Content marketing has emerged as one the powerful tools of brand building in today’s era. According to the marketing guru Seth Godin, ‘content marketing is the only marketing left’. Content marketing has its set of advantages that makes it appealing- it is authentic, useful and connects well with the digital generation.
Content marketing has evolved over the last couple of years as social media becomes more powerful. It is no more about posting a few blogs on the company’s website every month. It has transitioned to be a mix of intelligent content in various formats; content that can engage and drive conversations and also user generated content. Content marketing has moved from just leveraging the company website as a channel, to planned strategies for leveraging the social media channels and messaging apps. Another interesting trend is that of generating content like a media company. A number of brands in the B2B as well as B2C domains have a team of content experts who churn out regular content and run a microsite/dedicated platform for publishing this content.
Year 2020 is very different
The story of 2020 has been very different from what was projected. The Coronavirus pandemic has not only impacted lives and businesses, but also changed the way a brand markets itself. Covid19 has led to a huge change in the way customers view and consume content. They are now spending a lot more time online and are picky about the brands they want to associate with. The content consumption has increased manifold and is greater than ever. The pandemic has changed the ways companies and their customers interact and has made digital the primary medium for conversations.
Brands have been forced to rethink their strategies to focus on content that is very different from what they would have planned in the early 2020. And this time around, it is not feasible to plan for an entire year or a quarter. The situation is evolving by the day and the brands have been forced to think and rethink their marketing strategies, sometimes every few hours. However, some golden rules exist. A hard sell is a big no-no as of now. It is the brands with a clear line of purpose and higher emotional quotient/connect that are doing better than the others.
The Covid era is expected to be about content that is relatable and connects with the customer emotionally. It need not be overtly emotional but has to be in sync with the times. Brands that make persistent efforts, and ensure constant communication will do well in these times.
Here are some recommendations on what could fare well for content marketers in the Covid times.
Quick pivots and on-the-go content strategy
The current and upcoming months will be fluid as the world tries to fight coronavirus. It is expected that there will be a lot of topical news as the businesses try to get back on track. In such a scenario, content teams across companies need to be on their feet and be ready to craft and push out relevant content. They need to be flexible and create content that is relevant and engaging.
It is good for a brand to voice its opinion on a topic that is important for its business or the community at large. This will help in two ways- 1) push content that people will be interested in and 2) lead conversations and be the community voice. The recent AatmaNirbhar Bharat, Vocal for Local, and India’s decision to ban 59 Chinese apps is a good example. Overnight, the Indian startups across domains got a new lease of life and the opportunity to make an impact on millions of prospective consumers. The content strategy and messaging had to be totally redrawn. In such scenarios, brands that had an impactful communications/ content strategy in tune with the times, and not a force-fit, saw great results with exponential growth in downloads and followers on social pages.
Authenticity is the key
The last few months have been difficult for the customers, trying to stay at home to fight the uncertainties around coronavirus. The way consumers live their daily lives has changed due to coronavirus and it has also impacted the way they consumer content. Customers have become more open to accepting real content. Content that is realistic and resonates with what consumers feel works better in the current times, than over-the-top page 3 kind of content. It is okay for brands to post content about their businesses not doing well and them having to let go of employees. It is also okay for the CEO of a company to put out a video on how his business has suffered due to Covid19 and what the company is doing to bounce back. Some good news on the company’s hiring plans can also be shared.
It is not always necessary to take a stance
A brand needs to be smart and pick its bets well. It is not needed to take a stance for anything and everything. Controversial topics are best avoided in the current times, as they may alienate the audience. With low patience levels, customers today tend to quickly move away from brands that are not clear about their purpose and vision, and instead are trying very hard to capture the attention. It is advisable that brands only share their views on topics that have a strong resonance with their own values, ethos or purpose.
Leverage all forms of content
In 2020, brands that have a focused content plan and leverage various forms of content will be able to connect better with their audience. Brands that leverage multiple channels and content forms will be able to create buzz and ensure high brand recall. However, it is advisable to have a content plan in place for the specific channel or type of content. In these crazy times, it also advisable to experiment and try a totally new form factor. It is not about just creating a lot of content but creating smart and consumable content across formats and leveraging various digital channels to push it to the target customers.
Brands need to go slow when it comes to spamming customers with their latest offers, new launches or upcoming sale, in the Covid era. These are tough times and the content of the emails need to well thought through. Customers will value brands whose emails are relevant and show that the brand cares for its customers. A subtle plug-in of a relevant product is okay but brands should avoid sending an emailer that looks like a pure sales pitch, like an emailer with a whole bunch of products that are on sale. Personalised emails can work well, if they don’t give the impression of intruding privacy of the customers.
User generated content (UGC)
As per a recent report, 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than brand content. The micro-influencers and users will rule the rest of FY21 as consumers would be more interested in hearing from the real people on their experiences with a product or service. In India, there has been a sudden rise in user generated content due to the national lockdown for close to 3 months. UGC is now widely acceptable and more relatable. Hence, brands need to understand what could encourage their audience to create as well as share content.
Videos have become even more important in the Covid era as it is the only medium of social interactions in these times. People have become used to interacting on video calls and attending webinars. Brands can think out-of-the-box and explore options like live videos, engaging videos on social channels, and IG live or live social media conversations with a business expert or a customer.
To conclude, the ideal approach for content marketing in the times of Covid is to determine what is worth communicating from the customers’ point of view, and balance the company’s marketing goals with customer empathy. The messaging should be balance of optimism and sensitivity. The content should display authenticity, compassion and care, and not give the impression that the brand is trying to take advantage of the situation. Companies should understand that this is their chance to build brand equity and a loyal customer base and work around it. Sales should take a back seat and brands should focus more on leveraging content to drive brand credibility and build long-term brand equity.
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