Friday, November 2, 2012

For no-one

For a while, in the pre-crash days, it was quite vogue to rename an organisation, often as part of a merger or acquisition, but occasionally simply to change ingrained perceptions. Let loose on these projects, branding agencies conjured up unmemorable, unpronounceable or simply odd monikers such as Consignia, Thales or More Than, which were then the subject of intense and expensive marketing campaigns. 

The recent lack of such activities is one of the more welcomed but unplanned consequences of the financial turmoil. However, it has not disappeared completely as those who used to benefit are still employing  the tactic even applying it to themselves and their activities. The latest incarnation of this effect has come to be known as content marketing. 

According to Wikipedia: "Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty." 

While the concept isn't new (ok content free marketing has existed but was not the norm) and some of the channels and techniques required are recent phenomena, there is a deeper issue with the idea of content marketing which I believe will ensure adds up to little more than another passing term.

In a digitally connected world, so many traditional advertising, marketing and communications functions are fundamentally challenged. The ideas of targeting segments, using limited media outlets to disrupt attention, controlling messaging, building communities are all laid to waste in a world of infinite information sources, user commentary, online sharing and social networking. 

Communicating in this environment requires new skills and approaches. Messaging and communications are increasingly decentralised with every employee becoming a  brand advocate and conversations around products and performance happening at the personal level. 

However, the mantra behind content marketing as it is currently enacted is simply "this is more of the same". Organisations continue to try to talk to their clients, not through their people but over their heads; centralised messaging is pushed out via Twitter but with no-one reacting to any feedback and ghost written corporate blogs that eschew opinion in favour of supporting initiatives. 

The failure of content marketing is that too often it is content written by nobody specific for no-one in particular. 

Until organisations grasp the need to fundamentally rethink their model, i.e. the way they interact with their market, and understand how their clients want to interact with them then this is destined to be another online cul-de-sac

Those organisations that get digital engagement right, I doubt, will be setting up a content marketing division anytime soon.