The American Marketing Association defines Marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”.
We often forget that Marketing includes the “Product” (creating), “Place” (delivering) and “Price” (exchanging) on top of the prominent “Promotions” (communicating). One of the reasons is that Marketing came into prominence when post-war industrialization created a lot of products that needed to be sold. This shone the spotlight and glamour on “Mass Communication” in order to sell en masse making it synonymous with Marketing in general.
Of course, Mass Communication is possible only because of the introduction of Mass Media, starting with press. People wanted to be informed, educated and even entertained by the papers, but they were not able to pay the amount required for the press to be profitable. Charging high prices would reduce the reach, with few able to afford and thereby making the medium no longer “mass”. The win-win-win solution, was to introduce advertising. Brands wanted to communicate their offer to the masses and were willing to pay. The masses wanted to consume the media at minimal cost. The media wanted to make money while reaching the masses. Everyone got what they wanted. This model continued with the advent of Radio and Television.
Digital Media liberalized the media landscape. Media platforms are no longer exclusive to the few but are available to the masses (and the brands). From the initial blogs, to the current social media platforms, anyone can now produce and publish content. This is made even more prevalent by the advancement in content creation tools and softwares (in particular smart mobile phones).
And so we see the blossoming of content creators (including “influencers”) creating specialized content for specific audiences while publishing them on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. These social media platforms can then sell advertising space to brands. The main difference with the “mass media” is the fact that instead of “mass communications”, we can now have “Mass customised communications“. The masses (audience) can go to the various social media platforms and receive content that are curated through the algorithms and created according to their likes and interest.
Evolution from mass communications to mass customised communications.
The fundamental similarities between “traditional” and “social” media as well as the key differences.
The Genesis of Content Marketing
Previously, advertisements and content are separate. Brands know that it is the content that attracts the audience in the first place. Hence, throughout the years, brands have been trying their best to “infiltrate” content with their selling messages such as using incidental exposures, product placements and brand integrations (see video above on “Traditional vs Social media”).
With digital media, brands now have lots of options apart from buying ads on the various platforms. On one hand, there are many content creators willing to create customized content for a fee (cue influencer marketing at the basic level). On the other, brands can also have full control by creating their own content, giving rise to Content Marketing.
According to Content Marketing Institute, “content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action” (emphasis mine).
As mentioned, there are two main components to media:
for attracting and retaining audience, and
for selling the brand and its products.
Content Marketing Approach
The strategic approach to content marketing therefore, is to have clearly defined objectives for each production. These objectives correspond to the brand’s funnel strategy and must be aligned to the consumer’s journey:
At the top of the funnel (TOFU), the main objective is to attract audience. The intent is centered on creating the context for the brand/products to be formally introduced. Eg., interesting facts about the industry or pain points that consumers face. Content is typically more “entertaining” in nature (lowest resistance) with minimal direct brand mentions/exposure.
Just like the content offered on TV or cable channels, serialised content will be more effective for growing a following and building fame. They also make up the bulk of the content to be produced, the most likely entry point to the brand’s content world.
At the middle of the funnel (MOFU), we have branded content where the brand is introduced into the content world. The intent is to build salience or getting consumers to remember the brand and associate it with key brand assets and differentiating propositions. Content is typically more “educational” or helpful in nature.
Finally, at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), the objective is to get sales. This is where advertisements come in. Through tracking the audience with cookies and other similar technology, we should serve these ads to those who have consumed the MOFU content against set benchmark criteria (eg., people who have consumed at least 2 pieces of content 50% of the duration or more).