Goodbye Advertising, Hello Content Marketing: What Marketers Need to Know

It’s 2016. We have supercomputers in our pockets. Cars that can drive themselves. Watches that can call people. Yet we’re still using the same advertising methods people first used in the 50s.

You know the commercials. A spokesperson comes on the TV describes the product, explains the benefits and ends by giving you the price, with a call-to-action to buy. It’s not engaging. It’s not attention getting. It’s not emotionally or mentally stimulating.

It’s uninteresting, uninspiring and most importantly unwanted by your audience. If you want your brand to appeal to the smartphone wielding, smartwatch wearing, superconsumer of the future this formula needs to be retired. And fast.

We live in the information Era. Everything you could ever want to know is online. And it’s all just a Google search away. Now more content is produced in a month than in the entire 20th Century. Social Media has become our newspapers, with live information pumped in every second.

Your audience has 99 problems but more content is not one.

It’s estimated that the average person sees 20,000 advertisements each day. And if you want to cut through all of this noise you have to be smarter than ever. You can’t waste people’s time with outdated sales techniques from the 1900s.

Because attention has become our most precious resource.

Instead of boring people with cheesy slogans, content marketing takes the focus away from selling someone something, and puts it on adding value to their life.

Advertising talks at your audience. Content Marketing talks to them.

Maybe it’s a story that they can relate to that inspires them. Or maybe it’s a blog post, ebook or infographic about something important to them. Or maybe it’s just a funny Vine that appeals to their sense of humor.

It all depends on who your target market is, and what makes them click. But there is one thing for sure, if you can find a way to add real value to their life, they will remember you for it, they will trust you because of it and will be MUCH more likely to go into business with you.

In fact, Brands utilizing content marketing save an average of $14 per new customer acquired. And Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads on average than traditional outbound marketing.

So how is content marketing SO effective? In the next section I’ll break down the psychology behind content marketing and later I’ll teach you how to create viral content.

The Psychology Behind Content Marketing

The effectiveness of content marketing is hidden within a couple of the principles of persuasion outlined in Robert Ciadini’s book, Influence.

First is the principle of Reciprocity, or the deeply ingrained human instinct to repay a debt. If a person gives you something or does you a favor you will instinctively want to pay them back.

For marketers, Cialdini says: “The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.” This explains why free samples are so effective.

People who receive a free, unexpected gift are more likely to listen to a product’s features, donate to a cause, or tip a waiter more money. Interestingly enough, the gifts don’t have to be expensive or even material; information and favors are enough to sway people.

Next is the principle of Authority. People respect authority and like to follow the lead of experts. And we are more willing to do business with someone who we view as an Authority figure.

Advertisers have long understood this principle. And this is why you see so many celebrity endorsements in commercials. Marketers know we are more apt to buy things from people we respect and look up to.

Authority is an essential aspect of any online presence. Since there is no human interaction, trust is even more important than normal. And this is why content marketing can be so valuable.

By providing thought-leadership content for your niche you can become the go-to resource on that subject and establish yourself as an influencer. And once you have that Authority, your sales pitch becomes much more trustworthy, and selling becomes exponentially easier.

Last is the principle of Likability. This is easy to understand; we do business and spend our time with people who we like. People are more likely to favor those who are similar to themselves, or who give them things.

If you make yourself relatable and freely give your audience value up front, without asking for anything in return, it will go a long way towards them liking you. And once they like you, they trust you and will happily go into business with you and share your business with their friends.

The key is that you freely and happily give away true, tangible value to your audience BEFORE asking for anything in return. If you do this, they’ll feel subconsciously indebted to you, they’ll start to view you as more of an Authority figure and they’ll start to genuinely like you.

Once you have this tri-factor working for you, selling your services is a piece of cake.

Marketers need to stop wasting people’s time and attention babbling about themselves. Describing our product or service and it’s benefits. Talking about how innovative our companies are.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but no one cares about your company. People only care about themselves, and how you can improve the quality of their life.

Stop selling. Start adding value.

How to Create Viral Content

Before you can create killer content, you need to understand how the brain works.

There are two sides of the brain. The rational brain handles things like thinking, logic, information-processing and language. While the emotional brain handles things like fight or flight, hunger, sex and emotions.

The emotional brain has the power to override the rational brain and does so at will. And the emotional brain is driven by automatic instinctive responses. It doesn’t think or ponder, but acts on impulses.

Marketers have been targeting this part of the brain for decades.

Websites like Upworthy, Buzzfeed and Viral Nova may catch a lot of flak for their shameless headlines, but the truth is these companies have mastered something very powerful: how to create emotionally compelling content.

They also teach us something else. That creating highly shareable content is a skill. Something that can be learned, honed and strategically put to use. It’s not magic, it’s science.

Recent research has proven that emotions hold the secret to viral content on the Internet. Studies have shown that content that evokes emotion has a far greater viral potential than neutral content.

A huge reason why things can spread so quickly is that human emotion in itself is contagious. People can “catch” the emotions of people around them through expressions, tones, gestures and language.

But formulaic advertisements appeal to our rational brain. Factual information doesn’t get past our brains filter and is easy to tune out, ignore and forget.

You want to appeal to the emotional brain. You want to engage people’s emotions. And you do this through the science and art of storytelling.

Before computers. Before the printing press. Before quill and paper. Long ago, humans had a different way of recording history. Our ancestors used stories for everything. They were an integral part of society as a whole.

They used them to teach lessons, record history, and to cement beliefs and traditions. And maybe they were onto something, because today we’re just starting to understand how powerful stories are.

When you’re focused on a story, something special happens. You start to put yourself in the characters shoes. You start to see the things they see. And even more unbelievable, you start to feel the things they feel.

Through your mirror neurons, you can literally experience the same feelings as the characters in your books and movies. Considering this, there’s no question that stories are by far the most powerful communication mechanism known to man.

There is no better way to trigger your audience’s emotions, than with a compelling story. Why tell your audience something, when you can make them feel it with a good story?

10 Creative Content Marketing Examples to Inspire You

This goes against everything marketers have been taught, but some of the best advertisements have little to nothing to do with the product or service.

In fact, some of the best ads never try to sell you on anything. Instead they tell a good story that embodies the brands spirit. This helps turn people into brand evangelists, who in turn will be more likely to buy and tell people about you.

If you’re like me then you learn best through example. So I gathered up 10 of the best examples of content marketing I could find:

(1) Red Bull: Baumgartner’s Space Jump

What says Red Bull more than a guy risking his life to jump from space? This death defying stunt might be the riskiest and best pieces of content marketing ever. Baumgartner’s jump set the record for longest parachute jump and helped skyrocket Red Bull sales.

(2) Hootsuite: Game Of Thrones Social Media

Content marketing doesn’t have to be serious or informational. It can be fun, creative and even play into pop culture. Just take this ingenius video from Hootsuite spoofing the Game of Thrones opening animation. What Game of Thrones fan wouldn’t want to share this video?

(3) Madden: The Movie

Rex Ryan coaching a game of Madden. Gronk firing footballs from a bazuka. Julio Jones karate chopping people. What more would an NFL fan want to see? This hilarious trailer showed Madden’s light side and helped stir up anticipation for the launch of a new edition of their game.

(4) GoPro: POV Action Videos

What’s more fun then watching a point-of-view video of a biker fly down a bumpy mountain-side with no regard for his safety? GoPro’s product is virtually non-existent in most of their content. But everyone knows the POV videos are taken with GoPros, making their fan-generated videos highly effective marketing materials.

(5) New York Times: Virtual Reality

NYTVR uses Google Cardboard to let readers turn their phone into a Virtual Reality display. Now readers can put themselves at the center of their favorite New York Times stories. Using VR also helps the Times remain relevant in the face of new tech that’s replacing print media.

(6) Casper: Van Winkles Sleep Blog

Most mattress companies stick to traditional paid advertising to sell their ‘boring’ product. Not Casper. With Van Winkles they created a whole blog dedicated to helping you get a better night sleep. With their mattresses and marketing Casper helps you sleep better.

(7) Hubspot: Marketing and Sales Blog

In terms of pure information, Hubspot may have the best content in the game. Because you name it, they do it. They have guides, templates, ebooks, reports, blog posts, infographics all 100% free of charge. If you’re a content marketer Hubspot is one of the best free resources you can find.

(8) Marriot: Two Bellmen

A 20 minute action-comedy movie starring two bell boys as they attempt to stave off an evil doer? Yes please. My favorite story about this film is what happened when David Beebe, VP of creative, got the first cut. “We don’t want to see any ‘Welcome to the JW Marriott, here’s your keycard,’ and then a closeup of the logo,” Beebe told the production team. “None of that.”

(9) GE: The Message Podcast

Who says marketing can’t be fun and creative? Just ask GE, who saw their science-fiction podcast, The Message hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart, beating out shows like Serial and This American Life. With a full in-house media agency, GE clearly understands the increasing importance of creative content.

(10) House of Cards: The Alternate Frank Underwood Reality

With a full election website and commercial that aired during a presidential debate, it’s easy to forget that Frank Underwood is just a character. With this campaign, Netflix shows us how a few pieces of epic content in the right places can generate a ton of buzz for a big launch.

It’s Time For Marketers to Evolve

The marketing world is undergoing a permanent shift. Will you adapt and embrace creative content? Or will you cling to the old advertising methodology?

Your answer will determine the future of your business. It’s time to evolve. If you want to get your audience’s attention in the 21st century and beyond, you’re going to need to be better.

You’re going to have to be more creative. You’re going to have to be more thoughtful. And you’re going to have to understand your audience better than your competitors.

The companies that understand this mindset, and invest their marketing dollars into it will open themselves up to unprecedented growth. Those companies who fail to adapt risk becoming lost in the shuffle.

Unheard over the noise of the information era.

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