Over the past few years, I've been introduced to some great content marketing 'gurus' (or thought leaders if we dare use the term). One such character is a chap called Gary Vaynerchuk. Maybe you've heard of him, maybe you haven't, but having recently watched a not-so new keynote speech he did about brand storytelling in today's world, it got me thinking that, despite years of development in the 'digital marketing' sector, we're still not all truly getting it.
Back in 1999, Seth Godin wrote a book called 'Permission Marketing'; in 2012, Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander wrote 'Velocity'. Both books are based on the preface of traditional 'interruptive marketing' being essentially bad (or rather less effective) and 'permissive marketing' being good (thus more effective). Vaynerchuk is a leading thinker in the area of permission marketing - and serving relevant, valuable, informative, or entertaining content to consumers (making your brand more useful to them). His recent book 'Jab, Jab, Jab, Right-hook' was recommended to me by a friend and digital marketer whose opinion on such things I respect above all others. Vaynerchuk speaks (and writes) in a no-nonsense and brutal way (please excuse the swearing in the video), which is why I'm probably so drawn to him as a marketing thought leader. Straightforward and bullshit-free.
In his presentation, Vaynerchuk discusses his frustration with marketers' continued scattergun approach - even to digital marketing - and to the fact that, as technology evolves, all us marketers seem to do is work out more ways to interrupt consumers - who REALLY don't want to be interrupted.
I recently wrote a blog about the evolution of mobile as 2104 is set to be the linchpin year for its use in terms of search. As it goes, Vaynerchuk is right. As consumers, we're more likely to be using our phone in the car than looking at outdoor posters. We're more likely to be multi-tasking on a mobile device, than stuck to our TVs - mindlessly imbibing the distinctly (and increasingly) average messages attempting to advertise at us.
So what are consumers doing on their phones? They're researching and learning, they're socialising and constantly communicating, they're looking for additional forms of entertainment (ironically during the advertising break on TV). OR, they're using they're mobile devices to watch entire TV series in one night - bypassing the traditional formatting altogether!
So how do we tell brand stories in the modern world? Without telling you what Vaynerchuk has just told you in the keynote speech, it's really all about us marketers accepting first and foremost that we are no longer the 'grand masters' in control. Whilst we may continue to attempt to manipulate emerging technologies to advertise at people, consumers are tired of it and becoming increasingly more savvy to it. They don't want it. They want to call the shots.
So what we, as marketers, should be focussing on now, is how we can utilise these new technology platforms, to serve up valuable (quality) content to consumers. Not what we want them to hear, but what they want.
Data is obviously key to this. We can't simply assume we know what consumers want. We need to watch them and learn about their behaviour - what they imbibe, what they dwell on, what they share and comment on - what really leaves them feeling as though they've had a valuable and engaging experience with a brand. Then refine that process and do it and again - and again. All the while, we're learning more about our consumers and we're gaining permission to engage with them. Ultimately - when we decide we're actually ready to ask them to consider our product - they will be infinitely more interested in what we have to say to them.
So in a nutshell (and I'm talking to the CEOs here as much as the marketing department heads). You have the real clout to change the direction of your brand message and marketing spend. Ask yourselves whether you're doing this:
KNOWING: analyse your date (on and offsite). What are your consumers engaging with and asking for? Give them more.
SERVING: are you telling them about your brand in a way that gives value, or are you just advertising at them?
TEACHING: are you teaching them about your product in a way they really want to learn about it? Remember, good teachers don't shout. They inspire...
AMUSING: are you making your consumers laugh? Are you entertaining them? Remember, we're all human, and apparently it's good to laugh. As it goes, you'd be better off sticking your logo at the end of a funny cat video rather a lot of the astonishingly shit advertising in the market today.
SPENDING: are you clinging onto the traditional advertising formats, because if you splooge (technical media-buying term) enough cash at the front-end, you know what results you'll get (begrudgingly)?
CONSIDERING: are you ready for mobile? Is your site responsive? Do you have an arsenal of engaging on and offsite content out there - ready for your army of mobile consumers to discover?
58% of the UK population currently owns a smartphone and this year, mobile (and tablet) search is set to exceed that of desktop. By 2017, 66% of mobile traffic is expected to be video. So should you continue to wait for someone to create yet more ways to attempt to interrupt consumers on their mobiles (as we know they will), or should you ask yourselves some more fundamental questions?
How am I spending my total marketing budget?
How effective is it, compared with content and social marketing channels?
How long can I afford to keep my blinkers on and splooge all of my budget on above the line and PPC?
Don't get me wrong, of course there's a place for interruptive messaging within the media mix as a form of instant awareness-raising. However, it has to be part of bigger, more integrated and permission-based activity, created to engender real value and real trust in consumers. That's brand storytelling in the modern world.
If you want to have a chat about how we can help with your own brand story, click on the link below and let's bob over for a cuppa. We'll bring the Fig Rolls.