Branded Content Kills: Understanding the Goal of Content Marketing

It is so hard to produce really good content and then not slap your sales-driving call to action at the end. You think to yourself, “we spent so much money on this, we at least want to see some sort of proof that this is worth our budget!” Very reasonable thought process, however it won’t get you very far at all, in fact, it will cause your company to regress.

Woman with foldersI like to use this example. Let’s say that your best friend sells Mary Kay makeup. But every conversation you have with her sounds like this: “Congrats on your new promotion, now you need to buy this new eyeliner” or “I know you’re going through a hard time, but this great lip color will make you feel better.” My guess is that you wouldn’t stay friends for long because every time you have a conversation it feels like your friend pretends to care, and then is really only motivated by what is in it for her as she tries to sell you makeup. Not only is your friend now out of a makeup sale, she is out a friend too.

However, if that friend had only given good advice and participated in conversation without pushing her business, next time you needed eyeliner you would probably remember that she sells that product, and of course you would buy from her, she is such a great friend!

Since I am sure this analogy put things into perspective, I would like to reinforce with an example of a company who really understands and implements powerful Content Marketing.

I currently receive emails from Monster.com from back in my job hunting days. Yet I have no desire to unsubscribe from their emails because I am genuinely interested in the content they are sending me. Here are just a few of the articles featured in the emails I have received:  How To Ask For A Raise, The Difference Between Work Friends and Real Friends, Can They Fire You When You are Doing a Good Job, Telling Your Boss S/he’s Crazy, Powerful Ways to get Noticed at Work. I read every single one of these articles. I can personally tell you that they didn’t offer an informative article and then add in somewhere “so that is why you should use monster.com”. It was simply information that I, the target audience, really found useful and informative. Monster.com, you are such a great friend!

Monster.com won’t be able to track that I clicked on their article, and then proceeded to create a job listing. What they will notice is a steady increase in their performance over a long period of time. Who knows? I may need to post a job listing a year down the road, maybe 5 years down the road, but the next time I need to create a job listing, you can bet I will remember Monster.com, and it will be the first resource to pop into my head.

There is a pattern here. The goal of content marketing can be broken down to one simple word: remember. Your content is not used to drive sales, nor should it be deemed as ineffective because your tracking efforts are showing minimal lead generation. The goal is to create repetitive impressions in the minds of your target market associating your brand name with positive and useful connotations. That is so simple! So why is it so hard to make that first initial leap into the successful world of unbranded content?

It’s because this idea is counterintuitive to all the fundamental marketing and advertising agencies and professionals have respected in the past. Previously, we wouldn’t even think to spend money on something that doesn’t directly further sales, so it is important to really get in the right frame of mind; hesitation is completely reasonable, however you need to overcome that if you want to remain competitive.

Consumers are smarter than given credit. Branded, salesy content is easy to spot out, and doesn’t just have a neutral effect on those who interact with it; you will actually see a negative effect. Consumers lose trust and see right through the fake friend just trying to make a sale. Because success is paramount in any company, it is reasonable that you really love your friends who buy. They directly further the success of the company. However, you also need to understand that you prefer to have friends that don’t buy, than no friends at all. And how do you get friends who buy? By making friends in the first place.

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