Strategy is everything in content marketing – the idea is just the tip of the iceberg

Consumers have very high standards when it comes to content, and starting with just the 'idea' is not enough. Instead, marketers and agencies need to work from the bottom up in order to make something truly resonate with today's audience, argues PHD Singapore's Stephanie Tyan

Can you believe people are watching a billion hours of videos per day on YouTube, and uploading 400 hours of video each minute? That’s 65 years of video uploaded per day.

It’s a fact; people love content and they’ve never been hungrier for it. So why do brands find it so hard to create content that sticks?

A good content strategy leads to the moment a brand becomes entertainment instead of disruption. It’s the moment a brand creates experiences through the smart use of media, innovation and creativity. Easier said than done, right? But is it really?

Building content is often reduced to coming up with a great idea. True in a way, but there is so much more to it. The idea itself is just the top of the iceberg, while the success of a content strategy lies in the work leading up to this idea. For me, there are six principles of making great content.

Be smart and turn data into insights

Great content strategies are built on strong insights. Key to this is identifying an audience’s unmatched need, desire or interest to address. Whenever building a content strategy, I ask myself: Are people going to care? Is this making a difference to them?

Human behaviour influences and is influenced by technology. With the accelerating development and adoption of new technologies – AI, chatbots, AR, wearables – their expectations are growing even faster. They simply demand more from brand. Content is about delivering what consumers want, when and how they want it.

It’s a value exchange model – the time we ask people to interact with a brand should be proportional to the value we bring them.

The use of technology and the data it generates, represent unprecedented means to define that value. This data provides more granularity and clarity than ever to define impactful insights. To name a few, Google searches reveal consumers’ immediate needs, whilst social media behaviours reflect their aspirations, and content players like Outbrain map their interests. This data is available for spotting unmatched needs, interests and desires, and building a content platform that will resonate both with a brand and audience. A common ground.

An insight based on online behaviour analysis helped us transform an ad campaign for Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky. The strategy was based on a simple but accurate truth about the new affluent consumers: they wanted to acquire, not aspire.

A partnership with upmarket online men’s fashion retailer Mr Porter helped us give the audience exactly what they wanted: acquire the lifestyle showcased in the six-minute-film featuring Jude Law. And we were right, as well as buying whisky and watching bespoke content, consumers ‘shopped the look’ on a section of the website that featured clothes and accessories inspired by the fashion featured in the film.

Generate synergy: Inter-connected experiences

Content and media are not two distinct entities, a good content strategy is one that is fully integrated into the media strategy and vice versa.

The most successful communications strategy places content at the heart of the media strategy, allowing it to sit across all channels. The more a brand manages to create a seamless consumer experience across channels, the higher the engagement and the stronger the business impact. The role of comms is to give a  perfect framework to adapt a content strategy to each media channel, ensuring each interaction serves a specific purpose while building into a whole seamless experience across platforms.   

In other words, the combination of experiences across multiple channels delivers greater results than the sum of individual experiences, and content works better when deployed across media strategy than when considered as a silo. There is great synergy between content and media strategy.

Think bespoke: Fit for screen content

Content must always be developed matching its target environment, its cultural and social context, ensuring that each consumer interaction with your brand is adapted to their state of mind, expectations and local culture.

Placing TV ads on social media is certainly a thing of the ancient past, as is using global assets for local campaigns. A well-thought content strategy is a suite of content formats developed and optimised for each channel and market that it will be leveraged on.

Brands now can create never seen before experiences in a virtual or augmented reality, or be part of their consumers’ daily lives through bots; and it’s a media agency’s role to understand and guide them into this transformation.

Think long term: Snowball effect

Think of content curation as the art of having a conversation with your audience. In that sense, there are two key things to keep in mind –

First is consistency – if your audience engages with your content, you’re in for the long run. Keep building on to it and don’t stop the conversation unexpectedly. Imagine you are in the middle of a conversation with someone and all out of a sudden, the other person just stops talking and walks away. It is the same with content – if it suddenly stops, it’s just as frustrating as in real life. Second is continuity, make sure there’s a reason for them to come back. Learn from each interaction to improve the next and continue the conversation. You’ll leverage on an existing and excited audience instead of starting from scratch each time.

The idea of snowball effect is usually associated to viral content. But let’s put it another way: consider your content strategy as an ongoing conversation so your audience will keep growing along the way. It’s a real and long-lasting snowball effect.

A good example is Dorito’s “Crash the Super Bowl” year-on-year campaign inviting fans to create the perfect ad for the Super Bowl.

Set your KPIs to ensure accurate measure of success

The reality is the industry often struggles to define the right KPIs for content and simply reverts to familiar media-related ones. Rather than go down a path of creating specific success metrics for content, we should reshape the discussion and ensure content KPIs are built towards the strategic objectives of the campaign.

We measure a media strategy effectiveness in terms of both short term, using cost-per-thousand and click-through rates. But, when it comes to content, you’re not only buying eyeballs, you’re working towards objectives such as awareness uplift, brand perception changes or increased engagement with your brand and products. These need to be taken into consideration and can be measured through various ways such as surveys, time spent with the content, or earned media generated.

There is more to content strategy, however, than just short-term measurement. Content is a long-term approach, helping to build consumer engagement and brand prominence – ultimately helping brands to grow.

Be courageous: Create and deliver attention-grabbing assets

Brands becoming entertainers means we’re not playing in the same category anymore. Our key challenge is no longer solely about getting people to watch our content vs. our competitors’ content, it is now about getting them to watch our content instead of their favourite Netflix show.

One example is ‘Brewtroleum’, a new brand of beer made from byproduct petrol for New Zealand’s DB breweries. In this case, the idea was bold, but relied on client’s willingness to take a risk and their commitment in making it stick.

It’s not easy leaving your comfort zone, and it definitely needs commitment as well as many iterations to get things right, but ideas and strategies like this show how sometimes taking a leap of faith delivers disproportional ROI that it’s resoundingly worth it.

As consumers, all the above seems obvious. We have very high standards and expect brands to meet them. We want brands to provide us with relevant, interesting, entertaining, surprising experiences, where and when we need.

And more than that, we expect them to do so seamlessly and continuously. As marketers, we fail, however, when we stop putting ourselves in the shoes of our consumers and creating valuable experiences for them. What makes a good content strategy? It starts with changing mindsets and asking ourselves: would I read or watch this?

Stephanie Tyan is a content manager at PHD Singapore


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