Content marketing has been front of mind for many marketing groups and agencies over the past few years and with good reason, content marketing facilitates customers discovering brands and products as the information is needed. Changing the brand/customer dynamic from brands pushing their message at consumers, to consumers pulling needed information from the brand’s ‘library’.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “…a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
This technique has proved successful because when a customer is looking to understand a brand or product, the information is available and easily found. In addition to allowing marketers to flex to the needs of the changing, more informed consumer, content marketing provides a more robust format into which to share brand and products values, communicate differentiators, and enhance and educate audience. When content is developed in line with audience and target market data (demographic information, page views, content shares, etc.), a brand can develop content that speaks to the needs of their market and can withstand the test of time.
However, like most other marketing technique, content marketing has some short comings. Most importantly, not all content is created equally, not all content is impactful for consumers, and relying on independent pieces of content to effectively communicate a brand or product position will result in a less cohesive message.
Brands can address disconnected content by developing it in a way that reflects telling a story. By strategically developing content and weaving it into a brand/product story gives content marketing greater impact and allows marketers to more effectively engage their customers.
According to the National Storytelling Network, “Storytelling involves a two-way interaction between a storyteller and one or more listeners. The responses of the listeners influence the telling of the story. In fact, storytelling emerges from the interaction and cooperative, coordinated efforts of teller and audience.” Although this is not a marketing specific definition, it can help marketers better understand how content should be developed and deployed. Utilizing storytelling within a content marketing framework allows brands to build a connection and eventually a relationship between themselves and the customer.
There are some things to keep in mind when using brand storytelling, storytelling shouldn’t be looked at as ‘selling tool’ but as a means through which a brand and its customers can develop conversation. Where content marketing can lack continuity, storytelling can be more impactful because the teller is able to respond to the feedback of the audience. When customers respond to content and the brand integrates that feedback into future content, that customer becomes part of the brand story.
Additionally, developing content within a storytelling frame works gives customers insight into the characters that have shaped the brand, the struggles and conflicts surmounted, and a better understanding of what the brand stands for. It is this type of information allows customers to choose brands and products that align with their own stories, struggles, and successes.