I was fortunate enough to talk to Steve Farnsworth recently, a great discussion with a fellow marketing geek. I was interviewing him for an upcoming magazine article about content that lives the mission statement. I've riffed on this before, noting brands like Subway that do a great job of it, and some that need some work.
While talking to Steve, we started refining this idea to "content that lives the brand promise." I'm using some of the excerpts from our interview that aren't going into the magazine for this post, because I thought Steve's insights were really helpful.
Here are a couple of Steve's thoughts on businesses that are living the brand promise through content.
HOW CAN BRANDS LIVE THE MISSION STATEMENT THROUGH CONTENT? TO SHOW INSTEAD OF TELL?
I come from the thinking that most mission statements are bulls**t. They're concocted by CEOs to make themselves feel better about themselves. When you are talking about the mission statement, are you talking about the bullshit one that they write or one that shows the corporate culture?
If you are talking about showing the brand's culture, what you're really getting into is brand promise - forming, developing and communicating the brand promise.
WHAT ARE SOME BRANDS YOU THINK ARE DOING A GREAT JOB WITH CONTENT THAT LIVES THE BRAND PROMISE?
One brand I actually like is Home Depot. They do content marketing at a very personal level - you can go there on a Saturday and spend and hour and a half in their branded environment with one of their people and learn about how to remodel your kitchen. They don't sell those services at all. They just provide the materials and free education to get in there and do it.
People spend a fortune just to get a few minutes of your attention through interruption-based advertising. These classes are very late stage in that most people are pretty serious when they come to a class and they can learn all of this stuff with no obligation. It's a "do-your-own-home-improvement class," and they not only have the stuff to sell you, they provide the knowledge to you to go and do it.
One of the problems with content marketing is that people fail to map their content to the business ecosystem. If it's B2B, somebody's who's got budget authority has to understand who all of these buyers are and what their pain points are. You have to ask "Who are these people and why do they care?"
I don't think Home Depot did this intentionally, but they mapped it directly to the people who would be doing it. Content marketing is built to gain eyeballs, but some companies continue to make it about them and not about what their customers want. You have to see it from the outside in, from the customer-centric, not the product centric.
Jay Baer has described Taxi Mike before. It's this wonderful story about a guy who has a taxi and makes little guides about places to eat, places to go, and he goes back to all of the bars and restaurants around town and people call him.
I'm not sure how much time Taxi Mike spends on these, maybe a hour a month, but this effort is saying - "Hey, if you're in town visiting, I'm your guy!"
If he spends $20 a month, it probably turns into hundreds of dollars of taxi business and people will go home and talk about him, tell friends that whenever you're in town you need to see Taxi Mike.
How hard is that? It doesn't say "You should call me because I have a taxi." It's the difference between talking about what I have to sell and saying, "Here are some cool things to do and if you want to get there, here's my number."
WHY DO MANY BRANDS STRUGGLE TO CREATE AUTHENTIC CONTENT THAT DEMONSTRATES THE BRAND PROMISE?
You don't need an Oreo moment. Try to do something solid instead of trying to recreate a moment in time.
Fundamentally, it's because senior executives are risk-averse and being risk-averse does not lead to smart decisions. It leads to decisions everyone else is making which are typically middle-of-the-pack.
This kind of leadership permeates the organization. This kind of mentality flourishes when that drive to keep everything safe leads to the brand not having a close relationship with customers by going out with them and talking to them.
Back in the old days when people went to the town square, they met the person who actually made the product. The industrial revolution brought an incredible separation between people making stuff and buying stuff. Social channels allow us to break that separation.
Each company wants to have their own Oreo cookie moment. That's come and gone - it's a one in a million moment. So many are trying to do something derivative. Try to do something solid instead of trying to recreate a moment in time.
You don't need a viral video, you want to make something that they want to watch. Something that educates them, makes them laugh or speaks to them.