Digital Content That Performs Is Like Making Scones For Afternoon Tea
Like creating scones for afternoon tea it is not just the specific ingredients you use, but how they all fit together and the entire afternoon tea experience. Like with content creation what we do for TV is not the same as we do for digital channels, and every channel has its own needs.
In the past, I admit, I was a television and radio producer in big agencies and much like everybody else in the industry. We produced work to a specific format that seemed to work on TV and radio, although back in those days we didn’t have the means to measure channel performance like now. Having broadened my experience now I see how unique it is to produce content for digital channels. It really is not as simple as making a TV commercial a podcast or a branded film and running them on digital channels and saying that you produce content for every media channel. Each channels has specific needs, and also needs to fit in the overall brand and marketing strategy.
Here are my observations for the most effective digital content:
Customer Segmentation First
This is more difficult than it seems and in an industry where each media outlet or researcher tend to have their own proprietary customer profiles it isn’t so easy to do. You will find the media planners have one type of off the shelf profiles, the research company can have their own or may do customised research to identify market potential, or even the sales team can have data on who is currently buying the product or service. The issue is in making sure they all align and it seems they really don’t. The other big issue that comes up is that the sales figures reflect the audience that is being attracted by the current marketing activity and is not necessarily indicative of the full market potential, and focusing on an existing market only gets the brand the same results as they always had. Particularly if the results are stagnating or their is a decline in sales then this is a good indicator that the profiling of the customer is off (among other possible reasons, but where I’d start). Once you know the potential market, then you will know what they need from you and how to find them.
With experience in the automotive sector you can often see that brands will define their customer as primarily a male. They will have SalesForce data profiling their customers within certain age groups, locations and note gender. Unfortunately for those particular brands they are seeing declining sales and don’t know why. They often will continue to do more of the same or pump more money into marketing to capture more of that particular customer type. The real opportunity is in their potential customer who in fact is likely to be female based on widely accepted data that women are actually the primary decision maker in household items including automotive sales. (Funny enough, men still think they are).
Finding these opportunities is where the content will become more effective by targeting very closely. Care can be taken in producing content that won’t alienate the existing audience at the same time as broadening to capture the potential growth.
Seems obvious but many communications are created without understanding the important value proposition that is required for the segment and for the channel. The overall brand value may be an important story for a television based strategy but in digital activity that can be highly targeted the specific value proposition by segment is important to drill down to. Some argue that brand awareness is important however it comes, but surely there is more value in being specific to the market and performing better in each segment. If we are too broad, people don’t really know where you fit and confusion equals inaction. In digital environments there is such a need to stimulate immediate action and to make sure we don’t do open ended activity. Brand is important, yes, but doesn’t have to be at the cost of a result. Brand value can be delivered through the customer journey and should not be independent of a strategically tactical and powerful piece of content produced for the right environment for the specific audience.
Produce Within Context of the Full Customer Journey
This is a conversation that is rarely had with content producers, especially for video production. There is a focus on the video story alone as a piece of film-making but the real question is about how it works within the context of the full customer journey and how to maximise the structure of the content, the deliverables required and the material to support it. For the efficiencies alone it is important to ask questions about the end to end customer journey and how the content can be re-purposed and customised especially for each stage of the journey (and yes, that’s a more complex process than changing specifications and output format).
Many sales teams know what sells on the show room floor. They have a captive audience who are wow’d and woo’ed through the benefits and product features to the point that they eventually turn into a sale. Let’s not forget that what gets someone to come for a product trial is not the same story and experience as to what gets them to buy into the brand in the first place to move them to product trial. These are two very different jobs. People who come in for a product trial are already sold on the brand and are looking for validation and a reason to buy. Let’s not confuse the two, except during a digital experience that is a 100% online experience – use the same theory to buy into the brand first, then move through the benefits and features to close the deal.
With buyers remorse a common issue, the process of selling also shouldn’t stop at the shopping cart. Asking yourself what else can be done to help the customer feel they have made a great decision and even how they can refer on is a powerful strategy regardless of channels.
Be a Good Story
The best TV commercials have always been considered the ones with the most engaging stories and this applies to digital channels, more so than ever. The budget is not so much the factor that distinguishes effective and engaging content from others, but it is clearly proven that content that is aligned strategically first but is produced with emotive and engaging content is what is required. Digital content has been considered the ‘poor cousin’ of television broadcast production and podcasts the ‘poor cousin’ of radio for example, but we need to consider putting better budgets aside for digital in order to put the effort into the right kind of content with the most powerful emotion in them. No need to convince anyone that consumes media to note that humour or emotion are the most powerful drivers that push people to action or to change.
A good story can’t be produced in isolation either – what’s the relevance to the specific strategy? Many brands are clawing for appearing to be socially aware, but in the choices of what they support they forget to align meaning to the business purpose. For example, a taxation consultant sponsoring a sporting event is great at reaching their market but if the message isn’t relevant to the business and why they sponsor the sport then it is a wasted opportunity. A bank that supports the environment is well-meaning, but what relevance does that have to make the brand memorable and in fact so it isn’t seen to be exploiting the subject in order to get cheap recognition?
Create for the Channel
What works on TV doesn’t always work on digital channels. There is now evidence through neuro-marketing research and through industry experience that shows us ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. There are formulas that the industry have often held on tight to because they have always done them that way. For example, the common formula for TV advertising was 25 seconds of entertainment, then to dip to black and fade up the branding. It is now proven that this closes off the consumer through a psychological boundary of ‘Closed Loops’ in play at the wrong time in the communication. More on that, specifically, here. A pre-roll environment has the first 5 seconds to give us a reason to stay engaged and if we followed the usual format for a TV commercial it would often only incite us to ‘Skip Ad’ at the first possible moment.
On social platforms a full 30 second spot or 4 minute film may not always be appropriate, and in fact, there is no set rule that says any duration is more effective than another. There are plenty of arguments for having content under 60 seconds, and plenty of arguments that content OVER 30 minutes is the most powerful. The story format and the full journey will help us know what is actually required. Having options and testing and measuring is going to give the best results over time.
Build Content with Psychology in Mind
Once having learned about consumer psychology and why people behave the way they do, and the neuro-linguistics that impact our decisions and motivations puts a whole other perspective on why certain pieces of content work and others don’t. Mentioned above was just one simple concept around Open and Closed Loops but there are at least 64 meta-programs, 6 laws of persuasion, 6 senses and thinking preferences, and hundreds of other principles that drive our thinking, behaviours and decision making.
This is not just in the copy and language used, or the colour psychology (although very important) but it extends to the behavioural experience and the entire customer journey building a path that relates to the brand’s product ascension model (how people are moved through the product experience).
The Brand is Everything
A great example of the brand having the ultimate winning hand is in the study of marketing tactics by prestige fashion brands. You will see that where the brand is the most solid, the marketing tactics are even more successful even though the budget spent and the tactics may be similar to competitors. These figures are widely discussed in the industry, and it seems pretty evident that the only other factor that could influence the results so well for Chanel over other prestige fashion brands is the work they have done to grow the brand.
Brand is everything… and that’s the complete journey – with content creation considered through figuring out who the market really is, knowing what is of value to them, finding where they hang out and creating content that fits within the specific media; and is all delivering the important brand positioning and brand values.