To tell a story is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been done since the caveman and craftsman era. What we have now realised is that the simpler the story, the easier to remember.
One of the best storytellers today, said Norliza Kassim, head of digital engagement and content, global digital marketing, Standard Chartered Bank, is Donald Trump. Agree or disagree with his views, the man is indeed polarising. He can no doubt stir up emotions which in turn leads to conversations because people just want to connect over his comments.
“Human beings are wired to recognise and share stories,” she said. Storytelling is the best way to connect and that’s the heart of content marketing. She urges that to learn good storytelling, marketers should look to Hollywood. While the steps seem relatively simple, execution takes tons of practice and patience.
Step 1: Meet the hero
First and foremost, you need to set up your hero which should ideally be the customer.
“You need to identify your customers’ needs and gain insight to their lives and set them up to be the hero of your story,” Kassim said.
Step 2: Confrontation
This is where the bulk of the story happens and where you realise the pain points of your consumers. This is also the point where the hunt and discovery process peaks.
According to several studies, quoted by Kassim, a person typically consumes 8.9 pieces of content when trying to resolve an issue or make a purchase. Hence, at this point, smart brands can create content that will help the customer move into the resolution phase.
Step 3: Resolution
This is where content marketing can bring sales and marketing functions together because it is where you put the customer at the centre of your brand purpose and come up with the best plan of execution.
When you have executed all of this right and built trust with your consumers, that’s where you can begin to have a conversation with relevant and engaging content and educate them. The brand’s role is to guide the customers along, it is not to mandate, said Kassim adding:
The role of the brand is not to be the hero or the protagonist. That is for the consumer. The role of the brand is to be the mentor or the guru. Be part of the 8.9 pieces of content consumers take in.
Ultimately, the purpose is to move from talking about products and services and into customer needs.
“It’s not easy to have a conversation with customers. You need to be there where they are and be useful and trustworthy in your language,” she said.
Meanwhile, John Williams, vice-president for Southeast Asia and South Asia at BBC Worldwide, added that to really get the trust of your consumers you must move away from simply trying to be authentic and preaching ideals to having a purpose.
“Nobody would dispute the importance of authenticity to brands – but authenticity does not establish meaning. Authenticity may mean being true to an ideal concept, but we mustn’t confuse these ideals with the real meaning of a brand in people’s lives,” Williams said.
He added this is important more so now than ever before because consumers have become accustomed to filter out brands mentally, emotionally and increasingly through technology.
“Ad blocking and falling attention spans are proof points. You have to demonstrate why consumers shouldn’t filter out your brand,” he added.
Having a brand purpose allows brands to be rooted in consumers’ experiences – and a sense of what matters to them.
Like Kassim, he added brands needed to establish understanding by identifying consumer pain points and identity if they want their audiences to invest time listening to their advertising messages.
How much content is too much content?
In a panel discussion at Content 360, Don Anderson, co-founder and head of outreach for Asia Content Marketing Association, posed a few questions around content quality versus quantity and budgets. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
Anderson: “Is there such a thing as too much content?”
Chris Reed, global CEO and founder of Black Marketing: “It’s not a conversation about excess content, it’s about using the existing content fully. There are many instances where we see a company develop content and top leaders share it on LinkedIn, but the staff hardly share that content. How you get your employees in the habit of sharing content is critical. A lot of them are not using the right kind of content in the right ways. Simply producing content is not enough, amplifying it is equally important.”
Gerald Ang, global digital leader for GE: “Speak when it’s needed, be meaningful and find a natural rhythm in your content. Be simple and purposeful. Think of your year-long calendar as a blank canvas, and then fill it up with selected moments you want to own.”
Anderson: “ACMA did a survey last year and participated marketers suggested only 20% of their marketing budgets is going into content marketing. What sort of budgets are you seeing and what is the money being spent on?”
Ang: “20% is a good baseline and it goes up depending on media and co-creation partnerships. The marketing team has to look at what will drive business results and focus accordingly. Of the 20%, about 10% goes in production, but you also need to include media and measurement budgets. For us, we focus on earned media for which we don’t have to spend and then look at owned and earned in that order. We focus on earned, owned and paid media in that order.
“In terms of medium, we are digital first. We look at spending on TV only in rare cases when it is absolutely relevant, otherwise our focus is online. Other than that social listening is also a big area of focus for us.”
Tony Chow, director of creative and content marketing for Asia Pacific at Marriott International: We are moving away from traditional advertising and our focus is largely on content. We aim to do 1-2 Hero content, the budget for which could run into a few millions, and then focus on what we call the Hub content, which require relatively smaller budgets. We are not doing anything on TV or print at the moment. It is all digital.