Insights, Content Marketing, Skills form Brand Experiences


Insights, Content Marketing, Skills form Brand Experiences. All are in your hands. On your keyboard. Learn to master this threefold strategic sequence, before you leave it to incompetent Content creators, that might harm your brand positioning in the online scene. Its time to decode Content realities.

Insights, Content Marketing, Skills form Brand Experiences

Through my years in Advertising, PR, and in-house at global teams of Ericsson I’ve developed (strategy & copywriting) skills for Customer briefing, Insight Mining, Briefing creatives-media-promo-online teams. I’ve done it, hands-on, myself. You see, my first ever job was that of a copywriter, crafting Logos and Eros, right and left brain.

When it comes to Content, I wasn’t just writing blog posts about it or click-baiting for useless webinars. I was doing Content Marketing. So I’m the most entitled person to clarify the Content Marketing hype and myths, to Borrow My Brain to all that need to tackle and master Content Marketing & creation skills.

Everything changed in 2008

One year after iPhone’s introduction online and mobility really gone global. The new economy brought forward a critical issue and competence gap for business owners, marketers, and agencies. It was a skill-set they hadn’t thought of. Creating Content. In volume. For hundreds of new touchpoints. Themselves, not assigning it to others as in the old-times.

The pressing Content demand started first at social media, where all were after likes (and whom to assign to FB pages’ management with few hundreds of euro) and then for own media. But the Content competence wasn’t there.

Leaders, marketers, agencies, until 2008, were used to bombarding audiences with paid-media / mass messaging. There wasn’t any need to check on measurement besides retail audits and volume sales. Online changed that, forever.

New touchpoints revealed the “user-profile” issue

Next challenge. Writing Content for Who? Specifically. Not broadly “18-35 years of age” etc… The hunt for the online customer created a wide list of new touchpoints. Why is this tough? Because the mass-Marketers aren’t (still) used in micro-segmenting audience-insights-behaviours.

Now you need Content in many touchpoints, formats, and variations. All should be well-crafted stories. Yes, stories to impress. To make them ask for more. Select, click, buy, and again. Share, and endorse. Review and complaint. Facilitate, and get support. Or simply gaze at an Instagram flow.

Understand Content Marketing

It is a disciplined strategic process with an eye to measurable engagement. No, no, forget the funny tips “be spontaneous“, “be online every day“, “post what suits you“. No, Content marketing isn’t about volume or ‘conquering’ space. It’s the process to select the company stories that bridge audience’s trends, interests, and preferences. In parallel, those stories must look (and help you learn) into user-profiles and unique insights.

Let’s simplify this. It is basically what the Brand says in own, paid, and earned media and how this makes people feel (and what do they do next). Do they click? Do they buy? Endorse or complaint? Propose or review? Here lies the basic difference: traditional Marketing was talking to people, now it should talk with people. Tough! This asks for a whole culture shift in companies, marketing teams and (yes…) old-logic agencies.

While you talk with the audience, you measure website visitation, social media engagement, and finally, if the Brand builds a real community (website, social, Viber, WhatsApp, e-mail database, social etc.). All proven by hard-facts, not by generalistic claims.

The two pillars of Content Marketing

Content Marketing has two pillars: a) the Content Marketing Strategy planning for engagement and b) the Storytelling & Content creation skills.

Content marketing strategy planning means that you study! A lot! Study analytics, user-profiles, online panels, observation and watching groups, communities, competitors. Before you whisper what you target for. Before you brief agencies or external partners. It’s your business after all.

Then, Storytelling (on the contrary of what many believe to be an artistic delivery form) is the strategic discipline of capturing the right company stories, distilling them down to make them good for business-audience, and then producing them at the right moment, right channel, right context.

In both pillars, you have Customer in-house and agency teams of different abilities, seniority and competence. Different digital understanding. Different perspectives. Not working as one…

From a medical doctor to a hot-dog stand, up to a multinational

Content Marketing & Creation is for everyone who’s competing or building an identity in the global digital paths. Your company got an ISO certification. Instead of posting that boring announcement on Linkedin, form a story for what this means and guarantees to the consumer, or buyer. Amplify it. Discuss. Explain. Go deeper than momentarily bragging.

You’re a hotelier and you wish to full-up capacity. Instead of a cliche promo-message, you should craft a loyalty coupon specifically for those that visited and reviewed positively your Brand. They expect to be treated as valuable customers. This is what counts!

Since physical search, service, and interaction will continue to deteriorate, then the online Content is the new critical Brand asset. From a hot-dog stand, up to a global corporation, the needs in Content marketing and Content creation vary. From an app to a social media post.

But for the first time in history, it’s not the business owner or Marketer who decides on Content marketing or the prefered touchpoints. The user-profiles, interests and behaviours, and reach & channels dictate now what touchpoints and Content you must activate.

Content deliverables’ list can be huge

Content formats can be blog posts, native articles, e-mail templates, own website, an offer’s landing page, and social media images, videos, stories for the online presence (stop using the word ‘advertise’).

Website main page Youtube & FB live videos
Landing pages (offer) Webinars and e-Courses
Booking online / mobile White papers and e-Books
Social media photos/posts Physical events and Livestream
Social media stories
Podcasts Messaging/Service/payment apps

It doesn’t mean you should do it all. On the contrary! Content isn’t about volume, but about selectivity. Content can’t be 360o, meaning in all channels as the old marketing-cliche goes.

It all blends down to your goal(s). SMART and single-minded every time. If your organization and marketing team really know what they want to achieve, the Most Wanted Action, then your Content strategy and Creation will be easier. You own a clothing shop. Do you want to be seen as an aspirational style guide to build the Brand, or sell massive promos to build sales and own the discount perception? Your Content will be completely different.

You can’t be an Insurance company (hear this real case in 2017!) with the desire to modernize customer and sales’ touchpoints and simply transfer all of your product/service Content materials (product brochures, that is) -as is- in an app!! Come on!

Content Marketing: we’re all far from being Good at

The pressing need for online Content created a dialogue (with millions of posts in all social media) for the Content marketing excellence. Pieces of Advice, tips, and click-bait. I don’t think that this volume of suggestions, at the end, helps owners and marketers. With 2-3 tips, you don’t change and improve.

Who is driving this (educative? #not) dialogue online? Content creators, ‘ghost-writing’ bloggers, so-called influencers and brand ambassadors. The ‘click-bait’ webinars and e-courses on how to write Content. They are all hunting for the Advertiser’s pocket, not adding value to the market’s evolution.

The 76% of global Marketers see Content as their No1 challenge

I have a proof point: the 76% of global marketers see it as their No1 challenge. Content isn’t working! Also, the 56% of marketers are admitting that Content is simply adapted, most of the times, from external channels to internal communications. Imagine why it doesn’t work.

Sometimes Companies try to do it in-house, as they should, to save on costs and “control” the strategic aspect. But can they be creative, user-friendly? Can they feel their audience or they simply produce?

Linkedin, E-mail, Customer templates

In the Content marketing strategy & creation plans, many platforms and channels get overlooked. For Linkedin companies post achievements and employer brand videos. For e-mail management, send them what we’ve achieved every 15 days and in between a price offer. That’s all. Boring. Useless.

I buy groceries from a supermarket who isn’t digital-ready. They’ve offered me a bonus-scheme discount card with a unique number (means that their IT has all my data). When they send me an e-mail it’s a basic .html with some photos of discount offers. But I can’t click on the offers they present. They don’t care for my access, convenience, easiness, speed? Who’s the ‘guru’ of this Content plan?

Response-1: Borrow my Brain Content creation service

The above were the insights used for deciding to bridge a gap in the Corporate and Marketing communications world, both CMO teams and PR agencies, by offering the Borrow my Brain Content creation service, to add some ‘juice’ in their brand expression and activations. Do it right, do it strategically with themes and narratives (and they take it from there), and do it accessible and low-cost. To make an Impact. To add Value.

Response-2: Organized twice the Online Branding & Presence, Content Marketing with KEAK

KEAK is a modern, proximate, value-only training centre with strong credentials in the digital training domain. We’ve decided to offer together with KEAK the Online Branding & Presence, Content Marketing workshop and help essentially small-medium size companies and freelancers learn. Participants were from Cyprus and Greece. Our intention was to help them be professionals with their Content marketing & realize the aspects and needs, both on the strategic level and the creative-conceptual side.

“The Art Of Storytelling in the era of connected devices and connected audiences disrupts the traditional top-down Brand mass-marketing bombardment.”

Why we’re not good at Content Marketing?

There is a mix of cultural, competence, and strategic capability issues that prevent the global market from being crisp, engaging, and meaningful when we craft Content. I will try to note some of those, using my evolving career as the reference.

No1 obstacle: companies, owners, Marketers still think in a mass-marketing way …”this is what we must say“, “our key message is…“. They don’t mine into competition and context, channels and audiences. Marketing organizations can’t easily get how divergent their target-audiences have become.

No2 obstacle: Content is all about the Brand. It shows who you are, what do you stand for, or your desired position. Stiff? Boring? Quick-and-dirty? Too much ‘blah-blah’? This is the perception and intention you create. Do Content owners neglect the Brand? Sometimes. But most of the times they find it difficult to ‘dress-up’ the Brand for audience’s meaningful interactions.

No3 obstacle: Corporate and Marketing teams, PR and Digital agencies, ghost-writers / content experts and bloggers write Content for Brands without a strategic view. Sometimes with inappropriate language. Not based on real human insights. They produce Content not-fit on Customer Journeys.

No4 obstacle: Content is produced in volume, but without coherent and long-term themes. It drills down to be an experimentation, or ‘bombardment’ without the audience’s participative dialogue, or endorsement on a long-viable narrative.

No5 obstacle: We live in an age of information overload. Consumers know this and this is the main insight why they despise the “advertising pressure” (and why the avoiders’ increase) no matter the form. Marketers and agencies produce Content to show they’re working too hard. They forget strategy-insights-audiences-analytics-communication long-term themes.

No6 obstacle: Far too many marketers, agencies, and freelance Content writers produce even more Content, to make a living and show output to their management. Their Content effort increases without commensurate increases in resources, a sure sign that the quality of Content won’t improve. On the other hand, we know that only 14% of the global internet knowledge-sharing is considered as valuable. The other 86%? Do you pay Content provision that goes wasted?

No7 obstacle: Content Marketing strategy and Content creation are not documented. They are not even reported!! Who has time to do so? “We don’t have the resources.” In my discussions with many market professionals, they really worry a lot about this. Failing to document, evaluate and report back. To share know-how, increase team’s (and juniors/interns) competence and learn across the organization. Organizations with documented content strategies that keep their audiences in mind can successfully break through the noise and stand out.

No8 obstacle: Content marketing decisions is either decided by the sole owner, or the Marketing team without wide cross-team alignment, leading to clutter and indifference. There are no editorial boards in big companies. There is no strategic competence in small houses and owners. PR and in-house teams don’t bring SEO and analytics into the briefing discussions. Believe me, I have seen that many times in the last two months.

No9 obstacle: According to the global B2B hard-facts, global marketers allocate only 30% of their annual budget to Content marketing. Not surprisingly, the top challenges for Content marketing are lack of staff time (38%) and budget (34%).

No10 obstacle: You can’t invest in Content without budget permission. The urban legend says you can shoot video with your smartphone, but that’s part of the truth. Invest in Content production, because you’re not alone. The target-audience switches in 5 seconds to another alternative… Owners and Marketers sometimes underestimate costs for shootings, product props, food models, cost of using own brand, models, banners, creative work in various formats.

Recap of all Content Marketing issues

  1. No clear planning and strategy
  2. Not knowing your audience or customers
  3. Managing SEO and social media plans in isolation
  4. No clear measurement and analytics framework (not a culture)
  5. Producing mediocre or insufficiently useful content
  6. Not mapping content to the customer journey
  7. Not being an expert on your subject
  8. Being overly promotional (great risk)
  9. Not supporting content with media and production spend (budget)
  10. Not A/B testing content formats with audience

Use Insight Mining model to structure your efforts

A long time ago, in a galaxy near, I had the privilege to be part of a global strategy team that developed the Insight Mining tool to facilitate joint advertiser-agency planning and creative work. Finding real insights that mirror the behaviour, market, context of consumers.

What I’ve learned back then was the respect and the humble character in front of the audience we all search to engage with. I still today, use the Insight Mining modelling in Content workshops I organise with Corporate teams and Marketing communications. It is a strategic reminder to more senior Marketers and a disciplined format to younger digital teams, that haven’t been taught to work in a framework.


The learning for Company owners, Marketers, Communicators

Don’t think that e-mail, coupon-offers, newsletters, company blog posts, FB pages’ posts are fit for the purpose without a long theme view and the right narrative of your company’s direction, or what your Brand serves today. Turn your team meetings meaningful by bringing together agency, company experts, advocacy teams, and employees’ brand-ambassadors redistributing the message out there.

Audiences don’t know what do you do inside the company and they don’t care. They simply observe, read, analyze what they see you do. Some months ago I was called to be interviewed by a new Fintech company, which showed me they don’t have in place any corporate communication plan on digital and they don’t intend to have one! But they were challenged by the fast talent acquisition from the ‘old-corporate’ world, admitting that they seem to need a “bonding culture”.

Nurture your business through the eyes and ears and minds of your audiences. Talk with them to get feedback, improve, and prolong the dialogue. They are humans after all… not passive recipients of your communication effort anymore.

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