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Content Is the New Ad, #Hashtag Is the New Tagline

This text is an excerpt from “Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital” by Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya and Iwan Setiawan; ISBN: 978-1-119-34120-8.
Brands that are implementing good content marketing provide customers access to high-quality original content while telling interesting stories about their brands in the process. Content marketing shifts the role of marketers from brand promoters to storytellers.

Today, most corporations have implemented content marketing to a certain extent. A study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs revealed that 76% of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies and 88 percent of business-to-business (B2B) companies in North America used content marketing in 2016. The B2B companies spent an average of 28% of their marketing budget on content marketing, and the B2C companies spent an average of 32%. These content marketers would argue that content has become the new advertisement and the #hashtags used in content distribution through social media have equaled the role of traditional taglines.

Content marketing has been a buzzword in a recent years, and it is being touted as the future of advertising in the digital economy. The transparency brought by the internet has indeed given birth to the idea of content marketing. Internet connectivity allows customers to converse and discover the truth about brands. Marketers today face a major hurdle when trying to reach customers with traditional advertising because customers do not always trust it. They prefer to ask friends and family for honest opinions about brands. When they hear claims made by brands, customers clarify the claims by talking to trustworthy peers in their community.

The fact that customers often do not find advertising messages appealing puts additional pressure on marketers. The key role of marketers is to convey the value propositions offered by their brands. Marketers have become very creative in delivering complex information through advertisements without overwhelming the customers, given the limited space and time they can afford in paid media. But the fact is that customers today often find a brand’s value propositions irrelevant and dismissible.

Social media has played a major part in this shift. In the past, customers listened attentively to content broadcast by traditional media, including advertising. They simply had no choice. Social media changed all of that. Now, customers have an abundance of user-generated content that they find more credible and, significantly, more appealing than that from traditional media. What makes social media content appealing is that it is voluntary and accessed on demand, which means customers choose to consume the content whenever and wherever they want.

In social media, advertisements cannot significantly interrupt customers while they are consuming content. YouTube TrueView advertisements, for example, can be skipped after five seconds. This has set a precedent that an advertisement is dismissible if the viewer does not like it. We call it “the skippable world’s five-second challenge.” If brands or advertisers fail to attract attention during the first five seconds, they cannot complain if customers choose to ignore the rest of their content.

This applies also to branded content and sponsored content—the content provided by brands but not in a typical advertising format—on social media. If customers do not find the branded and sponsored content appealing and relevant, they will not spend their time watching it. The fact that the videos that are the most watched and the channels that are the most subscribed to on YouTube are user-generated content and not branded content speaks for itself.

Despite these challenges, marketers recognize the value of social media. Social media, in fact, give marketers the opportunities to leapfrog over traditional media intermediaries and communicate directly to the customers. Unlike traditional media, which rely more on one-to-many broadcasting, social media allow more interactive conversations. These direct two-way conversations with customers are often more effective as well as more cost-efficient. This thinking leads to more brands and companies using content marketing in social media to complement traditional advertising. They aim to ultimately become their own marketing communications media and reduce their dependency on traditional media.

The problem, however, is that marketers often see content marketing as another form of advertising and social media as other forms of broadcast media. Some marketers simply shift their advertisements to social media without significantly reinventing the content. They see content as the longer versions of an advertisement.

We believe a major mindset shift is required. Content is indeed the new advertisement. But the two are totally different. An advertisement contains the information that brands want to convey to help sell their products and services. Content, on the other hand, contains information customers want to use to achieve their own personal and professional objectives.

A 2015 study by Google of thousands of YouTube TrueView advertisements revealed the attributes of videos that viewers do not skip: they contain stories, human faces, and some sorts of animation. It also revealed that including a brand logo in the first 5 seconds of an advertisement increases brand recall, but it also can decrease watch time. Marketers need to realize that their definition of good content might not be the same as the customer’s definition. Ultimately, it is the customer’s definition that counts.

In order to engage with customers consistently, sometimes marketers need to create content that might not directly contribute to their brand equity or improve their sales numbers but is valuable to customers.

We believe a major mindset shift is required. Content is indeed the new advertisement. But the two are totally different. An advertisement contains the information that brands want to convey to help sell their products and services. Content, on the other hand, contains information customers want to use to achieve their own personal and professional objectives.

This text is an excerpt from Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital by Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya and Iwan Setiawan; ISBN: 978-1-119-34120-8. To learn more about the book, click here.

 

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