Category Archives: Digital Marketing
(This post by Allister Frost was first published on the Emarketeers’ blog)
Content, content, content… It seems everyone in marketing these days is talking about content. The stats prove it too with the number of Google searches for “Content Marketing” soaring 10-fold in the last two years.
And I’m a believer. I believe great content strategy should now lie at the foundation of every marketing plan. It is more important than SEO, PPC, CSR, or any other abbreviation you may know. It is the very essence of great marketing today.
To explain why, I’d like to you to come on a journey with me. A journey back to a simpler time, when computers didn’t yet rule the world.
Come on a journey with me…, to a time when the only compositions produced by One Direction are safely contained in their nappies.
Let’s go back a full two decades to 1993.
Welcome to a post-recession Britain where unemployment and social discontent have brought waves of rioting to cities across the country. Hip-hugging, high-waisted denim jeans are all the rage, Wayne’s World picks up best soundtrack at the BRIT Awards and the only compositions produced by One Direction are safely contained in their nappies. Even Tim Berners-Lee is probably wrestling with his TV remote trying to find his ideal holiday on Teletext.
Aside from the macro-economic similarities, to be in marketing in 1993 was a very different affair to the modern day. Broadcast media channels were largely limited to TV, radio, outdoor and press. And if a potential customer wanted to find out what a company had to sell she had to phone up to request a brochure or to book a visit from a salesman (yes, it was nearly always a man).
All of which meant that companies could often maintain a firm grip over what customers knew about their business and the products they had to sell. Opinions could be controlled and shaped with advertising and clever PR.
The printed press, at the very height of its powers, put its journalistic focus onto naming and shaming heavy-handed corporations and government officials. Only rarely would its attention fall on the minutiae of individual customer complaints, usually to share the news of the discovery of a cornflake bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sylvester Stallone.
Fortunately, smart marketing teams developed a neat way to discretely deal with unhappy customers (and who wouldn’t be unhappy to spot Rocky in their cereal bowl?). The inbound customer service phone line was born and the complaints of a generation of dissatisfied consumers were quietly paid off with the promise of money off vouchers or refunds.
It was a golden era of control for the marketing manager.
To coin a phrase: Marketeers had never had it so good.
Jump forward twenty years to 2013 and things are very different. With a multitude of digital avenues to consider—alongside the traditional analogue channels that still attract huge audiences—choosing where to place your message for the best results has become a marketing minefield. And while the fortunate marketeer with a generous advertising budget can still buy a substantial presence in paid media channels, there’s no longer any guarantee of control over what the masses ultimately hear about your brand. Today’s marketing manager now also has to compete with the voices of millions of digitally-empowered consumers. And most of the evidence now suggests it’s a battle we cannot win.
In their armchairs and bedrooms, coffee shops and trains, anyone with Internet access can now publish their opinions to a worldwide audience. This daily chatter, about the things that really matter to ordinary people, courses through social networks, discussion forums and review sites. These voices have ushered in a new marketing world order, where everyone’s opinion matters and the casting vote falls to those we trust the most.
You already know the bad news. 84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while only 62% trust TV ads (source: Nielsen, Sept 2013). These are stats that should be etched into every marketer’s brain. People trust people, they don’t trust advertising, marketeers, salespeople or spin.
This isn’t a new phenomenon.
People have always trusted the people they know more than strangers or fancy advertising messages. But what has changed is the nature of the people we trust. In 1993, the people we knew comprised those we grew up with, lived near or worked with. In 2013, the people we know—or feel we know—now encompasses our extended social circles online and almost any human-made content we find on our personal journeys through cyberspace.
The intimacy of our online experiences can now create instant trust in content.
We are witnessing this remarkable shift playing out before our eyes. The intimacy of our online experiences can now create instant trust in content. When our internet journeys lead us, sometimes serendipitously, to useful content or advice, we are highly likely to consume and believe it. Our behaviours have changed a great deal from the passive consumption of advertising messages during the broadcast era. Today we know how to seek out the information we need and intuitively—although not always accurately—know what we can trust.
Fortunately for us marketeers, human brains are wired to work this way. Logic tells us that not everyone on a review site can be wrong. Or that if a friend of a friend once “Liked” a brand of dishwasher tablet, that brand must be worth considering next time we go shopping. These cognitive biases allow us to make sense of a rapidly changing world, to adapt quickly to new forms of information and not feel overwhelmed by the data. This brings both great responsibility and opportunity to everyone in the marketing profession.
And that, in a nutshell, is why great content really matters.
We are long past the day when organisations could rely on advertising alone to cut through the clutter and get our brands in front of the right people. Control has shifted from the few to the many. Today we need new skills to produce useful, creative content of many forms—blogs, videos, diagrams, reviews, photos, stories, whitepapers—and deliver it to places where it can be discovered, trusted, consumed, and shared. Crucially, our content must bring utility to people’s lives, answering questions they ponder or providing relevant entertainment that intensifies their relationship with the brand.
How do we do this? Join my exclusive Emarketeers webinar in December to find out. More details below.
WANT MORE? SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE CONTENT MARKETING WEBINAR
Allister Frost will be discussing this and all things content marketing on a special free webinar for Emarketeers on Friday 6th December at 1pm GMT. Registration is now open at http://www.emarketeers.com/events/how-social-content-can-elevate-your-brand. We hope you’ll join us there.
While preparing for my keynote address at The Association of Colleges’ Annual Digital Engagement and Marketing Conference in December I’ve recently been pondering some of the digital challenges facing education establishments.
Selecting a college and course to study is up there with the most important decisions of our lives. But what has the greatest influence over this decision these days? Do advertising and shiny prospectuses play the same role as in the past, or are we more susceptible to outside influences like what current students say and the daily chatter on social networking sites?
Today, anyone under the age of 18 belongs to a tribe that sociologists refer to as Generation Z. These young people have never lived in a world without computers. They are a highly-connected, technically savvy, and hyper-informed generation. These are the main constituents of this year’s student intake; a collective of purebred digital natives, who demand flexibility and choice in all aspects of their lives.
So when the time comes to select a college for further education, how do these young people decide? And will their parents or carers also turn to the same sources for advice?
For parents supporting a college selection decision, conventional guidance likely still holds considerable influence. Open days, brochures and course catalogues, will all play their part in guiding the decision. But so too will online channels like the college website and other sites that feature high in search engine results pages. This means review sites, college comparison tools, Ofsted reports, press articles, Wikipedia, and student forums are all likely to play a role in the choices parents make.
For the students, search engine results are also likely to dominate their research, and particularly those sites that render well on mobile devices. But so too will a largely hidden world of online chatter with peers. And it’s this loose, free-flowing banter that will likely have the greatest impact on each student’s final personal preferences, almost irrespective of the official literature a college may publish.
The task then for colleges looking to attract the best students and enhance their reputation, is to understand the full breadth of online and offline channels that are being used to inform decisions today, and to ensure that appropriate content can be found there. And then, by bringing together well-worn marketing techniques (like college prospectus and open days) with emerging digital channels (like chat forums and review sites), education establishments should have a better chance of persuading both parents and prospective students that their college is the right choice.
This means printed prospectuses that feel alive with up-to-date content, filled with the real voices of students speaking their minds. It calls for Open Days that encourage real-time feedback, opinion sharing and reviews. And teaching staff who embrace emerging digital channels and add their perspectives to the online debate.
Done well, the end results should feel accessible to all generations, yet be as authentic and trustworthy as the most socially-driven content on the web today.
It’s a daunting task, but one that every college must undertake. In the intense battle for relevance and standout, those who embrace the future today will be best placed to survive the longest.
I’ll be discussing this and crisis management in my talk in December. And we’ll also be looking at the future of digital marketing and some of the emerging techniques that innovative college marketers will be experimenting with very soon.
Want to learn more? Join me at The AoC Digital Engagement and Marketing Conference 2013 in London on 4th December to explore this topic further. Registration is now open on the AoC site. I hope to see you there.
Technology is so powerful these days we can visualise almost anything we can imagine.
But data visualisations don’t have to be dull. Pie charts, graphs and flow diagrams all have an important role to play, but sometimes a picture truly does paint a thousand words.
That’s why I love this article from The Atlantic. From readily available BMI (body mass index) data, graphic artist Nickolay Lamm has rendered visual representations of the average man living today in the USA, Japan, Netherlands and France.
The results aren’t exactly a beauty pageant (get to the gym Mr USA!) , but they do instantly show how geographically dispersed societies create humans with noticeably different physiological characteristics.
And those differences would be so starkly brought to our comprehension without such clever visualisation skills.
What data do you hold that could be visualised to bring a story to life online?