Brand Tales is a digital magazine devoted to Australian content marketing and native advertising… and why quality content should be celebrated.
Australians have been a little slow to pick up on the potential of “branded content”… or “corporate storytelling” or “brand journalism”. While they may be looking to the US and Europe and seeing an industry emerging from its teen years, Australian businesses and marketing professionals are still a bit wobbly on their feet, with some still debating if a content-led approach is the right way to go.
There are few truly successful executions to point to in the Australian context. The ANZ brand newsroom BlueNotes and Filtered Media’s Coca-Cola digital magazine Journey are two of the higher-profile examples. CPA has also managed to create an unexpected industry on the back of its Naked CEO concept.
For those who are newly aboard, the baseline is this: content marketing provides a blueprint for how businesses can use valuable and pertinent material to conduct a two-way relationship with their current and potential customers. And the good thing is that it can work for any business that has customers (which means it can help businesses that have businesses as their customers, too).
What actually works will depend on where the customers are, what they like and what they do. And this is the tricky bit – it’s not about selling messages or waging campaigns. At its best, content marketing needs to be a consistent, ongoing process of delivering quality information (or perhaps entertainment) to inform or delight customers. It could be in the form of a story, blog, video or infographic, and it could be on a website or in a printed brochure… the point is that what is produced is what the customer wants or needs.
Most attempts by Australian businesses to use relevant, useful and occasionally delightful content are difficult to find, at least at the moment. Nicely written long-form articles, superb video series and beautiful infographics are at a premium despite the lure of cheap and easy distribution and promotion opportunities through mobile-optimised sites and social media.
“Some brands just don’t know how to get their strategies off the ground”Don Broekelmann
Despite evidence that content really does work to help companies reach out to their audiences, brands find it difficult to take the leap. Don Broekelmann, executive vice president of US content marketing firm Influence & Co, says there are four main reasons why some companies and marketers still struggle with the concept.
“Some brands just don’t know how to get their strategies off the ground – or even what to include in them,” Broekelmann writes in a blog post on relevance.com. “They might get hung up on the approval process. Or their content efforts are mainly social, and long-form content is uncharted territory.”
He says companies may also be afraid to showcase individuals, which invariably happens in content marketing strategies, even though “consumers no longer want to do business with faceless companies”. He writes: “By putting employees at the forefront, you’re humanising the brand and creating trusting relationships with the people who matter most to your business.”
Another resistance point is that businesses just don’t have the capability to create content with education at its heart. “[Content] should provide the information consumers need while still serving a purpose for your brand. This can be a struggle for many marketing teams. Their inclination is to drive a message, not to educate consumers with long-form content.”
Broekelmann says the other reason content struggles to get going is the oldest one in the book – limited budget. “The cost of content is often an issue for companies,” he writes. “They’ll either need to hire a new skill set or outsource the work, and both options can strain their budgets. But the cost of doing nothing is usually steeper.”
He says that companies that don’t use content marketing are giving away an unnecessary advantage to their opposition. “You need to keep pace or get ahead so you’re the threat – not the other way around. It will be much more difficult to convince potential customers to listen to you when your competitors are already seen as trusted and credible sources of information.”
Green shoots are emerging in content marketing and native advertising, even if Australians still look overseas for most of their inspiration and encouragement.
Done well, content marketing can lead to all sort of possibilities – like increased awareness and sales. But this isn’t the only reason to do it well. Hopefully, Brand Tales will help explain how.
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