“Content is King.” I heard them repeat that phrase over and over. “Content is King.” “Content is King,” meaning, content is what really matters, what rules the marketing world. “Content is King” breathing life into a static world of 1s and 0s, where otherwise, your target audience would be disenchanted and misinformed about your brand, your product or service, your life.
I’m here to say, “Baloney.”
We can all ooh and ahh and marvel at the “Content is King” concept, but in reality, content is not King and, for good marketing, it never has been.
When was the last time you raved about a brand’s content? “Boy, I loved the content Nike put out last season. I’m moved to buy a pair of Air Jordans.” What content has ever moved you so personally it causes you to swear loyalty to a brand? What does content mean to you?
The answers are: “Never.” “None.” “Nothing.”
I’m as guilty as the rest of the marketers that’ve come up through the dawn of the digital age. I thought, “The more content, the better the brand will be perceived.” And like a drooling lemming, I wandered along for the good part of a decade cranking out content – volumes of it. From blog posts and tweets to landing pages crammed with more content than any sane consumer would ever read. Dry, witless, boring words and keywords, all running together to create a web of nonsense that even I and my customers (for a while) assumed altered the perception of brand.
One day we noticed something. While search ranks and reports on competitive Adwords campaigns showed dominance, the real conversion (sales) took place when the customer connected with the client (actual engagement). HOLY BALONEY! (yes, my favorite processed lunch meat..)
As a disclaimer, yes, while search positioning and returns as well as strategic Adwords drove traffic to our clients’ websites and caused more eyes on products / services, the conversion rates were nominal. As marketers we wanted more. We wanted to fill their funnels with screaming, raving brand advocates starving to consume our clients’ products!
Bottom line: Conversions = Sales. Sales = Profit.
Right around the same time we were making this epiphany, we’d picked up a client that, for the most part, didn’t need sales, per-se, but needed a change in brand perception. The approach for them needed to be different. If touting their product and flooding the airwaves with their awesomeness wasn’t necessary, then we were charged with making their target audience “relate” to them. We were charged with changing the desirability of a brand, not just have eyes on it. This was personal.
Stories become the lifeline that rescue brands.
This is where the brilliance of digital marketing and Public Relations come together to create change. By getting out of the “Content is King” mindset and telling stories that mattered, the connections made between the client and their target audience started to matter.
Let me say that again. THE CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN THE CLIENT AND THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE STARTED TO MATTER.
It started out slowly. It terrified me, as a digital marketer, I wanted to see “digital” results! Quick. Immediate gratification was the name of the game. But through “Storytelling mode,” we were slowing the process to a crawl. While we kept reassuring the client, “Don’t worry, we’re building the story-line.” All the time I was melting on every release and every page written.
Weeks later, okay a month-or-so later, we saw the needle move. We saw engagement. We saw an advocate stand up and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” (Sorry for the 70s movie reference, but it suited the campaign.)
The client called in a frenzy. “Andy, it’s happening. We have eight new volunteers over the last week and 20 voice-mails to return.”
After over 3 months of storytelling and submission to the cause over the return, we were converting. The client was seeing a change in perception. The client was seeing the tide of awareness and acceptance start to swell. And soon that wave crashed to shore making their phone ring, their emails ding, and their hearts sing.
Storytelling is, at its core, still creating content. But by crafting the stories to reach the audience instead of just getting indexed, the conversion is made infinitely easier.
By telling stories, we are able to:
- Immerse the readers in an experience to which they can relate.
- Engage the readers, making them part of the brand’s story-line.
- Integrate the readers across numerous touch-point – from social to publications, radio, television and more.
- Impact the readers by moving their personal connection to a meaningful end.
So, is the King dead? Or does storytelling just make content even more powerful? Where could you see storytelling change your marketing communications efforts?
Food for thought.
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef