As our industry becomes mired in issues of whether print has a place in content marketing, it’s time we realised that the conversation has moved on. Do customers care, as we do, about the channel? No, they don’t – and it’s time we caught up.
Content marketers have an arsenal of channels we can use to reach the customer, yet we’ve all spent far too many hours in strategy meetings having heated debates about print versus digital, and about which channel will work best for different messages.
Our customers, however, have moved on. And their expectations of us have changed. With so many brands vying for attention, they’re in a buyer’s market. For them, the channel has become irrelevant, because messages will reach them no matter where they are. If we as brands want to reach them, it’s up to us to make sure we’re on the channel they happen to be on, with the message they’re looking for, at the precise moment they’re looking for it.
Our lives just became more complicated – but more exciting, too.
We’re surrounded by brand messages all the time – for every step we take in our lives, there’s a brand trying to tell or sell us something. This means the channels we can use to talk to customers have mushroomed well beyond the traditional.
Digital has been our saviour as print has declined (but refused – defying plenty of expert predictions – to die). Digital is simply better at delivering messages to an audience at speed, and with relevance. Digital allows us to give customers precisely what they’re looking for at every stage of their journey and allows them to access it, when they want and how they want. You can get rich, immediate insights on how the content is being consumed, allowing you to adapt on the fly, with certainty and accuracy.
But digital has also alienated people more than ever before. We’re becoming increasingly disconnected; a ‘digital detox’ is suddenly a thing. We’d rather message people than talk to them. Many customers would rather buy online than go into a store and have an actual physical experience that might involve the horrors of dealing with a shop assistant or other people.
But increasingly, the best online experiences and the most evocative digital campaigns are those with emotion at their heart. They make us laugh, cry, feel. The channel doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters is the feeling that remains after you’ve interacted with a brand, in any form, as that will affect your approach to that brand at a future point when you’re making a buying decision.
That’s where we’ve chosen to move our game. Our company has made some seismic shifts over the past few months and – to be honest – it’s been pretty painful.
Growth and change almost always is.
But this progress has been necessary as the conversation with customers has moved on. As a content marketing agency we’ve recognised that if the brands we partner with want to remain relevant in their customers’ lives, they – and we – must adapt, and quickly. We’re happy to be leading in this space.
We’re no longer targeting audiences, we’re talking to people. We’re aiming for emotion, not simply trying to change behaviour; that will come.
Primarily, it’s about creating a connection. Sometimes digital can do that; sometimes it’s an event, sometimes it’s print or a combination. Of course print still has a place in this – some brands are made for this space.
Evoking pleasure, surprise and delight
Take Woolworths TASTE magazine, for example. It routinely sells at rates of above 80% – proving that customers will read your brand story if it’s well produced. The editorial team produce a ‘food journey’ that has a strong focus on the print element but that also moves seamlessly between print and digital. From new recipes; to surfing the TASTE YouTube channel; to fact-finding or peer opinions via social media; to settling on a decision that involves purchase, such as an ingredients list or a click through to the online shop to make a purchase.
Our design title VISI is another example. The magazine has just published its 100th issue and continues to deliver breath-taking content in a package with a pleasing thud factor and the tactile pleasure of matt paper. The 100th issue had to be even more special: how could we evoke pleasure, surprise and delight? A limited run of 100 bespoke copies had Ardmore fabric covers, and were delivered in a box filled with design gifts.
So it’s no longer about print versus digital, or even the channel. When it’s only about reaching the humanity in people, anything and everything is a potential channel. Has there ever been a more exciting time for content marketers?
This story was first published in the April 2019 issue of The Media. To read the online version, click here.
Aileen Lamb has been the managing director of New Media since 1 April 2017. Before taking on this role, Aileen was the driving force behind the digitisation and relaunch of successful media brands such as Eat Out, VISI and Woolworths TASTE.
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