Content marketing has been around longer than most people think. Long, long before the internet, companies have been doing content marketing, just not in the many varied forms that the internet has made possible today. The internet has only made it more democratic and I daresay more sexy. Back then, content was mostly in the form of bulletins, flyers, brochures, and even magazines.
Take John Deere for example: Since 1984, this farm machinery-producing company has been publishing ‘Green Magazine,’ a publication is aimed specifically at farmers. The magazine features machinery and other farm equipment it produces to keep farmers abreast of what new products are coming off their assembly line. This is an example of a content strategy thatis in direct line with the tangible elements of the market and the product.
Other examples of pre-internet content marketing often dealt with more abstract concepts, where the content was not aimed at showing direct product benefits but aimed at portraying the “spirit” of the product. A good example is GUINNESS‘ Michael Power campaign. Michael Power was a fictional character that jumped out of burning buildings and rescued fair damsels and whole communities from thieves, looters, and poachers; and celebrated with a bottle of Guinness right after.
Every 3 to 5 minutes episode of the “mini-show” had us running and scouting in front of the TV. Michael Power dripped and oozed masculinity. He is no doubt responsible for my generation’s high consumption of Guinness. We all wanted to be like Michael Power. We have grown diplomatic bellies instead. And Michael had promised us that Guinness would bring out the power in us… sighs.
These are just two amongst a fair number of other examples. And these content marketing strategies were highly successful, in their own right, to achieve a high customer retention rate.
Today, it is an entirely different ball game. Like I mentioned before, the internet has made content marketing more democratic. Which means that content is everywhere. Small companies that do not have a fraction of the budget of DIAGEO to produce content on the scale of Michael Power now have the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people on the internet and with surgical efficiency.
Every organisation on the internet today is producing content. But are they doing it right? That is the real question.
The thing is, most people do not know that today, content is all about value. Let me put it in a more memorable way: CONTENT= VALUE.
You see, there is too much content around vying for people’s attention for you to just produce content for content’s sake. Today so far as content is concerned, you are either in the value/long term game or you are in the short term/money-wasting game.
By value, I mean a perceived gain. Something other than just the raw product or service. It is an extra layer of service that you render to the customer. I always say that content marketing is the act of making the customer not need you. Of course, it is not that radical, but if you follow the finger you begin to see where I am pointing. Value follows the same principle. It is going beyond just selling the product. A company selling flour to households, for example, can focus their content marketing on giving out recipes for different types of cakes. You see where I am going, right? Good!
John Deere, to go back to them, publish another magazine called ‘The Furrow.‘ This magazine focuses on helping farmers with resources on planting, harvesting, treating the soil and a host of other resources destined to make the farmers make good crops and have good harvest. The magazine is not destined to sell its farm machinery like it does with “Green Magazine.” This one is solely out to help farmers. That, dear people of the internet, is how you produce value!
The minute you do not take a value-generating approach to your content production and diffusion is the minute you have a failing content marketing strategy.
So, as for the 4 things that you have to know to produce great content, you can bet that these 4 things are all hinged on value. This is because every piece of content on the internet can be classified under one (or more) of the following categories:
Educational / Informational / Inspirational / Entertainment.
These content categories do not just exist on their own. You have to attach value to them. Which means that for your content to be effective, they have to have either;
Inspirational Value OR
Perhaps, before I break down each one of them, I should say here that you ought to choose any one of them based on your product/service, your brand objectives, and most especially your audience. I have written about this already in another article which you can click here to read.
OK, so let’s look at our 4 friends above in better detail with some really good examples.
EDUCATIONAL VALUE: A lot of YouTubers fall into this category. From the guy who shows you how to change your car tyre, to the lady who shows how to dye a wig, to the guy whose channel is dedicated solely to teaching Microsoft Excel. What kind of product do you have? Is it one that gets regular updates or new usage and so needs you to constantly educate your customers on? You may want to lean towards such a value content marketing format. The best example I can put here is British Vogue‘s series on the fashion industry hosted by the British model and presenter, Alexa Chung. The series is called “The Future of Fashion,” and it is essentially a mini-course on how to succeed in the fashion industry.
Of course, British vogue is aware that many people who read its magazines would want to work in the fashion industry or at Vogue; and so they put great content like these with huge educational value to let their readers know what it takes. So they are still serving THE SAME market and core audience that they sell magazines to and that visit their website. Applause, please.
INFORMATIONAL VALUE: A lot of news outlets, non-profit organisations, and government institutions and agencies are on this table. By nature, the content itself already has an inherent value. Take the road traffic-monitoring unit in a large city. The information they put out on social media is valuable because it helps people avoid traffic and reduce their travel time. For the entities on this table, the challenge here is to put out information in a manner that people want to share and relay this information and remember them. The best example I can think of is a campaign from Australia, from the Melbourne Metro Trains Authority. It’s a PSA warning people on stupid actions around trains that may cause fatal accidents. And it’s aptly called “Dumb Ways To Die.”
INSPIRATIONAL VALUE: A lot of what Nike does falls into this category. Nike is a brand that has built its image over the last two decades by focusing, not the great athletic footwear and gear it produces, but rather on its positioning of being a brand that supports hard work and excellence irrespective of whom it’s coming from and where it is coming from. A lot of their content on social media is not aimed at announcing so and so new footwear but rather on telling their audience that hard work, discipline, and perseverance can make you excel at sports… and at any other thing in life that you put your mind to. Between me and you, people LOVE such content and Nike has made that the hallmark of its social media content strategy. Not everyone can do this though; not when you have not positioned your brand in that light.https://www.linkedin.com/embeds/publishingEmbed.html?articleId=8056502347094456513
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: As the name goes, a lot of entertainment outlets are on this table. The essence of the content here is to keep people entertained. Show business industry stakeholders like fashion magazines, music magazines, and blogs, TV, radio, and even digital marketing agencies are on this table. The bulk of what Buzzfeed does on the internet has entertainment value. The trick is to find something that goes in line with what your core audience or a niche audience within your target audience. The BET Network‘s YouTube channel is one of the most entertaining platforms I know on YouTube. A lot of the comments you will see on its different videos state that its YouTube channel is more interesting than its TV channels. This just shows you how much good work they are doing on YouTube. One of my favourite shows is “Rate These Bars.” On the show, rappers are asked to read a few lines of lyrics from another rapper and asked to rate it on a scale of 5. It’s sometimes fun to see rappers read their own lyrics and not recognise them.
Special mention to ELLE Magazine; a magazine that focuses on fashion, beauty, and Lifestyle. Their YouTube channel has a playlist called “Song Association.” Famous musicians are given a word and asked to sing a song that contains said word within 10 seconds. It’s a nice piece of entertaining content that although it does not reflect their core content, features the people that they talk and feature in their magazine. Which therefore brings their audience to watch.
You will be amiss if you think that you have these different content types exist on their own. They do not. More often than not, they exist on a spectrum. Look at the example of the “Dumb Ways to Die” video. That piece of content is both entertaining, educating and informing. A lot of the content you will produce will be a mix of two to four types.
The trick is to understanding WHAT particular direction you want a piece of information to go first before you bring in the other elements. If you want to educate, draw the plan of how you want to educate first before thinking of how you can make that piece of educative content inspiring or fun.
When you think of content from these values perspective, you can never go wrong. Quote me.