4. CONTENT STRUCTURE
Also helping to make content marketing work is the consumer desire to be in charge of their own research and evaluation. Or at least to feel like they are. Consumers have an expectation that they can make smart, informed decisions by researching virtually anything with the internet. The reality, as I’ve mentioned before, is that getting to clear cut answers quickly and easily is usually harder than most people want or expect. This is where brands have successfully inserted themselves as trusted guides for their audiences. As the 2015 Trust in Advertising Study from A.C. Nielson shows, brand websites are second only to “recommendations from a friend” in trustworthiness. This is terrific news for brands as it shows that consumers really value and trust brand websites, which just happen to be the place where brands have the most control. Brand’s are winning this stellar endorsement from consumers because they are, in effect, delivering on the promise of search and the web for their consumers. They are doing this by making available easily accessible content that enables consumers to feel like they are fully informed in their decisions. This is a critical point that brand leaders need to understand clearly.
CONSUMERS WANT TO DO THEIR OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE THE BEST CHOICES, BUT ONLY IF IT’S EASY AND THE CONTENT IS RELIABLE.
That’s where trusted brands can step in by giving consumers what they are looking for, and the experiences that make their buying process easier.
Underlying a successful cultivation effort are the Content Strategy and Messaging Framework, I discussed in chapter 1, which specifies what each piece of content needs to say and how it needs to be said. These become the guides that marketers and creatives follow, informed by the brand’s Personality and Identity, as defined in chapter 2. Together these inputs shape the right balance, for each target persona, of analytical and emotional elements in any content you create.
On the analytical side of the equation, consumers want to know everything about a brand and its category so they can make smart, informed choices. They want to know the good and the bad, and have confidence that what they are being told is true and reliable. They have an expectation that they can find out everything they need to know from search and brand websites, and they give brands their trust, unless they have a reason not to. Imagine what a complicated world it would be if you did not trust anyone or anything. I think consumers feel the same. They have a great deal to do and not enough time to do it, so they will trust a brand as long as it remains trustworthy. On the other hand, woe be to the brand that is caught manipulating the truth. Volkswagen squandered decades of trust and damaged the perception of integrity for an entire industry. I can’t imagine how they will repair that trust, which has become table-stakes in all commercial relationships today.
On the emotional side, consumers want the process of getting to their goal of picking the best product to be not only quick and easy, but also fun and and engaging, especially early in their journey when they are less motivated to expend effort. This is where content brings the brand personality and identity to life. The old adage “Love the ad, love the product”, rings true here, because people want to feel emotionally connected to their brands, even B2B brands can be loved, although that often translates as trust.
IN MANY CATEGORIES THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF THE BRAND IS ACTUALLY MUCH MORE POWERFUL THAN THE ANALYTICAL SIDE.
This might be because the brand has a very simple value proposition, as in chewing gum or soda, or it might be because the brand is driven by lifestyle associations, as in fashion. Another way to think about it is a mix of hard and soft attributes, where hard attributes are facts, features and benefits, and soft attributes are emotional associations. It’s a continuum with hard attributes on one end and soft at the other, and your work with strategic planning in chapter 1 will have revealed the right balance for your brand.