The relationship between brands and audiences has evolved with digital technology, and it has given brands an amazing opportunity to connect directly with consumers. With social media, e-commerce, data-driven insights, email, and more, direct communication has all sorts of avenues, so it's difficult to know where to begin. But direct relationships can lead to deeper relationships.
Marketers are accustomed to campaigns that have a beginning and end, so communicating directly in real time or on more of a continuous basis can be intimidating. The key is to engage audiences based on what they want. And what they want is changing with time, as well.
According to a study from The Affluence Collaborative, 70 percent of consumers said they now want more opportunities for travel, learning, and new experiences in their lives. Consumers are seeking fewer products, and more content and experiences. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they wanted more shopping or more products, which really shakes things up for marketers. The good news is, as content creation becomes increasingly possible for brands, it is also becoming increasingly desirable to audiences.
During a keynote presentation at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, Calif., Kristen Comings, vice president of integrated marketing communications at L'Oreal Paris and Pat Connolly, vice president of marketing solutions at Condé Nast, discussed three key points about content marketing that they learned as a result of their own strategic partnership.
The definition of content
It's important not to take the definition of content for granted. It is a subjective concept, so brands should be discussing their own definitions. Ask your team if they consider advertising and branded content the same thing. Take the time to have a deep discussion so that everyone is on the same page and has a chance to raise concerns and ideas.
Connolly highlighted the importance, when putting on the publisher shoes, of the tension between pleasing the audience and pleasing the brand. It is essential to the success of the content that neither one is forgotten.
Takeaway: Have a conversation about the meaning of content at your organization and with your partners. You should be asking what it is and who is responsible for it.
The structure of content marketing
Your strategy and your structure will depend on the brand. For L'Oreal, where content production has doubled since last year, personalization is a key factor. This is what the audience responds to. Comings explained that the amount of time content creation truly takes was an important lesson to learn.
In addition, she found that it's all about distribution. L'Oreal uses its own channels as well as paid distribution to push out its content. Comings urged attendees to make sure management understands the important role of paid distribution. "Some people don't realize it, but you can't just create a viral video," she said.
Takeaway: Think like a publisher. Re-evaluate your relationships, both internal and external, based on that perspective. You'll have to set aside traditional roles and responsibilities.
How to measure success
In terms of metrics, Connolly emphasized the danger of applying traditional KPIs to content marketing. Marketers should begin with the purpose behind the content. "First decide what you want the content to do, then structure KPIs based on that," he said. For Connolly, it is often about long-term relationship building, so clicks don't have any real meaning.
Instead, you might want to measure the time spent on the site, repeat visitation, lag time, and how often users return to the site. When they do visit the site, how many pages do they see? Connolly reiterated that it's not about a campaign with a defined beginning and end, where six months later you look at your results. With content, you should be measuring continuously and improving based on the results.
Takeaway: Decide how you want to define success before you start measuring. From there, learn and adapt as needed.
Wrapping up the presentation, Connolly remarked that with content metrics, we should be moving away from lower funnel metrics, but at some point, the content should impact sales, "otherwise it's useless."
Crucial to a brand's success as a publisher is that the content has purpose. Without a defined goal, how can you succeed? And here's a hint: Clicks should not be your goal. Think deeper.
Every brand is different. But if you know the needs of your brand and the desires of your audience, you're on the right track. "Don't just have a content calendar, have a content strategy," remarked Comings.
Chloe Della Costa is an associate editor at iMedia Connection.
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