Content marketing and promotional marketing can work together, argues Tim Tsung of Grey Shopper
Traditional advertising begins by delivering features, benefits, and a USP through a product story, then connecting them to people in a creative way. Branded Content focuses instead on finding the stories that would resonate with its audience, then creatively connects these concepts to their product. Or as Robert Rose explains more colourfully, “Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one.”
Essentially, as The Content Marketing Institute explains, companies consistently create and curate content in order to “attract and retain customers” (drive loyalty) and subsequently “change or enhance a consumer behaviour… with the objective of driving profitable customer action” (increase sales and save costs).
What this “Content” entails and what format it takes ranges from short films (e.g. Volvo’s Human Made Stories) to apps (e.g. McVitie’s iKitten).
“Content is King”
Bill Gates’ Microsoft focused on the software inside the computer as opposed to the hardware themselves. As such, when he declared that “Content is King” in 1996, he firmly believed that content would drive the success of the internet. In the same way, many brands use Content Marketing to drive their success by distributing what consumers really want to see and encouraging them to engage with the brand in a longer-lasting and more organic way, as opposed to simply “jam[ing]” their logo into your “periphery.” (Keith Blanchard).
Therefore, Branded Content is a more integrated approach to communications and as such, is much less intrusive on people’s lives. This is important as it makes the marketing more digestible and less-prone to being avoided outright by the consumer. Needless to say, if the content generates enough passion and entertainment, consumers will pay attention to the brand – “Content is King” only if the content is good, relevant and valuable.
A fine example of Branded Content is American Express’ OPEN Forum, labelled as the “Gold Standard” of Content Marketing. OPEN Forum owes its success to a perfect blend of quality content with a passionate community. On here, American Express provides small businesses with the advice they need to be successful and subsequently, became a destination for business owners to share ideas, seek guidance and develop plans. American Express clearly benefits from running OPEN Forum because the platform is the company’s #1 source of leads for new card members.
Implications for Promotional Marketing
Promotional Marketing is designed to “influence and incentivise sales or action.” Therefore, by definition, Promotional Marketing is enacted with a desired outcome in mind. On the other hand, Content Marketing is designed not to “pitch, but, rather, inform.” As such, it appears at first that Content & Promotional Marketing are at odds with one another.
Yet the implications for Branded Content are that it can add another dimension to Promotional Marketing. This is because brands are beginning to re-define “promotion” as meaning more than just “promoting” a product or action but rather, promoting the brand’s tenets, ideals and principles on a macro level.
An often cited example is Red Bull’s Content Marketing strategy. From hosting live music in the London Eye’s pods (Red Bull Revolutions in Sound) to sponsoring cliff diving (Red Bull Cliff Diving), Red Bull’s activities and content all support, ladder up to and re-affirm its overarching brand principle of “Giving Wings.”
Red Bull’s Content Marketing may not directly increase sales as obviously as other forms of Direct Marketing but tellingly, Euromonitor reports that Red Bull is to energy drinks what Coca-Cola is to soft drinks, even though it sells at a 50% premium over other energy drinks. This is significant as Red Bull rarely runs price promotions or prize promotions, meaning its Content Marketing plays a big role in driving brand equity and making it desirable regardless of offers.
Tim Tsung is a Planning Account Executive at Grey Shopper