Tag Archives: content marketing

Storytelling Must Be In-Line with Brand Persona

Everyone is talking about storytelling like it is the Messiah for marketing. Actually, I think it is pretty important. Not the Messiah, but definitely a very important part of a brand’s marketing mix. But here’s the question no one has really put on the table. What if the brand story is fiction rather than non-fiction? Or to be a bit more direct, what if the stories the brand produces have nothing to do with the brand value proposition or the brand’s persona?

I bring up the question of brand storytelling alignment with what the brand stands for in light of a recent marketing campaign by McDonald’s. Rick Ferguson did an excellent job capturing “The Danger of McStorytelling.” He highlights McDonald’s “Signs” commercial and its debacle. The ads show McDonald’s Golden arch signs with caring messages rooted in the community.

McDonalds Signs

McDonald’s attempts to show a soft side by trying to say “At McDonald’s, we care. We’re more than just purveyors of empty calories; we’re a part of your community, too.” Seems nice and compelling like motherhood and apple pie. And while there are questions whether the signs are fictitious or not (Photoshop can do wonders), the real issue is that the campaign and story is totally out of line with McDonald’s value proposition and brand persona. People do not believe that McDonald’s cares as much as the signs display. It does not fit their personality. It is outside of the value proposition they deliver to their market. And thus, the public used digital and social platforms to create an uproar and protest.

There are a number of other brands that have failed in the same vein. I know this seems a bit twisted, but even though storytelling is a strong marketing ploy, you cannot just tell stories. Your stories must synch with your brand position and persona.

In an article I wrote back in 2010 “Marketing Leadership (with a hint of Social Media)”, I talked about the need for having a position statement defined. The positioning statement template looks like this:

• For …………….………… [target customer]
• Who ……………….……. [key qualifier – form]
• Our product is a ….. [product category]
• That provides ………. [key benefit]
• Unlike ………………….. [main competitor]
• Our product ……….… [key point of differentiation]

I stated, “The formation of the positioning statement is done to know exactly who you are.” I later go on to explain that all marketing communication should be tested against the positioning statement to make sure the brand persona is reinforced or at least not in opposition to what the brand value is.

Some think that taking time to define their positioning statement is just an academic exercise. But when we look at marketing campaigns like the McDonald’s campaign above, you got to wonder if “creative marketing leaders” really understand some fundamentals of successful marketing.

You should start with defining the brand position at a minimum. But I think you should take it a step further. What does your brand stand for? What is the …

• Brand vision
• Brand promise
• Brand personality

Define these. Make pretend your brand is a person. What would that person’s characteristics be? When you have this in place you are ready to do your marketing. Then you are ready to do some storytelling (among other activities).

If you just go ahead and produce a creative campaign without making sure it is in line with your brand persona, you end up getting egg on your face. Or is that Egg McMuffin on your face.

Be smart. Start with the basics before you get creative.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand trust, brands, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Content Marketing Series

content marketing series

Just a quick one to all … I have been producing a content marketing series for Appinions, a data driven content marketing platform providing clarity on content generation and distribution. The articles provide a step-by-step methodology for content marketing to yield great results. Please checkout the first eight entries …

Content 101: Content Marketing Goals and Objectives

Content 102: Determining your Target Audience for Content

Content 103: Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content

Content 104: Social Audits to Drive Content Marketing

Content 105: Messaging Strategy Before Content Strategy

Content 106: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Content 107: How Do You Know Your Content Will Pay Dividends

Content 108: Content Marketing Metrics

The series will continue so please check the Appinions Blog for more great information on content marketing.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Marketers – Be There When I Need You

marketer helpWhy do marketers engage on social platforms? Why do marketers invest in content marketing? What does it mean for a brand to be interactive? There is an abundance of brand social presence. Why would anyone care?

The answer to these questions and rationalization for brand participation takes on numerous explanations. But there really is only one solid reason why brands should devote time and money. Brand marketers need to be ever present and interactive with their target audience because the existing and potential customer base need their help and assistance.

The emergence of digital technologies allows brands to have a voice that travels wider and faster then traditional media advertisement. But the mere fact that a brand can use digital to reach out is not a reason to do so. Simply throwing up content and posts in blogs, media channels, and social platforms are not only useless, but may be counterproductive as well. You may in fact turn off your audience by producing content they do not want to hear and value.

The magic of digital marketing is sharing something that your audience wants or needs at the right time they are looking for it. So how can you be sure you are accomplishing this?

It starts by listening; not talking. Know the sentiment and heartbeat of your audience. In the past year buzz words like real-time marketing and contextual content have been thrown about. But if you really deliver information that makes sense to your audience based upon their needs, desires, purchase history, and challenges in a timely manner, you are addressing their necessities. That is what it means to have successful real-time marketing and contextual content.

The next step after listening is engaging. Have conversations. Learn more. Build a relationship such that your audience begins to open up to you. If you build trust, your audience will tell you exactly what they want. If you have this information in your pocket, your marketing becomes easy. There is no guesswork.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” The answer was and still is empathy. If you have any empathy for today’s consumer and business professionals, you know they do not like to be interrupted with blatant hard sells. As a consumer, don’t you hate pop up ads on the Internet? How many still watch live TV and actually listen to the ads (besides the Super Bowl)? How many of you on LinkedIn, get a request to connect, and then the first thing they do after you accept the connection is email you a letter offering to increase your leads? This is a complete turn off and no trust is ever won.

Digital technologies and its ubiquitous use allow us to communicate with just about anyone. But beware. Do not abuse this privilege. Don’t interrupt people in your marketing efforts. I don’t care if your responsibility is content marketing, social marketing, interactive marketing, inbound marketing, digital marketing, online marketing, real-time marketing or whatever your title means. If you want to capture an audience, you better know them and deliver to their needs. A brand that espouses their agenda fails. A brand that delivers what their audience needs wins.

Listen. Understand. Know. Deliver.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, content marketing, digital media, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Top 14 Social Steve Digital Marketing Blogs of 2014

social steve top 14 of 2014

2014 was a pretty good year for digital and social marketing. We saw a number of companies make deeper investments in digital marketing. Many companies began to reap success as shown by their audience-focused, creative, and analytical approach.

I am most appreciative of your support and interest in my digital marketing perspectives, guidelines, and coaching in the past seven years. I am especially grateful for the increased audience growth in the past year. If you have not been able to keep up with me this year (or have and want a simple review) here are the top 14 posts of the year. Please comment and also let me know if there is something in particular you want me to cover in the coming year.

Until then, as I always say (and MEAN) …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

14. After 10 Years of Facebook, 10 Things You Should Know About Social Marketing

13. The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use

12. Experimental Marketing and the Importance of Being First

11. Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-Investment

10. Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer

9. 5 Marketing Musts for a Successful Year Ahead

8. Here is the Deal with Facebook

7. Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

6. The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do

5. Enough Smoke … Here is How To Build a Social Media Marketing Strategy

4. Facebook is Dead for Brands, Now What?

3. Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail at Social Media

2. Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters

1. Here is the ROI for Social Marketing

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Filed under content marketing, digital media, Facebook, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media organization, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round

I am actually surprised by the amount of holiday eCards I have gotten this year. Some from companies I never heard of.

Holiday cards, the corporate style, what is the point? Why would a company send out cards? Because they want to wish all their potential and existing customers best wishes in the holiday season. AND there is one more reason … They want to say, don’t forget I am here when you are ready to make a purchase or order decision. Perfectly good reasons. But don’t you want both of these messages to resonate with your target audience all year round?

great contentThe message should be strong – we care. The message should be subtle – remember our brand when you are ready to buy. That is exactly how you should go about your content marketing strategy and execution throughout the year. Think about the stories, information, and entertainment that your audience will value each time they read it. It is not about pushing the product or service you offer. It is about delivering something your audience values. It is about letting them know you care – all the time.

Is caring just a seasonal thing for your business? Do you only care about your audience for one particular time of the year? Let your customer base know you care and you want to help them all year round. Do it by having a content plan that first examines what your audience wants. Cater to their desires. Measure their reactions – traffic, comments, and shares.

I hope you have found the content I have delivered to you valuable throughout the year. Here’s to a great year ahead for all.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

PS – starting next month I will be producing an article twice a week for Appinions. If you are not familiar with Appinions, it is a platform that provides real empirical data to help you drive your content strategy and execution. Learn more at appinions.com and make sure to read my column on content marketing tips at blog.appinions.com starting in January.

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Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-Investment

Yes, it is that time of the year. Sure the leaves are falling and nature reinforces her beauty, but I am not talking about that. It is budget season and everyone is looking at what they have done in the past year and tweaking allocation numbers.

But before you finalize your budget by simply modifying last year’s budget, you need to take a fresh look. What will truly yield growth of brand awareness, consideration, sale, loyalty, and advocacy? I’d expect website revitalization was not on last year’s budget. I will also bet that many say, “websites – oh that is so ‘90’s,” but I will tell you a “correctly designed” website is so 2020’s. Let’s explore why.

website reinvestment

First, let me state that I am very bullish on social marketing as a way to win over an audience and turn them into your most valued customers – advocates. But if we look at social media platforms today, we see that the platform evolution now hinders brand engagement with target audiences. Just look at Facebook. They have practically eliminated organic reach of brand postings. And you know just about all social platforms main objective is to optimize their own monetization. They also look to appeal to their audience. Not the brand’s audience. Social platform’s first concern is their success; not marketers success. Don’t be naive.

Second, I always state that marketers must have complete empathy for their target audience. Culture has been transformed by digital technologies. More people get information online (social networking, mobile, and the Internet) as a primary source. This consumer/client behavior means your website would be extremely compelling if it was a) dynamic with continuous content updates (posts), b) more interactive and social, and c) mobile ready.

The first step in revitalizing your website is to start thinking like a media company. Think about being the “Buzz Feed” for your brand category news, information, and entertainment. Produce original content regularly. Curate relevant content and include it on your website. Think about what it takes to be a resource for your audience such that they want to go to your website daily to get up-to-date information.

The next step in revitalizing your website is to make it more interactive and social. If we look at human behavior, we see that they do want to engage with brands. That is, if the brand makes it worth their while. Converse with your audience. Listen to your audiences needs and wants. Produce compelling content based on their input and comments. Build sustainable relationships. Facebook and other social networks have clamped your ability to engage. So bring that functionality to the digital platform you own and you control – your website. Consider building a community integrated within your website. True, you may not get as many subscribers as Facebook likes or Twitter followers, but certainly you will get individuals that want to remain engaged and are likely your best customers/clients.

At the same time, various social platforms do continue to be an important part of your marketing mix. They should be used to proliferate the content on your website. Additionally, paid media of social platforms is a very important budgetary consideration. The greatest value of paid media on social platforms is the ability to target specific demographics. I have seen paid media deliver very strong click through results (back to your website).

I hope it goes without saying that your website MUST be mobile ready. More and more people access the Internet via mobile device. Do you really want to eliminate access of your website to a majority of the population because you have not made the investment to make it mobile ready?

I have given you the three areas to focus on with regards to the revitalization of your website. Staying consistent in numerology, there are three reasons why website revitalization must be part of your 2015 budget:

1) Audience use of digital is not only ubiquitous but their individual use is very strong,
2) Your website is something you completely own and control … you do not have to worry about the usage rules being changed, and
3) Your website is likely the strongest digital source to monetize your brand.

Make sense? Can do?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under community, content marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, website

4 Tips for Winning Content

Most brands are challenged delivering compelling content continuously. They feel the pressure to come up with new content day-to-day or week-to-week. And when they do come up with posts, articles, photos, and videos, it often does not resonate with their audience.

So I have just one, most important tip for you, but it consists of 4 questions. As you develop your content strategy, plan, calendar, and execution ask yourself four questions. Find the intersection of the answers of all four to guide your content development.

Q1 – What are the interests of your audience? Independent of the product or service that you market and sell, understand the content that your audience is looking for and what they typical consume. For example, here is some data for content “moms” regularly look for and share …

content for moms (Source)

Q2 – How can I help? If you want to win your audience over, be as helpful as can be. Appeal to your audiences’ needs and desires with information and entertainment.

Q3 – What is relevant? Determine what the current and emerging trends are. What cultural events are happening? Oscar’s. Emmy’s. Grammy’s. Tony’s. Superbowl. World Series. George Clooney marriage … etc. Think about tying your content to something current that captures the interest of all.

Q4 – What is my brand position? Finally, we look at you, the brand. When you deliver content, you want that content to reinforce what your brand stands for. Not necessarily pushing a product, but rather support of your brand story.

Realize that you need to answer all the questions and find the intersection of all. Answering one and then developing content will not lead you to the correct destination.

content elements

Let me give you an example. Let’ say that you are a laundry detergent brand. (Pretty difficult to build a content strategy around laundry detergent, huh?) Consider the content moms care about – kids, vacations, pets. Consider how you can help your audience – laundry tips, time savings, “cramming it all in.” What is relevant – Halloween is just around the corner. What is your brand position – superior cleaning, environmentally friendly.

So a content idea is doing a story of Halloween 2014 where you provide ideas for kids’ costumes and suggestions for when your dog gets into the candy and has an “accident” on the laundry pile. Hopefully you get the idea. I intentionally picked a brand category that many would likely find difficult to develop content around. Heck, if compelling content can be developed for laundry detergent, you can certainly drive winning content around your brand.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


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