Of course, I want quality content.
I want reach, engagement, exponential relationships.
I want click, click, click. I want Like. I want Share. And I want Yes.
But maybe you’re saying, I’m still getting no response. At least not the kind of response I was counting on.
So you review your content marketing strategy and the brand it’s building. And you affirm, I believe in that brand, the quality it represents and the knowledge behind it. But I haven’t gotten a real audience behind it yet. Or my readership has stagnated and dwindled.
When the modernist American poet William Carlos Williams, wrote, “No ideas but in things,” he influenced the style of generations of poets to come. Focusing on the things, as containers of ideas, is the way to go if you want to write quality poetry. Quality content, however, often relies on reversing this principle.
What I mean is, I want to take my product line, all these things, and convert them into ideas and emotions that inspire people to take action. Every thing, I mean anything, can be related to concepts and ideas that take the product beyond assembly-line thinking and into the social imagination.
Basically, this is a matter of unpacking the ideas stored in the things.
Let’s say I manufacture refrigerators. I can tell you all about how fuel-efficient my product line is, awards garnered for design, or even how my refrigerators use the most recent smart technology to notify you when it’s time to buy more milk. I could write a book on the history of refrigeration.
And my core base of customers appreciates this information, though it may not feel quite motivated enough to like it and share it. Sticking close to the story of my product line isn’t going to spark wider conversations. And the broader audience I envisioned is left cold. To re-vision quality content, I need to defrost; I need to think outside the icebox.
What are some ideas and feelings that you associate with the common domestic refrigerator? Yes, you might—if you’re a little like me and some other people I know–first visualize beer or ice cream. But refrigerator, beer, and ice cream all relate to bigger ideas like home, friends, celebrations, preservation, pleasure, staying cool, being chill, beating the heat.
If the average person opens the refrigerator 15 to 20 times a day, this suggests the profundity of the connection people unconsciously have with the appliance that stores their food and beverage items. Now, how do I inspire people to consciously identify this connection with my brand?
To consider some of the several promising directions we might head, let’s look at three real content marketing campaigns that took successful leaps from things to ideas. Let’s see what bigger concepts they pulled out of the fridge.
Unpacking the meanings and feelings in wall paper and paint: Farrow & Ball
With its 70-year history as a purveyor of wall paper and paint, the UK-based Farrow & Ball could be considered an old dog. Its website provides respectable conventional value content with its consumer guides for paint selection and creating harmonious color schemes. But this old brand has also mastered some new tricks—going well beyond interior decoration how-to’s and primers.
The main site links to a digital publication called The Chromologist. The masthead defines chromologist as “one who translates the meaning of color.” With this gesture, Farrow & Ball goes from supplying paints and displaying color cards to inhabiting and claiming ownership of a much-enhanced space: The brand establishes itself as an interpreter of the meanings color conveys. It goes from telling consumers how to create color schemes to what these color schemes communicate.
Heading out from the tried and true territory dictated by the product line, The Chromologist opens up dreamscapes of color that resonate with return readers. As William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” says, “So much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water/ beside the white/ chickens.” The Chromologist explores the mysteries and moods of color, providing a content environment readers want to inhabit. If they buy a red paint from Farrow & Ball, they buy not only paint but everything that red paint depends upon.
Leading your customers on a journey of discovery: GORE-TEX®
GORE-TEX® manufactures footwear, outerwear, and gloves for the outdoors. On its website, you can learn exactly how the material functions as a membrane and laminate in its product line. But that’s not what drives traffic to the site. Its digital publication “Experience More” redefines the brand as an expert way beyond the sphere of materials science. Each themed issue gifts outdoors enthusiasts with destination-specific know-how on scaling the world’s summits or snowboarding down them. The publication takes people wearing every permutation of GORE-TEX® imaginable on mountain-biking tours, paddle boarding and kayaking trips, and across the finish line of marathons.
By unpacking the spirit of outdoor adventure in GORE-TEX®, it takes the readership to destinations that aren’t accessible to all and far away from a chemistry lab. Enjoying this publication, I notice myself lingering to contemplate new possibilities: Running lush rainy Oregon trails, planning an epic backpacking journey in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo, rafting through the Grand Canyon. It creates a brand experience that has little to do with the synthetic. Instead it branches into new landscapes that invite a wide variety of participants to explore.
Inspiring social change: Always
Feminine hygiene products like Proctor & Gamble’s Always aren’t typically conversation starters. The brand’s #LikeAGirl campaign, however, has succeeded in sparking a movement. Comparing absorption rates of competitor products can only go so far. By redefining stereotypes about what it means to do something “like a girl,” however, the brand becomes an agent of change. The videos and still images combined with a mean Twitter campaign empower young women in sports and in life. It’s all about confidence.
Adolescent girls, their mothers and teachers might all find value content here in this positive content environment. By entering, I’m invited to join in the “epic battle” against limiting gender concepts. This is content that influences consumer decisions in ways that reverberate culturally, which is a pretty epic achievement.
Are you seeing the connecting thread here? These are three very different products: paint and wallpaper, GORE-TEX® and feminine hygiene napkins. Each brand, though, maximized the potential of content to blow open mundane ideas about their products and connect them to big ideas.
Let’s take a closing look at applying this content reset concept to the residential refrigerator. Check out The Art of Cold from True.
The right refrigeration for the craft beer enthusiast, as distinguished from the beer drinker, is the topic of one of the featured articles in this digital publication of True, which has a product line of residential refrigeration units for all spaces. Another article talks about how investment in an under-counter freezer is about “preserving delight”: Frosted glasses always on hand, surprising guests with a seasonal watermelon fruit pop. The Art of Cold is a warm space for readers, with a lot of solid info on wine storage and kitchen zones, among other topics, but also about the art of entertaining, about comfort and preserving relationships.
This is the kind of quality content that can lead to a legacy for those few brands that understand the opportunity involved. In 2014, the Harvard Business Review noted in an article on the content marketing revolution that about 90 percent of B2C marketers use content marketing but few use it to move beyond basic sales pitches. In other words, despite the huge amount of content marketing out there, most brands are not exploring the full potential that content marketing has to offer.
Investing in content that identifies the brand as an expert in its field, a thought leader or an agent of social change can have unexpected transformative effects. This content strategy reset can impact not only the consumer landscape but also reactivate your business internally. This kind of brand identity lends to company-wide unity. It energizes mission statements. And it’s an identity created and reinforced through the transformative process quality content involves.
As you step into the shoes of a thought leader in your industry, your new perspective, articulated in your content strategy, can have ripple effects. With heightened perspective comes new associations, allies and avenues of development. This is what dynamic content brings—true engagement on multiple levels. Yes, unpacking the wider meanings, making these creative connections, expanding on new relationships —all this takes more resources.
Is it worth it? Think again about all that depends on “a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.” So much! Measuring the effects within your organization and yourself might be a bit more challenging than increased sales. But open the fridge. How do you feel? Look at the abundance of food, of delight. Pull from your under-counter fridge that bottle of champagne. Prepare for a banquet.