Recently in this five-part series, we covered the importance of a content mission as well as a content vision. But there’s still an important content marketing concept we need to address — your content philosophy. Your content philosophy addresses one vital question:
What do you want content to do for you?
- Build brand awareness and credibility
- Entertain people
- Encourage them to take action
- Serve as a reflection of your company culture
- Establish your brand as an expert in your industry
- Generate leads for your products/services
- Support your customer service efforts
Developing a content philosophy
Your content philosophy helps you determine your entire content marketing approach. It guides you as you decide how to use content for your business. As you begin thinking about your content philosophy, ask yourself these questions:
- What are our corporate values, including our mission and vision? For example, if your company places emphasis on social responsibility, your content should reflect that value.
- What’s the state of our corporate culture? A workplace with happy and engaged employees can help contribute to and distribute content. A culture in chaos will belie even the best messaging.
- Are clients satisfied with the current communications from our brand? Take time to talk to your customers. Find out if they are getting what they need. Ask them what they want and expect from your content.
- Do prospects get the information they expect when they access our content? Pick salespeople’s brains. What content would help them close more deals? Get their insights on how prospects react to your current offering. Don’t stop at the salesperson — talk to the prospects themselves, too.
- What do we expect from a content marketing investment? Awareness? Leads? Website traffic or store foot traffic? Sales? Think about your expectations and consider if they are realistic.
When you’ve answered these questions, a high-level picture will start emerging to inform your content philosophy and vision.
Content philosophy examples
Every organization has a history, a set of circumstances and a unique culture. Your content philosophy should be uniquely yours, too. The approach that works for Company A may flop with Company B. Take time to consider and define your philosophy and how it guides your content vision. Is it product-based, content-as-product oriented, or culture-based?
1. Product-based: The product practically sells itself
A few words about this approach: Easy to attempt. Hard to pull off.
Many brands follow this practice in content marketing, but few are effective when they make the product the star of the content. Why? Because people don’t want to be sold to. They want information, education or entertainment.
But, there are times when the “product as the star” philosophy works. Here are two examples.
Blendtec is a blender company founded by engineer Tom Dickson. He had a dream to build a better blender, and he did it by creating an engineering-driven company. It wasn’t initially built with a marketing focus.
The early days of Blendtec’s online marketing exploded with its series of “Will it blend?” videos on YouTube. Seeing the power of a Blendtec blender pulverizing marbles and iPhones (among other things) sold people on the product. These outrageous product demonstrations built awareness and increased sales.
Blendtec realized they needed to prove how different a Blendtec blender is from the average kitchen blender in a fun and creative way. This approach also demonstrates the engineering chops behind the product.
If you’re following the world of artificial intelligence, you’ve likely heard of IBM Watson. This is another example of when the product is the story.
Watson has competed on Jeopardy. It (he?) helps people customize their Bear Naked Granola blends. Watson can do your taxes. There’s an entire blog dedicated to “Built With Watson.” And, anyone can use Watson — for free — to analyze business data with IBM Watson Analytics.
IBM understands that the groundbreaking nature of Watson AI makes Watson the story. Notice, though, that they don’t bore the customer with features and complicated tech-speak. IBM talks about the mind-blowing things that Watson can do for customers.
Considerations for the product-based content philosophy
- Does a focus on the product support your content vision? Is your vision more aspirational and bigger than the product itself?
- Is your product game-changing enough to warrant the starring role in our content? Or should the customer be the hero?
- Can you find a way to demonstrate that your product or service is way beyond the competition’s offering?
2. Content as a product: Something sexier than features and benefits
This one is difficult to attempt but magical when you get it right.
Not every brand focuses on selling products through content. Some marketers create content that is a product in and of itself.
Procter & Gamble
Watch this clip from The Story of Content to learn more about P&G’s soap operas
On the consumer side of things, we have the long-lived examples of Procter & Gamble’s soap operas. P&G ended its run of company-owned soap operas in 2010 with the final episode of “As The World Turns.” It ran for 54 years. Another P&G soap opera, Guiding Light, began as a 15-minute radio spot that eventually turned into an hour-long, Monday through Friday daytime drama. It became the longest-running daytime drama in broadcast history.
Imagine the number of people tuning in day after day, generation after generation, to catch these brand-owned stories. Talk about the opportunity to build awareness and loyalty!
We have more modern examples of this content-as-product approach, too.
- General Electric launched GE Podcast Theater. Guess what — the seasons are engaging sci-fi dramas that never mention GE in the script.
- Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have all launched original shows. These shows help sell their video streaming services. “House of Cards” or “Stranger Things” alone could be enough for many customers to purchase a Netflix subscription.
B2B does it, too
Starting to think this is a consumer-related phenomenon? Not so fast.
Think about some of your favorite marketing platform brands. ClearVoice, Moz and HubSpot do excellent jobs positioning themselves as thought leaders and educators through their blogs, webinars and videos. Their content is engaging and significant enough that readers come back frequently just for the content.
Considerations for the content-as-a-product philosophy:
- Does this type of content approach align with your content mission and vision?
- Do you have the guts to pull this off (especially when it’s a creative gamble)?
- Do you have an executive champion who is willing to let you take these risks?
- Do you have the budget to hire the right talent? If you’re following the entertainment path like GE or P&G, hire the best you can afford.
- Do you have the subject matter experts on staff or in your circle of influencers who can contribute? An influencer-based program will require a budget, too.
3. Content as an extension of culture: It’s a mindset
A third content philosophy to consider is one powered by company culture and fan communities. This is when a brand or business extends its values to the content.
Red Bull’s corporate culture has been described as “freewheeling.” The brand embraces extreme sports, high-risk adventure, crazy stunts (Flutag) and quirky-cool people as part of its culture. That’s led to all kinds of content that are an extension of Red Bull’s culture.
- The Red Bulletin (print & online magazine) focused on extreme sports, culture and lifestyle
- Red Bull TV features live and on-demand videos on channels about adventure, culture, music, GoPro videos and more. Viewers can view content on computers, phones, tablets, set-top streaming devices and smart TVs.
- Flying Planet shares the animated bits from Red Bull’s television commercials.
Red Bull understands that its brand is bigger than an energy drink; it’s about a lifestyle. Through amazing content, Red Bull caters to customers who share those values and interests.
Another notable example of content as an extension of culture is John Deere and its magazine, The Furrow. Ethisphere has consistently named Deere & Company as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies.
As you can see from this video from the Content Marketing Institute, The Furrow lives up to the company’s mission: “John Deere’s mission is still dedicated to those who are linked to the land… ” and The Furrow’s non-biased reporting speaks to the ethics of the John Deere brand.
Considerations for the content-as-culture philosophy:
- What’s your corporate culture like now? If it sucks, you can’t retool it overnight. You also can’t fake it in your content.
- What’s your brand community culture like? Do you have loyal customers or die-hard fans? The culture approach requires that you cultivate a community. Is that something your business will invest in?
- Do your mission and vision support your company or brand culture? Are they aligned?
Have you taken the time to examine your content philosophy? What are the most important things to consider when selecting the right approach? As you shape your content philosophy and vision, remember your company or brand’s unique voice, circumstances and what you would like to get out of your content.
This article was originally published in September 2017. It has been refreshed for 2018.