Spoiler alert: After spending three days listening to some of the top marketers in the industry debate the subject, the answer could be accurately and succinctly summed up by Katherine Riley’s tweet:
— Katherine Riley (@krileykat) February 22, 2015
That message did not come as much of a shock to conference attendees. In fact, most came to hone their craft and discover how the latest technology trends could address their challenges and reach targeted consumers with efficacy like never before.
However, as I sat and listened to the stories of plight and success from top-tier marketers at organizations such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Intel, an even more compelling trend began to emerge: empowerment.
Content marketing is not a new practice. And while its notoriety may continue to gain traction, tired and cliché practices are already beginning to take root. Marketers are trying desperately to reach and engage Millennials, an audience who can, as Billie Goldman, partner marketing manager at Intel puts it, smell advertising from a mile away.
During an opening day session, Jeff Rosenblum, cofounder of Questus, compared the content strategies of three iconic outdoor apparel brands: Patagonia, The North Face, and Columbia. Patagonia’s focus on the environment tells not just a “green story,” but rather a relationship story between athletes and the world around them. The North Face creates content that inspires outdoor athletes to explore and push the limits of their abilities. Columbia, on the other hand, uses promotional tactics—such as pop-up ads, coupons, and other methods of interruption—to push products and hopefully buy loyalty. The result:
Bob Rupczynski, vice president of media, data, and CRM at Kraft, told a similar story about Kraft’s own evolution to using data and context to empower consumers. Programmatic marketing proves to be an effective tactic, but it’s understanding your consumers and putting them at the core of your strategy that ultimately drives results. Content must be put into context before it becomes relevant and consumers are willing to devote time to interacting with your brand.
As brands ruminate on how to keep the attention and loyalty of an increasingly flippant audience, they must go beyond promotion and tactics and instead inspire the audiences they’re hoping to reach. Engagement has quickly become a tired tactic that involves programmatic marketing, brand-focused content, poorly executed real-time marketing, and canned social responses. However, those who choose to see past the limitations of their marketing budgets and instead focus on creating an online experience that empowers consumers will build loyalty with an audience who’s willing to give it, so long as the message proves genuine.
Aren’t we all consumers, after all? It’s time to start treating the audience like you’re the one on the other end of the pop-up.
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