There is no one-solution-fits-all when it comes to crafting compelling content. Tony Lederer, Chief Strategy Officer at The&Partnership, walks us through the ins and outs of creating authentic experiences between brands and their audience.
Content is the bridge between you and your audience. How do you anticipate and then integrate the right topics for your audience while maintaining a consistent brand voice?
Great content occurs at the intersection of brand values and audience values. While any good marketer has a thorough understanding of the brand values part of the equation, matching those up to audience values to create content that resonates is trickier.
It really comes down to three essential elements. The first is having a deep understanding of the audiences you’re trying to engage. What values they have. What topics move them. What they find meaningful. The second is identifying where the synergies are between these audience values and those of your brand. And finally, creating content that threads the needle between what the audience cares about and what the brand wants to communicate.
Flexibility is key. And being willing to make short term sacrifices for the longer-term vision. For instance, holding back on pushing content out in response to some big pop cultural moment that has your audiences engaged. While it sometimes does make sense to ride these sorts of trends, it has to be in context of having a natural overlap with brand positioning. Without that intersection, you lose the consistency of voice you want to maintain for the brand over the long run.
What role does branding play in content marketing?
It’s absolutely central. Branding, whether that’s colors, logos or iconography, is a key lever for attribution and storytelling across all channels.
At the same time, it needs to match the platform or environment it’s designed to live in. So what works for a traditional TV ad is going to look different than a content marketing push that’s taking place on an editorial site. The latter should maintain key brand elements but needs to be dialed back enough that it doesn’t scream advertising. Marketers and agencies need to be fluent in the norms and patterns of each platform to ensure their content appears natural and not forced.
Not everything can be advertised the same way, which can require a different approach across clients. How does content affect the way something is marketed and how do you pivot to treat this?
While the foundational principles that guide the development of compelling content remain consistent across clients and industries, what form the content takes can change depending on a variety of factors. For instance, content created for brands in heavily regulated spaces may need to be filtered through legal and regulatory approval requirements. In these instances, content marketing might be less agile, but necessarily so as to avoid legal issues.
Another factor involves the audiences a marketer is trying to reach and the channels they are trying to reach them on. For instance, content created to reach a B2B audience on LinkedIn is going to have a much different look and feel than content created for a lifestyle brand on Instagram.
Regardless of the look and feel of the content, the underlying engine remains the same. Understanding audience values and connecting them to brand values in a meaningful way.
Without giving away your secrets, what are some things that are integral to your internal checklist when creating content?
We need to have validated the audiences’ interest in the messaging we are creating. The content needs to feel additive to the environment it’s going to live in. And the content needs to feel what we call “unforgettably right” for the brand.
Philosophically, we always look for audiences that are going to be the source of growth for a brand, identifying shared values that will allow us to build a deeper connection. It’s equally important on the brand side to focus on what we call the source of strength – the superpower of the brand (whether they realize it or not) that will connect with the audience.
How do you strategize for the way audiences will want to interact with content in virtual realities, Web 3.0, and the metaverse? To what extent do you involve influencers and consumers in creating the brand narrative?
There are two filters for assessing new platforms and media. Is your audience there? And can your brand be additive to the environment.
When considering Web3 and the metaverse, we’d apply these same filters. If you’re advertising professional services and trying to reach business buyers, it’s unlikely the metaverse is the right place for that. Brands also need to be honest about how much they can contribute to the medium. A brand like Nike, for instance, is a natural fit for the NFT space as they already have a massive collector base of sneakerheads in the real world. So doing something in Web3 with collectibles is a very natural adjunct.
With this in mind, if the audience is there and your brand can contribute to the environment, the metaverse can be a ripe place for brand storytelling.