How Brands Need to Evolve With the Conversation – Digital Marketing Magazine

Editorial Article: How Brands Need to Evolve With the Conversation

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Assaf Henkin
Assaf Henkin

Assaf Henkin, Co-Founder of Kontera, says brands can take back control of their online marketing by being relevant, meaningful and authentic

In today’s world, the average consumer is informed about products and services via multiple information and content sources at any time of the day or night from any place; be it sitting at a computer, using a tablet or staring at a smartphone. Marketers are facing a challenge in joining conversations relevant to their brands in a meaningful and authentic way across multiple screens while the conversation continuously evolves, driven by factors that are impossible to predict.

One way that brands can regain their influence and maintain relevancy with consumers is by utilising engaging content. Content, if relevant and meaningful to the consumer and presented at the right time in the appropriate format allows brands to re-establish an effective consumer relationship. However, with consumers scattered across millions of sites and multiple screens, it’s important you consider the most appropriate strategy given your objectives, target audience, and macro-consumer trends.

Power in consumers’ hands

The launch of the search engine resulted in search marketing, which transformed the way in which we sell products and services. Today, largely due to the proliferation of social media, consumers are discovering information and content without even searching for it. Facebook posts highlight our friends’ Likes from the groups they join, while trending topics on Twitter change as frequently as they appear, making it hard for brands to tap into hot topics in a timely manner.

Then there’s mobile marketing. Despite its importance, many marketers don’t even have strategies in place for mobile. But they need to, as our own data studying the 15,000 publishers we work with has revealed that content is consumed by customers primarily on mobile devices, not PCs, during the leisure hours of 7-10pm.

Mobile also puts more power into consumers’ hands so that rather than being influenced into a purchase by advertising, you can find friends’ likes and dislikes from anywhere. In fact, Market Research company Toluna is already suggesting that in the not-too-distant future, we will be using our smartphones to poll friends and even strangers on whether a pair of jeans being tried on in a shop, for example, suits us.

Whilst these developments are clear wins for consumers, marketers increasingly feel like they’re losing control. One way of taking back ownership is to evolve with the conversation by being relevant, meaningful and authentic. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

Engage

For brands to remain part of the conversation, they need to engage in it. This means answering questions, responding to concerns, and educating consumers about product features.

Content provides an excellent platform to meet this challenge since it can address so many different needs and do so in an engaging way, but with a seemingly endless array of methods including videos, tweets, posts, and reviews. But how can a brand activate the right content (say, a Yelp review or a 'how to' video) at the right time? How does a brand narrowcast to micro-audiences? How can it use the content effectively across multiple screens, using various display formats, mobile formats, and social and native ad formats? Only technology can enable companies to use content at scale effectively.

For example, as Microsoft continues to promote Windows 8 following its recent launch, the company may want to use blog posts from people who don’t work for Microsoft — and whose opinions are therefore non-biased — but which highlight the software’s features. Or they may want to show a video that an amateur enthusiast made. And if they highlight these items in an environment like Facebook, they’ll want to promote them in a way that is native to the Facebook experience.

Content creation

It is worth noting that using existing content can have its limitations. For example, technology companies might create white papers to extol the benefits of their complex products and most B2C brands maintain a Facebook page and use it to publish content to their communities. But both of these examples will only find audiences with a limited number who are already aware of the companies’ brands and products. The challenge is to expand this audience and use content at scale to connect with consumers that are likely to be attracted by the brand’s message.

One way of doing this is by creating content web sites that focus on the core message of the product rather than the product itself, which would be informative and engaging for the target audience. For example, Kellogg’s might create content in the form of a blog that focuses on fitness and lifestyle, so it will attract more readers than if it focused on, say, Rice Krispies. Kellogg’s can then link to related content as appropriate. Such a blog achieves two objectives: It draws readers who might like fitness but would not visit the Kellogg’s homepage, and it associates the Kellogg’s brand with a healthy lifestyle.

Becoming the publisher

The internet is increasingly offering new ways to reach this goal. Companies such as PublishThis or Contently are helping brands become publishers in this way, talking to audiences about the things they care about. The PublishThis content curation software tool enables brands to aggregate and curate content and engage consumers in a way that isn’t “sell, sell, sell” - it starts conversations.

Now, more than ever, brands need to meet users where they are — across all devices. Content marketing and technology, which has been developed for this very purpose, makes that goal easier to reach.

The challenge, of course, is that different content works on different devices. Smartphone content needs to be digestible and short so social links, images and product specifications work here, while tablets can feature full-length reviews, because people aren’t necessarily on the go and they can engage more fully with the content.

For modern marketers who bear this in mind, they really can exploit the full benefits of content marketing across a multitude of platforms and devices.