If you were to ask someone what the primary goal of advertising today was and they said “to sell”, they aren’t getting it right. Advertising is no longer just a task to sell your services or products but to make the brand recognizable, to make it feel wanted, desired. Then comes the selling part.
Advertising is an integral function if any brand wants to scale up. In a market which is overflowing with products and services, the marketing and advertising are what make or break the brand. How successfully you are able to communicate the brand to the consumers and how much they can relate to your brand forms the basis of your success story.
The one thing that determines the success of your advertising is content.
The needs of the consumers have changed over the years and so has the content of advertising. Let’s take a look at how the content of advertising has evolved and what are the best practices for brands in the current times.
Advertising content over the years
The advertising content over the years has changed as much as any other industry in the world fuelled by technology has. Which is drastically. The change in culture, thought process, current topics, political situations, all affect the society which reflects in advertising majorly.
Here are a few very evident changes in the content of advertising –
The change in purpose
In the earlier days, the main goal of advertising was to sell. A major change that we observe now is the change in the very purpose of advertising. Making connections, garnering a space in the hearts and minds of the consumers, recall, recognition of the brand are things that advertisers focus on instead of selling just a product.
Product at the centre
Earlier, the goal of any ad was primarily to sell. Be it a print ad or television ad, the focus was always on the product, its functionality, ease of use, etc.
Currently, this approach has completely changed. Many ads do not even have the product at all in the promotion. The popular Indian ad campaign, Vicks #TouchOfCare, was a short ad film revolving around a unique mother daughter relation and did not have anything to do with the product, or its application etc.
Sex no longer sells
Contrary to what we are used to hearing, sex does not sell. Not anymore. A much-needed change that advertising content is seeing is that there has been a steady decrease in raunchy, overtly sexual content and thankfully so.
The consumer is much smarter now especially pertaining to the thousands of choices they have in each category. They are careful where they want to put their money. Although sexual ads have not completely ceased, nor will they, their count has gone down for the best.
Portrayal of women
The portrayal of women in the ads in the past was often very raunchy, submissive or stereotyped. May it be the Calvin Klein ads with young girls in skimpy clothing or a repulsive Audi ad comparing women to buying a car, huge brands have come under the radar for being offensively sexist, a mistake others have hopefully learnt from. Subsequently, there has been a change in the portrayal of women from submissive and docile to powerful, important.
Everyone loves a good story. The approach of storytelling works wonders in advertising since it is subtle and not in-your-face. Brands who use words and visuals to create a good, memorable, emotion-inciting experience for the viewers, tend to leave a mark in the memory and garner more space in the minds of the customer.
For instance, Budweiser uses the story telling approach very beautifully in its advertisements which makes for an interesting piece of content to just watch, in spite of it being a commercial. Volkswagon is another brand which uses brilliant storytelling to its best advantage.
Storytelling can come in many forms, short bite sized content over social media, elaborate videos or even long form blogs on websites. Thus content marketing is being adopted by brands largely and assimilated into their marketing strategy.
Content marketing is an integral part, almost an interconnected wing of advertising. The main focus of content marketing is to get the right kind of message to the right people and add value, rather than just merely expose them to the information.
Content marketing involves using multiple channels, digital as well as traditional like blogs, social media, short films, podcasts, print ads, emails, newsletters and even courses and countless other intelligent methods that provide value to the consumers.
It is more than just selling the product, it is about spreading an idea, a message, or even just building or encouraging a habit or even just a connection or purely inciting an emotion as well. A mark Coca cola has hit with its “Share a Coke campaign.” Absolut Vodka;s ad campaign which is one of the longest running print campaign is a prodigy when it comes to print content ads.
History of Content Marketing
Contrary to popular belief, content marketing is not a very new, modern concept. It started as soon as the realization of providing value to consumers hit businesses. Surprisingly, it dates back to as far as 1730s, when Benjamin Franklin used “Poor Richard’s Almanck”, a pamphlet to sell his printing business.
In the early 1900s, brands like Johnson and Johnson and Michelin too jumped on this newfound bandwagon of content marketing.
Proctor and Gamble was the first to venture into audio content as they launched audio and video programs known as ‘soap operas’.
Current trends in content marketing
What started as just a way of providing information is now fuelled by ideas and stories. Content marketing sets the tone and voice of a brand and shapes its personality, which is what builds relations.
Here are a few popular trends in content marketing currently, that every business should know.
What are podcasts?
With the growing popularity of music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts, the latest big thing in content marketing is podcasting. A form of audio interview or a discussion, a podcast is generally on a topic of expertise of the podcaster, meant to inform, teach or purely just entertain the audience.
Many brands ranging from media to educational institutes to automobile, to healthcare and a plethora of other industries, small as well as big have ventured into podcasting. Some popular global brands like Sephora, General Motors, Johnson and Johnson and EBay are among a few brands which have successful podcasts.
Why podcasts ?
Podcasts are very intimate; they build a one-on-one connection with the listener and provide incredible value, even if they are just to entertain.
Branded podcasting is a way to strengthen a brand’s connection with its audience. The popular fast food brand McDonald’s as well launched their own podcast – “The sauce”, a three-episode podcast as a reply to a PR fiasco, when they ran our of a coveted sauce and chaos broke out. This podcast gained popularity instantly and was talked about all over, also saving McDonald’s from critique.
Starting with a topic that is related to the larger conversation around the topic and bringing experts to pitch in their opinions as well is a great way to begin. The topics need not be directly related to the brand.
For instance, Sephora Collection’s podcasts #LIPSTORIES, in collaboration with Girlboss Radio brings in inspiring women and have them share their stories about leadership, personal growth, etc. Which serves as an amazing co content marketing idea.
People like to buy from people, having a face or a voice behind a brand humanizes it and podcasts are one major way to do so. Podcasting is a great way to integrate personal branding into the strategy as well and build a community.
Brand content can no longer just be a one trick pony. Earlier, brands could get away with just having an informational pamphlet, or running television ads once in a while.
But with the availability of hundreds of mediums to experiment with, businesses have no option but to put out content on various mediums and find a good media mix, if they plan on sustaining. The best way is to jump onto the bandwagon, take a plunge and try out new and emerging platforms. With the recent boom of ClubHouse, many brands were seen being a apart of conversations, an approach that gets a nod since it is a great idea to explore worth channels.
For instance, Vogue is excelling in the multi-channel approach, having a magazine, an active social media, blog, website as well as a YouTube channel which amasses a massive subscription base. Disney is another franchise that is practically everywhere in the world, because of its multi-channel content marketing approach.
Adobe, as part of their content marketing strategy offers certificate courses and tutorials to users, which is an interesting way to encourage usage of the service.
Merely paid advertising does not get brands anywhere anymore. Therefore, finding channels that have the audience that the brand needs to target and using a multi – medium approach is the way to go. Multiple channels guarantee a much wider reach and therefore more popularity.
Here are a just a few examples of channels that brands can pick and mix to lay out a multi-channel strategy:
- Traditional Media like print and television
- Social Media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube
- Display ads
- Video marketing and YouTube channels
- Courses or tutorials
Social Media marketing
Not a surprising addition to the list, social media marketing is massive, and it is here to stay. Twitter and Instagram is where the younger population is, these days, an if a business wants to leave a mark, social media is the place.
With countless methods to experience and the upsurge in meme marketing and topical content and also unique features being introduced regularly by platforms, brands can stay in touch with their consumers on social media day in and day out and thus garner top of mind recall.
Popular food outlets like Wendy’s and Taco Bell are known for their wit on twitter worldwide, even if they do not sell in some countries. Hence, it is imperative to have your social media game strong to make an impact and be a part of conversations, even if you are a small business or an entrepreneur.
Micro – Influencer marketing
Paying someone popular or sending them PR packages to promote your product is one of the most basic way of advertising. Celebrities, actors, sports starts and popular faces have always been a favourable choice for brands, but the recent development in this area has been the boom in nano or micro influencer marketing. Nano and micro influencers are those who have anywhere between 2,000 to 50,000 followers. These people do not have a massive following but they have targeted or niche followers that benefit brands.
Influencer marketing is a massive strategy which comes under content marketing since the influencers are required to create their own content on social media like reels, stories, unboxing videos, etc.
Amazon has a very elaborate and popular influencer programs that has a massive influencer base which is a great way of content marketing and saves marketing budget. Another brand that is very popular for using influencers to create content and promote their products is Daniel Wellington.
Hyperlocal content using Artificial Intelligence
With the advent of technology, innovations, the demand for hyperlocal content has increased. Due to artificial intelligence, hyper targeted local ads are a very interesting up and emerging trend. Cadbury India during the festival of Diwali came up with a hyperlocal television and digital ad, which targeted geographical locations.
This personal touch is being appreciated and is a great way for a more targeted advertising approach.
Blogs, newsletters and email marketing
Although not the newest trends in content marketing, there is no way around well written pieces of content. Blogs on websites, personalized well-crafted emails directly delivered to the inbox, nicely done newsletters that provide value are tried and tested ways that a business can connect with their target audience, at minimal marketing costs.
Businesses who do not have a blogging or email strategy in place are losing out big time. Blogs are problems solvers and can be targeted perfectly to your ideal audience, address their issues and provide solutions. Even if they do not convert immediately, blogs build relations, deeper connections, trust and therefore should be a part of a content strategy of every business possible.
People change, culture changes, content changes, but what will not change is the human need for good content. Everyone likes being entertained, everyone likes hearing “here’s a story” over “here, buy this”. Therefore, brands must harness and ride the wave of great content, device an amazing sustain marketing plan and aim to help the audience if they plan on sustaining in the market, because there is no way around quality.