Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The strategic role of content in proving brand promise

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Social Media has confused many marketers for many years. Mostly because it isn’t a media. It’s an exercise in relationship building.

It tends to be thought of as a channel of amplification – “hey social guys, here’s my great idea/piece of content (ah hem, advert) go do magic to make it famous”.

It is, of course, a channel of advocacy.

In many ways social has more in common with the promise proving role of CRM and loyalty than it does with promise making role of brand strategy - not least because social is and always has been the single most effective way to have an open door to your customers at scale.

Whether you open that door to gather data (information about the needs and wants of customers and potential customers) or to build relationships (with customers, and potential customers) what is clear is that you don’t throw that door open and try shouting through a megaphone through it.

So, to help clarify the role and effectiveness of social content – and that of other content, I’ve developed this simple model (see diagram above).

You’ll note that I’ve annotated each of the bands with ‘Awareness, Consideration, Conversion’. This is something of a simplification (evaluation is, for example also taking place in social – and there are cross-overs, social can also deliver awareness and consideration, and it’s not unheard of for ATL (above the line) to trigger an immediate sale) but they do, I believe, focus on what each of Brand/Content/Social strategy is best at delivering – and therefore a guide to where the focus of each should be.

Social is a conversion channel because it is the truth medium. It is where we report the truth of  experiences – and it is where we turn (to each other, to our friends) to discover the truth behind the promises. This is where the proof of the promise a brand strategy makes and a content strategy brings to life is either made or has its bubble burst in spectacular fashion.

Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) - the point at which the purchase decision is made (a conversion is delivered) is therefore the point at which we discover a friend’s positive report of the truth of the brand’s promise. So social’s focus is on building advocacy in small audiences (right down to one to one) through rich relationships in modes of content where the user has the control.

Content that has value in this is that which inspires, discovers, aggregates and/or amplifies reports of the proof of the promise. Why? Because that’s what drives conversion. The more easily a potential customer can discover a positive user-generated report of the brand’s promise being true – at the right time in their own decision making process, the more likely a customer is to buy.

A test for this comes when the shiny content guys come to call. “Hey social guys, here’s my shiny thing, make it famous for me!” To which the answer should be:

Sure. So long as you can give me positive answers to the following:
        Will it build advocacy?        Will it build trust/relationships?        Is it in the user’s control?

If so feel free to ‘amplify’ through the relationships social has built. If not, stick to the channels most appropriate for building awareness…


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?