We all love a good story. It's part of our make-up. Before the advent of modern communication, stories were the only way that we were able to impart information to each other. Today, for anyone looking for cut-through against the clamour of sales messages in the modern marketplace, that ancient art of storytelling has never been more important.
People are tired of being talked at and instead are desperate to be valued and engaged with. A great story will do this. It will also fire emotions and motivate people into action. Essentially, if you engage people in this way you can get them to do anything. Put simply, and in terms marketers can understand, the most successful brands tell their consumers compelling stories, and the best stories win business.
So, if you want to really connect with your target audience, your focus has to be on well-thought-out, strategically developed content that absolutely tells your brand's story, as opposed to material – written, video or audio – that is produced without a thought for quality, understanding or strategy.
With just 8% of consumers stating that they do not want a relationship with brands, and three-quarters of adults believing content is a strong platform for brands to highlight key elements of their product portfolio, it pays to get it right.
However, the problem for many marketers is that the rapid pace of change within the consumer technology sector has left them playing catch-up. Whereas print was once the central focus of any brand communication, today the top five channels in order of significance for marketers are content-led websites; branded mobile/tablet apps; customer magazines; email newsletters and branded games.
Although printed customer magazines still rank at number three, and have seen a 35% growth rate over the past six months, according to research published recently by circulation verification body ABC, there is now a huge number of different devices and channels available. This means that making sure you are communicating consistently across all of them and effectively managing the information and associated rich media assets – such as photos and videos – for all of your products is one of the biggest challenges facing marketers today.
To be able to cope with this, you need to have a fully integrated approach to your content marketing, one that covers all the channels you operate in, and ensures that your story is told not only in an interactive way, but also a consistent way.
It is only when an overall content strategy has been created – which will be very much determined by your business objectives – that you can focus on individual channels and look at distributing your content across all platforms.
This is about much more than generating 'likes' on a Facebook page. A key part of this process involves putting in place a detailed editorial plan to ensure that your customers are taken on an engaging journey, and that the right content is distributed across the right channels. You need to remember that relevancy is critical; if your content isn't relevant for any given channel, it will just become lost, or worse, ignored.
Effectively managing your content in this way is crucial to your business on two distinct levels:
First, done correctly, it is one of the most effective forms of marketing because it is pull rather than push marketing, it drives engagement and word of mouth and it takes customers on a real and seamless journey of discovery through your brand. On top of this, 70% of UK adults consume at least one piece of content marketing on a monthly basis; 59% of consumers are more likely to notice products and promotions in media produced by a brand compared with conventional advertising, and almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers are more likely to consider purchases when reading brand-produced content compared with non-branded content.
Second, it is hugely cost effective and time efficient because it means you simply create the content once and then distribute it across all relevant channels, rather than constantly being forced to reinvent the wheel. For example, a video shoot can also involve photography that can be used across digital, mobile and print, driving return on investment and ensuring you get the most value from your marketing activities. For most businesses, the content they produce is for their customers, and the harsh reality is that if these people aren't getting the information they need from your various channels, then they will simply go somewhere else.
As the competition for people's attention becomes more fiercely contested both online and offline, and people demand more of their experience of your brand, so getting your content in order will become increasingly important to your business.
Julia Hutchison, head of content marketing, Group FMG
Julia joined Group FMG as head of content marketing after nine years as chief operating officer of the Content Marketing Association (CMA). At the CMA she was responsible for delivering £60m of business to the content marketing sector, and driving it forward to become what it is now: a £1bn industry.
While there, she also worked directly with top brands such as Audi, John Lewis, RBS, Boden, Bang & Olufsen and Standard Life, providing a consultancy service to help them enter the world of content marketing. Prior to this she was head of new business at media agency Starcom, following senior commercial roles working with Associated Newspapers and Sunday Business. She continues to be one of the UK content marketing industry's most influential figures.
Ted Baker: Launch of autumn/winter 2012 range
Ted Baker's first store opened in March 1988 in Glasgow. After the launch of Ted Baker Woman in 1995, the brand established itself as a major player in British fashion. Ted Baker approached FMG to produce a true end-to-end solution for the launch of its autumn/winter 2012 range. This involved a range of services such as hosting the catwalk event, photographing and videoing it, and creating a digital catalogue using the assets.
With a delivery deadline fewer than 12 hours after the event, planning was everything. Our photography, video and digital teams worked together seamlessly to ensure everything ran like clockwork – from creative direction and storyboarding to event management and digital templating – to create a wealth of stunning assets from the launch event, and to make it a truly memorable event to ensure great coverage from the hundreds of fashion journalists in attendance.
First, FMG's 3000ft2 studio and event space was transformed with thousands of artificial leaves and tree bark. After a full rehearsal, we hosted and eventmanaged the catwalk shows as our specialist photography and video teams shot hours of footage and hundreds of images. These assets went straight into editing, after which they were passed to FMG's digital studio to deliver an interactive catalogue of the A/W12 range. This was then sent to every attendee fewer than 12 hours after the event, allowing Ted Baker to immediately use the new assets and to engage with journalists quickly in an innovative way.
Ted Baker was delighted with the success of the event and with the wealth of video and photography that was used both in-store and online, supporting a successful launch of the A/W12 range. In fact, Ted Baker was so impressed, it has confirmed FMG to repeat the event for the launch of its A/W13 range.
Read more: Content Marketing Case Studies