Consumers are in control: they don’t have to pay attention to you. So how do you stand any chance of making them bite – and ultimately buy – your product or service? For many companies, the answer lies in content; while the committed few are finding success in corporate publishing.
27,000,000 pieces of content were shared online every day in 2012. Unsurprisingly, marketers want a slice of the action and content marketing budgets are on the up. But as more people switch on to the power of content, they are also realising they need to become more serious about what such a scenario entails.
Having a proper strategy to start with would help. And according to the US-based Content Marketing Institute (CMI), very few companies take such a formal approach to content: only 39 per cent of B2C content marketers in North America and 42 per cent in the UK have a documented plan. CMI founder Joe Pulizzi says that too many companies are flooding Facebook, Vine and Pinterest just because they think they should – and that if you took away the branding and navigation for many “top tips” blog posts, companies would not even recognise their own work. “Many companies feel like they have to oil the ocean with their content; they spread themselves too thin. In 2014 we’ll see more moving towards focusing on one or two channels that they can do really well,” says Pulizzi.
“Print is one way in which a brand can show just how serious it is…”
And although he argues that choosing your distribution channel should come last – after you’ve asked yourself questions about who your audience is, what you want to influence them to do and what (credible) stories you’re going to tell them about – print is one way in which a brand can show just how serious it is.
There is a lot of research that highlights why magazines continue to be popular with readers and advertisers alike. Guy Consterdine, research consultant at worldwide magazine media association FIPP, says: “The characteristics and power of magazines are global.”
In 2012, FIPP pulled together various surveys in its Proof of Performance report, showing that ad recall in magazines was high (50%+), as was readership (five hours per week in the Czech Republic, for example). It also detailed the main reasons people give for reading magazines: for inspiration, learning and relaxation and because the content suited their tastes. If a brand can tap into these motivations by providing relevant content, it stands a good chance of being read.
According to research from London based content marketing agency Seven, while 66 per cent of consumers tolerate advertising, 57 per cent feel more positive about brands that generate content for “people like me”. It also found that customer magazines fell into their top three preferences for receiving brand messages – after the more passive print (magazines and newspaper) and outdoor ads.
Corporate publishing allows companies to “tell, instead of sell” or, as the Content Marketing Association puts it, “to sell without the obvious sell”. Importantly, it gives brands the opportunity to position themselves as the expert.
Ebele Wybenga, founder of Editorial Embassy Amsterdam and author of The Editorial Age, has spotted the move towards quality branded journalism. He argues that the level of credibility this generates, when targeted at a very specific, and often international, audience, means the magazines often end up being displayed on the coffee table or kept for reference.
“Corporate publishing allows companies to ‘tell, instead of sell’ or, as the Content Marketing Association puts it, ‘to sell without the obvious sell”
He calls United Colors of Benetton’s Colors quarterly magazine, “one of the best magazines in the world”. This publication reinforces one of Benetton’s key brand values – that diversity is good – by looking at social issues around the world. It has been translated into 15 languages. This type of magazine can also be used to make a brand’s core fan-base feel special – or part of an exclusive club. Google did this with its Think Quarterly, the content from which was online for everyone to read. Business contacts, however, received a personalised print copy of the magazine. “You couldn’t buy it, you couldn’t order it; receiving it really was a status symbol,” says Wybenga.
Several fashion and lifestyle brands take a similar – if not quite so exclusive –approach. UK online retailer Asos, for example, has a magazine it sends out to “premier” members, who pay less than £10 a year for the privilege. And these types of brands are well suited to corporate publishing because it can reflect the kind of magazines the audience tends to buy. In February, Net-a-Porter announced it was launching a new bi-monthly magazine, Porter, which will go to 350,000 people in 60 countries – and one of the reasons it gave was that its consumers were already heavy magazine readers, reading four or five each month.
Research from UK agency Publicis Blueprint suggests that the retail sector as a whole can see response rates of more than 70 per cent (compared with an average of 44 per cent) through corporate publishing. Wybenga, however, warns that brands should not get too carried away and hide their brands behind quality content. Stealth sales tactics will only get you so far, and consumers expect transparency, he explains.
Both Wybenga and Pulizzi also argue that good content strategies require a different mindset to straightforward advertising: it’s an opportunity to engage on a deeper, longer-lasting level. Decent print content has longevity as reference material, and it can also be used online or used to link to extra content online. But, for once, marketing trends are going in a direction that even smaller companies can appreciate and do something about: and this is all the more relevant if your audience is abroad.
About the author
Max Rubens is Head of Industry, Press & Wholesale at Asendia.