There's NO hiding place for poor marketing

There's NO hiding place for poor marketing

Fantastic Media’s Alisdair Straughan, PR & communications director, and web developer Ash Pennington look at why content will always be king for marketing campaigns.

From SMEs to multinationals, the question of where to spend marketing budgets is becoming increasingly difficult.

The answer used to be: whatever achieves business goals and delivers ROI. But in today’s world of instant marketing and light-speed consumer decision-making, businesses have to start putting the needs of their customers alongside the needs of their business.

Companies pump exorbitant sums of money into advertising trying to give their customers what they want. They spend thousands on a beautiful looking advertising campaign only to find there is no cut-through. They think they’re giving customers what they want, but they’re not. A case of ‘nice landing, wrong airport’, as a wise man once said.

Life would be easier – particularly for marketers – if people liked being sold to, but they don’t. People only engage with what’s relevant to them, which has led to the growth of content marketing – distributing relevant, personal and direct content to engage, attract and retain a target audience and ultimately get them to purchase your product or service. It’s marketing on your customers’ terms.

Content marketing covers everything from whitepapers to blog posts and videos. And because most content is perishable – just think how quickly you see, digest and then skip content on Facebook – it has to be engaging, compelling and at the cutting edge of what is possible. Take Virtual Reality as an example. It’s an incredible way to create a truly immersive experience by providing both audio and visuals you can feel a part of, interacting by exploring your surroundings. Oculus Rift is already popular amongst gamers – but we’re seeing the same kind of approach emulated on the web.

It isn’t enough anymore to simply put together a flat, motionless page for a website and hope it gets your users excited and engaged. Users want to be able to explore, have an adventure and most importantly be taken on a journey to experience a brand. We don’t want to have to think, we want content spoonfed effortlessly into our consciousness.

Virtual reality as a form of advertising and marketing can be extremely powerful. It can provoke heightened emotional responses from your audience, provide immersion and transport people to locations they would never normally have access to.

And it is proof – if we ever needed it – that saying content is king doesn’t only mean words. There will be informal competitions in newsrooms all across Yorkshire for the worst business images, with awkward smiles and handshakes and hopefully casual stances next to new homes or pieces of machinery which have obviously kept the subject awake all night rehearsing ‘the look’.

Marketing budgets are precious commodities, often one of the first to be targeted when times are tough, so getting the perfect mix is crucial. Video will always be in that mix - it isn’t so much a ‘trend’, as a form of media that’s here to stay for good. But you can’t ignore it because it’s such a big player within digital as a whole. You’ve probably heard statistics flying around like ‘video can increase conversion rate by 100%‘ and we can genuinely see why. When was the last time you looked at an article and didn’t press play on the available video? How many news websites did you bounce away from after realising they didn’t have a video? It’s natural. As a medium it’s far more enjoyable to consume content with an actual human being showing/speaking to you, than it is to be bombarded with a wall of text.

Unfortunately it’s not as easy as putting all your budget into a great looking piece of film. It’s not a case of ‘if you build it they will come’. There has to be a raison d’etre and a strategy behind it. From Budweiser to Under Armour, companies spend huge amounts on creating that next great piece of content, but very little thought is put into how it will reach and be received by the rest of the world.

Social media is the glove to content marketing’s hand and it’s important not to confuse the two. Social media - along with other new media such websites, emails, blogs and mobile apps - are the vehicles through which we distribute content. The real power of social media for businesses is not just in the interaction it facilitates, but as a means of information gathering, tracking brand advocacy and monitoring new trends.

Depending on your audience, an over-reliance on social media can be problematic. Creating a campaign for stairlifts on Snapchat is probably not going to work. In this case, content marketing is most effective as part of an integrated marketing strategy, one that includes print advertising, PR and pay per click (PPC).

As part of Fantastic’s integrated approach to marketing, we’ve spent a decade challenging operational, organisational and technological norms within traditional businesses in an attempt to shift their marketing culture. We are now seeing a new generation of MDs that recognise technology is what drives customer experience and they understand the importance of spending money on creating relevant content marketing strategies and engaging customers on their terms.

We help them understand audience interactions and what to do next by analysing data. This drives our strategy of content creation and distribution. In doing so, it’s possible to engage customers, achieve business goals and ROI and ultimately answer the fundamentals of where to spend your marketing budget.