- Part I -
Last week I was enjoying on one of my all-time favorite snacks: Sun Maid Raisins. Stifle your laughs; it’s a healthy snack, good for children and adults alike.
On the package I saw a small message about an eBook Sun Maid had created to commemorate their 100th anniversary. Naturally I was intrigued, as this is a service we provide for our clients, many of which are much smaller in size and have a far tighter marketing budget than a company like Sun Maid.
For those of you don’t know, an eBook simply stands for electronic book, and in marketing is taken to mean a book a company writes, publishes and distributes itself. It is an important facet in any content marketing program, which utilizes digital content, like blog articles, videos, whitepapers, eBooks and graphics to educate and qualify prospects until a point where they are ready to reach out and initialize a purchase. With the advent of the web and tools like blogs, brands no longer have to rely on publishers and mainstream advertising to become a thought leader – they can do it themselves.
Look for Part II of this article, which takes a closer look into the Sun Maid eBook and why it’s the perfect content marketing example for business now and in the future.
Building a Brand Narrative with Content Stream
In a marketing era heavily influenced by digital connectivity, we see trends of usage like mobile, social media, and decline in viewership of traditional media channels plaguing the status quo. It no longer makes sense to hire ad agencies to create and distribute lengthy, multi-million dollar ad campaigns in a world where viral videos shot by ordinary citizens can crush viewership and engagement produced by any traditional campaign.
Rather, consumers now consume small morsels of information here and there, slowly informing and qualifying themselves. This can take place not only with a commercial possibly seen on the evening news, but more likely on social media, in search results from Google, from blog articles seen in RSS feeds or from email marketing, or in video from YouTube. In a world where consumers slowly search inform themselves on several different platforms, developing a content stream becomes highly important.
Content Stream is essence the content you produce and publish overtime. While the topic and medium will differ, the message must remain consistent, the design well-branded, and always providing a way for the consumer to “raise their hand” when they are ready to learn more. Content marketing is not like selling or advertising because the primary goal is to create content they can utilize to solve a problem or make their lives easier, with the eventual goal of conversion. This type of marketing is far better-received and more effective than a cold call could ever be to a consumer present and definitely in the future.
The Tide is Changing
With the advent of the web, digital content like blogs, social media, email, etc., brands becoming “publishers” is now commonplace. Businesses can easily become trust-worthy sources of information by establishing themselves as thought-leaders in their industry.
Every morning I read the CMO Today from the Wall Street Journal, and in almost every issue there is a story that somehow touches on how mainstream advertising, whether print or digital, is losing its steam. It’s becoming harder to reach targets because they aren’t tuning in the same way they once were. Many millennials are over-worked because of debt and under-employment, and thus they consume media on-demand through outlets like Netflix, YouTube or with a DVR, all of which involve little or no advertising.
Enter content marketing, a way to market your products by producing different types of informative (and also entertaining) content that can be consumed anytime, anywhere, on any platform. Even large brands have begun to hop the train, not only by producing and publishing blogs of their own, but with new methods like sponsored content.
Sponsored content is a bit of a gray area in content marketing, and there are mixed opinions on it among marketers. Sponsored content looks like a blog article or video on a website, but is created by a brand and distributed with the help of a 3rd-party, usually an ad agency. To the consumer it has the same effect as a helpful piece of content they might also find on the website – it is not self-promotional and may solve a problem they have or learn more about something.
To the marketer it is seems more like paid advertising. I’m not here to pass judgment on whether sponsored content is content marketing or not. I use it as an example to show that even big brands are placing serious value in content marketing. Some of them just have the resources to scale distribution a bit quicker than the typical small business.
Brand is Important to Millennials
It is important to note millennials, that their market size is larger than that of Baby Boomers, and for many businesses, they will be a large part of their target audience for the next 20-40 years. Content marketing is ideally suited towards how millennials consume information and make purchasing decisions.
Whether you’re Fortune 500, a regional distributer, or a local small business in any industry, it is very much in your interest to begin understanding this market segment (if you haven’t done so already). They’ve experienced a pretty large socio-economic shift in that of digital, which has influenced almost every part of their lives. They are drawn to authenticity and don’t want to be marketed to, which means marketers are going to have to shift as well to remain competitive.
With any target market, you must identify the underlying values and beliefs that drive their purchasing decisions. This becomes even more important in generational shift because each new generation is different from the last in so many ways. As a millennial myself I can attest that it is no different this time around.
Millennials have been an important market segment for almost 10 years and there are still more of us coming into the fold. The interesting thing is that it the majority of brands have just recently, within the past 2-3 years, begun to get a handle on how to effectively market to us (with still many more to catch on). With a new generation just reaching their formative teen years now, it would behoove any business to stay current on marketing trends and to know who they’re marketing to.
Coming Soon: Part II of this article in which we look closer at the Sun Maid eBook mentioned in the introduction to this article and how it’s an excellent example of marketing in 2015 and beyond.