Mark Addicks, CMO at General Mills, predicts, “…many marketers will start with content as a way to engage their best customers and grow their business versus advertising.” This powerful statement carries with it some game-changing implications, and signals the realization by Corporate America that brand—the baneful black hole to bean counters everywhere—isn’t some fluffy little eccentricity.
Think about it. If brand is the relationship between two entities (corporations, products, people, etc.), based on focus, distinction and trust, then building that relationship requires more than self-indulgent glorification (aka “brand advertising”). Consumers and end users are more well-informed than ever before and they reward with consumption those who make their lives easier. They are not the lemmings of times past who were really glad they used Dial and wished everybody did. Or who got too wound up after drinking a pot of fully-leaded coffee, so they switched to SANKA and became a better person. No, today, we are a nation of jaded consumers searching for the truth under all that brand advertising.
We digital-age consumers do this with research and social media, mostly. In the epoch BW (before the web), research was hard work, and not often worth the consumer’s time. By contrast, today we can find out in 30 seconds how much a worker building iPads in China earns in a day ($17/day in a single facility employing more than 250,000 workers – one of the best jobs in China, reportedly). So, getting right down to “just the facts, ma’am,” has become the great global kneejerk reaction to seeking the skinny on a product before purchase.
The bottom line for branding? In my opinion, it’s actually good news. While brand advertising as we know it may fade in favor, it will be upstaged by a branded form of content that actually helps people become more productive. Much of this new branded content will be driven by processes such as message mapping.
Case in point: I’m shopping for a new boat propeller (the old boat prop looks like it went through a shredder). Most marinas are closed this time of year and I don’t want to travel to get one. But I don’t know what size it is, or any of the other technical stuff I should know before attempting to order one on the web. So, I consult Google for “how to size a boat prop.” The results return all kinds of help from places that sell props. I wasn’t yet searching to buy a prop, just to figure out what specs I need. So I clicked on a paid ad that led me to a landing page whose ad seemed to be aligned with what I wanted to know.
A site named prop.com hosted a very helpful landing page, explaining in readily understandable terms how to determine what size, pitch, and style of prop is needed for various applications. It also showed me how to optimize the boat’s power performance by selecting the right prop. It really seemed these guys knew their stuff.
Even though the page design wasn’t highly professional, the content was pretty well written and exactly what I was searching for. The content quickly built my confidence in the brand, which transferred my trust into a same-session transaction. Here’s why:
- The content matched my search query far better than others (promise matched performance), whose links took me directly to transaction pages of their websites without any acknowledgement of my search for propeller info (promise/performance mismatch).
- The content was complete yet brief, so I could get on with my transaction. It built an appetite for my transaction without overshooting or losing my interest (didn’t waste my time).
- An easy-to-find link at the bottom of the prop.com landing page led me directly to the host brand site transaction page (very convenient access to get my prop now that I knew what to buy).
But just when I thought I’d won the ecommerce lotto (found exactly the information I needed, became educated enough to make a confident online purchase over $100, all in less than eight minutes), the entire process derailed. When I clicked on the link at the bottom of the page, the host-brand site loaded and – OMG – charts chock full of unfamiliar jargon and specifications bullied me into a psychological fetal position. No way could I begin to connect the knowledge they provided on their highly informative landing page with my needs. The result: no sale.
In a nutshell, although their content and search strategy was great and the landing page motivated me to visit their website – ready to spend – they fell woefully short at the point of sale. It was not easy to buy! Where was that helpful brand whose content wooed me to the point of transaction? Lost somewhere in transition, I guess.
Lesson? Content-driven digital presence has the potential to immediately and dramatically close the distance between brand building investments and ROI. That translates into excellence in bridging strategy and execution, the key to survival in this New Age of brand marketing.
So here are some useful tips for planning your brand content-to-transaction strategy:
- Use a content-driven landing page with useful info and no selling between your search ad (or organic result) and your transaction site.
- Be sure that your search result is relevant to the search term. This builds the first rung of trust.
- Offer content that is well-written, brief and to the point, yet complete within the scope of the topic (don’t try this at home – consult a professional, and test it) — again … no selling.
- Use Message Mapping to help you keep your content organized, prioritized, and consistently aligned in all communications (click here to find out more about Message Mapping).
- Make it easy to buy, by placing a courtesy link to a transaction page that matches the topic of the landing page and makes it as easy as possible for the visitor to buy.
This is the bridge between strategy and execution that will pay off your content posts with a transaction.
How are you turning brand into money using content? Let me know! I love to share examples, good and bad. Post your comments and links here, in frenchonbrand.