While the term “content marketing” may seem like modern jargon, its origins go way back to 1867. That’s the year that U.S.-based Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company began publishing The Locomotive — a periodical designed to help companies “manage risk and solve problems.” By issuing the publication, the company created a way to provide value to its existing, and potential, customers on an ongoing basis. This is the essence of content marketing: to entertain, educate, and establish an ongoing relationship with your target audience.
Content marketing differs from advertising in that it’s not a pitch. The purpose is to provide value over the long term so that your brand is top of mind when the time DOES come to make a purchase. There are many forms that content marketing can take — blogs, videos, and podcasts, just to name a few. But the creation of content is only one step in the process – you also have to get it in front of your target audience.
So where is your audience? At one time, content creators could publish, say, a blog post on their website, and reasonably expect that people would visit the site to see what’s new. That day has gone. Today you must meet viewers where they are: on social media like Facebook and Instagram, on live video platforms like Periscope, on messaging apps Whatsapp, and even on ‘wearables’ like the Apple Watch.
Welcome to the age of distribution!
Where do you start? Maybe just create a video and post it everywhere? No! Savvy brands are not just creating content and sending it out to every platform. They are producing content specifically for each distribution channel. The platform you are distributing on should drive what you are creating. It should be designed to work functionally within that platform, and to appeal to that platform’s particular audience.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Nike on YouTube: You wouldn’t expect an athletic fashion brand to be in the business of creating original video productions, but in a sign of the times Nike has done just that. Earlier this month, the sportswear giant began releasing an eight-part series on YouTube titled “Margo vs. Lily,” a show designed to appeal to millennial women by presenting a humorous and sometimes touching tale of two sisters who challenge each other to stretch beyond their comfort zones. In relevant scenes, the characters wear and use Nike products — but they don’t take center stage. This is a great example of a brand providing entertainment value to foster a long-term relationship, while subtly showcasing its wares.
Beats by Dre on Instagram: Beats by Dre is not just a headphone company — it’s a lifestyle company. The audio brand founded by entertainment mogul Dr. Dre, and now owned by Apple, is associated with the hip-hop lifestyle of legend, filled with glamour, celebrities, and excess. This impression is reiterated on the brand’s Instagram feed, which features photos and videos of stars from the entertainment and fashion worlds living glamorous lives while wearing their headphones. The company uses the image-heavy platform to its advantage to portray a sense of luxury and indulgence — suggesting that you may be part of the exclusive club if you own a pair of Beats by Dre headphones.
Rolls Royce on Pinterest: Who would have thought that a luxury car manufacturer established in 1906 would be embracing the art of visual storytelling? But that’s exactly what Rolls Royce has done on Pinterest. The brand has published 34 different “boards” on the social network, each featuring beautiful photographs exhibiting different aspects of the brand. One, called “Rolls Royce Style”, contains glamorous shots of the brand in the fashion world — from celebrities arriving to industry events via a Rolls, to photo shoots with dazzling models posing with the cars. Another board, “Rolls Royce in Art”, celebrates the use of the company’s cars in works of art as well as showcases art exhibits in Rolls Royce dealerships around the world. The key emotion the boards evoke? Luxury.
What content you should create to market your product depends on several factors — notably your brand, product, and target audience. In today’s world of fragmented media, however, it’s equally as important to consider where the content is going to live. If you define your distribution strategy early in your content planning, you’ll be able to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts by supplying the right audience with the right content in the right format.
Christina Michelle Bailey is a business development and strategy consultant for media organizations. She is also the Creator & Curator of DistributedBytes, a weekly newsletter which explores the distributed