Common Misunderstandings on Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about storytelling isn’t it?

Well, storytelling is an important way of executing content marketing. But not everyone knows how to craft a good story. And not everyone knows how to tell a good story well. Many belittle storytelling as something elementary. Yet we all know when a story touches our heart and when a story falls flat. Here are some content marketing pitfalls to avoid:

1. It is not (just) branded content

As mentioned in the “Introduction to Content Marketing“, when brands begin shifting emphasis from advertising to content, many carry on the baggage of putting the brand at the center of it all. This is an easy logical extension and many think in terms of product placements and incidental exposures in movies or TV shows. 

Of course, there are also brands who commission their own productions around their products or brand. Some are blatant while others are sublime. Regardless, consumers are able to smell the “advertising” element from miles away. 

Check out this exaggerated depiction where the self awareness of the brand turned it into a series of comedic ads (ad in Mandarin):

This is not to say that Branded Content is a wrong approach. It is suitable as “educational” content targeted at the Middle of Funnel (MOFU) audience. It is unfortunate that many brands do not consider the stage of the consumer’s journey and simply use it like an advertisement to drive sales.

There are different intent behind different content and brands need to learn how to operate like a media company (as quoted by Gary Vee).

2. It is not (just) producing commercials with storylines

Having a nice story-based commercial with or without your product in it does not equate to Content Marketing. The advertising industry (especially in Thailand) has churned out many touching ads that have gone viral over the years.

Back in 1988 before social media, Solvil et Titus came up with a series of long form commercials in Hong Kong (one every two to three years) that resulted in the brand selling out their watches. These are dubbed as the classics in Asia’s advertising hall of fame. However, they were what they were: commercials. Granted that this was before the social media age, there was still a huge potential to build a content marketing strategy around it which regrettably was not done. 

Fast forward to the 2000s, Solvil et Titus attempted to replicate the success by coming up with a new set of commercials around the theme of “Time is Love”. Without getting into a critique of the execution, the fact that it was still just an advertising campaign limited its success in my opinion. This is compounded by the new consumer mindset of indifference towards advertising in general.

3. It is not (just) putting an ad on multiple platforms

Content 360 became a popular concept when multiple digital touch points began to blossom. It is important to engage your viewers across different platforms. However, one cannot really say it is a “strategy” when you merely create different durations of a commercial for different platforms.

While it is much better than simply putting the same version across all platforms, different platforms engage the audience differently. It is therefore important to approach the audience differently, creating unique content based on different stages of the consumer’s journey for each platform.

4. It is not (just) a campaign

Traditional marketing departments have their activities revolved around campaigns. A promotions calendar is drawn up every year to be populated by various campaigns (seasonal, tactical, branding etc). Established brands will have their brand promise, values, positioning, attributes drawn up. But more often than not, these (like corporate values) tend to be hung on a wall and are seldom referred. Even when referred, they are words that are interpreted differently by different staff, often in a way that justifies their proposed actions.

Content Marketing is an approach that requires all content to contribute to a singular narrative. Very much like a cable channel like Animal Planet or Discovery Science, Content Marketing reinforces a branding that allows consumers to know what to expect when they engage the brand. This must be a consistent narrative across platforms, geographical locations and time. 

It must therefore not be approached with independent campaigns but as a holistic long term strategy. Redbull has set the benchmark for having a pipeline of content released consistently across multiple platforms, thereby allowing their much documented brand story to go on and on. In fact, they are a content and media company in their own right.

Content Marketing is an approach that requires all content to contribute to a singular narrative.

This are the common misunderstandings by marketers who jumped onto the bandwagon without understanding Content Marketing fully. It is important not to chase after “how-to” templates, formulas but to formulate your own strategy with a sound understanding of the concepts.

Check out other articles in the Narrative Marketing Blog.