With audiences becoming more and more fragmented across digital platforms, marketers need to find a way to thread a universal message into their content efforts to connect with a mass audience. Culture -- or the behaviors, beliefs, values, and expressions of a specific group -- can clearly be varied and vast, but offers the opportunity to unite large audiences as long as the message is authentic. Below are six tips on best practices to activate culture and increase ROI on your next branded content effort.
Have a clear, purposeful voice
Establish what it is that you are looking to accomplish by the content you intend to create and disseminate, and how it will reflect your brand's culture. Determine the point-of-view that you want to get across. Staying consistent and true to this voice will make the difference in growing your audience versus starting over time and time again. Also, think in terms of a broad point-of-view that your content will support and inspire as opposed to one-off themed content campaigns. A clearly defined purpose will help you determine when your content should entertain, educate, and assist.
Account for fragmentation
We now understand that today's audiences are incredibly fragmented -- new interests, emerging technology and the ubiquity of distribution has caused an immense shattering of the media landscape. That means that the market segmentation of the past no longer makes sense. It is now critical to your brand that you are able to connect with the many micro-cultures that your audience consists of. Culture can be enlisted as the unifying lever to assemble and speak to a new mass audience. Think beyond big data demographics and focus on the cultural values that unite varieties of people.
Identify shared cultural values
Avoid compromising. Branded content, when done right, is not a give and take, or a battle of brand vs. content. When it comes to creating a meaningful brand experience for the consumer, it should not be about a trade off. Many brands struggle by trying to strike a balance between how much of the brand or product information to incorporate without making an ad, and how much entertainment and utility to provide without losing the brand message. Arriving at a shared value translates to finding the value that is highly important to both the brand and the consumer, without compromise. To accomplish this, outline your brand's cultural values, and then outline your target audience's cultural values and identify the overlap. These shared cultural values will serve as the organic agreement and equal interest of both, and will keep your input from feeling forced. There is nothing like having a conversation when two parties have something in common.
Tell stories related to this value
Take the shared value and materialize it through your content. Be creative in demonstrating your commitment and support of this value in an authentic way. Leverage your brand's connection to the value, highlight real world examples, and demonstrate that you are a champion for the value. Things like healthy living, high-energy activity, quality family life, or style that makes sense are values that can be important to a brand and consumer. In crafting the story, consider the inputs to the story and how your audience will participate at different moments. Keep in mind that your audience will be looking for experiences based on what is important to them, independent of your brand. Create stories that deliver on this for them, and they will spend their time with your brand.
Ensure that you are enabling fluidity of your content across platforms. Consider every touch point where the consumer will want to experience the story -- is it mobile, online television, etc.? Be clear on the customer journey and then develop the content as assets that allow your story to transcend media formats and devices accordingly. Include the role that the consumer plays in telling the story. For example, an appropriate tactic could be editing a six minute video episode for desktop into three, two minute clips for mobile. Or, another tactic could include delivering the content as entertainment value on one video network and how-to solutions on another. Whatever the case, be as omnipresent with your distribution as possible so that when your audience is looking for this type of content, yours will surface and answer the request.
Measure and optimize
Plan ahead to watch the data as it occurs, not to just recap the efforts at milestones or in the end. Include what the key metrics will be and what they will mean specific to ROI. Then, keep close track of how your content is performing across platforms, formats, and amongst audience types, quality, and quantity. Ensure that your content development operation is nimble enough to take advantage of key opportunities that arise, and able to move away from things that don't work, without throwing away huge investments. You will be surprised at the increase in your performance. There are many analysis tools ranging from social monitoring to deep tagging available to help with this including Radian 6, Google Analytics, Facebook, and YouTube Analytics and Adobe's Digital Marketing Suite, to name a few.
Will Campbell is CEO of Quantasy.
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