The holidays have ended, and 2014 is but a memory. You may be inclined to simply forge ahead with your eye on the tasks at hand. But before you do, let’s pause and take a minute to look back at the year that was – when the industry seized upon the great, big idea of content marketing, a concept that, while not entirely new, found what looks like its permanent place in the marketing plans of companies everywhere.
Content marketing is the practice of generating original, relevant, unique, and timely content in a way that engages a brand’s audience(s). Gone are the days of one-way, trickle down communication. The current spate of online communities and social media networks – Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and so forth – have returned power to the people; consumers now talk with brands and help shape the conversation.
These same online channels also provide a constant drumbeat of messages, inundating consumers with flashy images and exhortations to buy, buy, buy! This glut of “noise” and newfound consumer influence can be intimidating. What’s a marketer to do when talking at a customer no longer works?
You guessed it, content marketing.
Consider top players like American Express, J. Crew, Target, and Disney. They’ve mastered the art of content marketing, and they understand that in today’s fast-paced world of short attention spans and ease of information a different strategy is needed. They must offer fresh, exciting, authentic and even provocative content to tell their story, earn customer loyalty, and promote brand awareness. These brands are tweeting, pinning, and blogging their way to higher sales and customer satisfaction with content that’s authentic to who they are, relevant to their target audiences, timely, and wildly entertaining.
Take American Express. To demonstrate its commitment to the success of small businesses, it set up a robust online forum where entrepreneurs can share information and advice. The company publishes content-rich articles with valuable tips for starting and running a small business.
Another content marketing home run: Target’s online, behind-the scenes magazine, A Bullseye View, a popular resource for home décor, lifestyle, and fashion tips, exclusive to the site. It churns out quality content that helps drive business sales but isn’t itself “sales-y”. It’s helpful. Likewise, J. Crew provides exclusive deals as well as stunning fashion photography on its corporate Instagram account, while the Disney company blog offers behind-the-scenes video capturing the magic of Disney characters and the happiest place on earth. Coincidence that customer loyalty and brand awareness are on the rise? Hardly.
2014 taught us a valuable lesson that we predict will hold true in 2015 and beyond: content marketing is an essential part of a successful marketing plan. Whether it’s via a corporate blog, a white paper, video, e-newsletters, or social media, consumers have an insatiable thirst for information that’s entertaining, that helps them solve a problem, and that helps them improve an area of their life. If your organization can provide that magical concoction of exciting and informational content, you’ll win both hearts and business. Good luck.