlike before, and fortunately now, technology makes it possible to map the consumer’s journey at any time on all platforms, regardless of the marketing technique deployed.

Going beyond click activism

For many, talking about trending causes has become a way to manage their social media calendars instead of serving its original purpose – a chance for brands to exert influence for social good and connect with consumers in a way that goes beyond the sale of products. For example, so many brands run campaigns around Women’s Day, celebrate LGBT communities on Pride Day, but how many actually do something on the ground. Consumers are not fooled and they can see through the pretense. But the brands that have nailed online activism with real action are the ones that stand out.

For example, Britannia Marie Gold’s My Startup Contest’, which empowers housewives to become businessmen by awarding each winning business idea Rs 10 lakh. Another example is Times of India’s “Out and Proud Classifieds” (2019), a campaign that covered the stories of people from the LGBTQ+ community and introduced a section in the publication’s classifieds that would feature advertisements and announcements of people like them. The “Barber Parivar Suraksha Scheme” (2021) by Gillette India has been developed to provide health insurance coverage of Rs 1 lakh to barbers and their families. The examples I mentioned are not just social media campaigns or emotional feature films, but they go beyond click activism. Consumers are more likely to approve of brands that don’t just take a social stance in the digital world, but are ready to execute them in the real world.

Wrap

In closing, I would emphasize that not all content pieces should be created with the goal of getting immediate business ROI. Some should be left to serve brand development goals, leading to better long-term business results.

William L. Hart