The internet has profoundly changed the way we live, work and play. People are more connected than ever thanks to smartphones, tablets and laptops. These digital devices provide mobility and convenience, and as a result – the nature of content consumption has changed.
Studies have shown the average attention span is a mere eight seconds – even shorter than goldfish. The proliferation of devices and platforms has also fragmented the playing field for marketeers. Brands are being challenged to connect with their customers through all these devices, on demand, in real-time and seamlessly. Yet many brands have responded by using “spray and pray” advertising, which results in the incoherent clutter we see today.
It is now harder for marketers to cut through the distraction and make any lasting impact on consumers. Consumers have a low tolerance for these blasts of information. Faced with an onslaught of competing messages, consumers have become more selective of the content they choose to engage with. They are also more sceptical of branded messaging and celebrity endorsements, instead choosing to believe “people like you and me” – ordinary people who they can relate to and see as peers.
Consumers today are yearning for unique and meaningful experiences with brands. A recent study by Havas found that brands that created “meaning” for their customers were rewarded with loyalty and increased sales. However, creating meaningful and lasting relationships with customers is synonymous with marketing, and is nothing new. In this digital age, the “why” of marketing and brand strategy remains unchanged, while the “how” needs to be overhauled to ensure brands continue to be relevant.
With this new reality in mind, many brands have turned to content marketing to better connect with their audiences.
A paradigm shift
In the past, Shell was perceived as functional and premium, but also distant and cold. To shake off this perception, in 2015 the brand embarked on a three-year transformational programme – “Welcome to Shell” – to humanise the brand and redefi ne its purpose.
We found that culturally relevant, human interest stories that inspire, inform or entertain seemed to gain traction among Malaysians. The brand softened its marketing strategy by moving away from product-centric messaging to purpose-led, audience-driven content. We manifested our brand purpose in all content that we published.
The digital disruption has changed the way we marketeers must respond to consumers, and increasingly brands are moving towards becoming content publishers. In Shell’s case, we developed audience-first content to help us deliver value and emotional engagement to our customers.
Our primary objective was to attract attention and gain trust, which then allowed us to re-target those customers who had engaged with our content to other aspects of the brand.
However, there is no one-size-fi ts-all approach, and brands will need to fi nd out what strategies work best for them by testing and learning. The good news is there is a wealth of digital tools to help brands understand their audience better, and develop better quality content that suits them. Marketeers can also easily conduct pilot studies on digital platforms to test concepts and tweak campaigns before they go live on a bigger scale.
The key is not about creating a large amount of content, but creating quality content that will create a maximum impact with target audiences, so they keep coming back for more.
The author of this article is Ben Mahmud, head of retail marketing, Shell Malaysia