Content marketing: tell no lies

by Jeremy Maggs: A writer and broadcaster who has covered the ad and marketing industry for over 20 years. Editor in Chief of The Red Zone.
A content marketing strategy can succeed only if it is original, sincere and believable. Simply copying the recipes of benchmark case studies won’t convince consumers.
Agencies and marketing teams in search of a high-impact, branded content marketing strategy would do well to reread the 1883 classic Pinocchio, says leading strategist Marthinus van Loggerenberg of FCB Cape Town.

Like Carlo Collodi’s iconic boy puppet, Van Loggerenberg says, brands need to "prove themselves to be brave, truthful and unselfish".

For the uninitiated, content marketing involves the "creation and sharing of online material [such as videos and social media posts] that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services".

In an increasingly competitive space where brands are, according to the marketing director of a leading fast-moving consumer goods company, "falling over themselves to tell stories and in many cases failing", Van Loggerenberg says: "The innate ability to create skilful stories that influence power around a brand’s value set and purpose leads to connection and resonance and engenders brand love."

The critical question he asks is how agencies and production houses should create winning branded content or entertainment for strategic success.

Van Loggerenberg says many brands fail at the get-go because they don’t embody a clear identity. "The voice, character and proposition of the brand must constitute an unyielding sense of authenticity in any branded entertainment narrative."

That view is endorsed by Matthew Pullen, senior art director at the RPA agency in Santa Monica in the US, who writes: "The new narrative must always be built on a truth, and that comes from the inside."

Van Loggerenberg says originality is a nonnegotiable. "It should be the genesis of a good idea. But because many communication decision makers are risk averse, too many branded entertainment initiatives try to copy the recipe of benchmark case studies, seriously harming the credibility of a brand."

Underpinning most new content marketing attempts is a lack of sincerity when it comes to audience engagement. Van Loggerenberg says: "One can almost smell the
desperation of a brand approaching branded entertainment with a commercially led mindset, instead of leading with a human-centric narrative."

Part of achieving that goal, he suggests, is being believable. "A coherent narrative with a sense of fidelity and genuineness has proven to be the potter of plausibility."

And while that aspect is important, Van Loggerenberg adds that any story line also has to carry an emotional meaning.

James Mok, executive creative director for FCB Asia Pacific, believes entertainment narratives that allow an opportunity to communicate a "deeper understanding of what it is that consumers are looking for in relation to the way in which the brand or the product can contribute to their lives, makes for powerful emotional connections".

Van Loggerenberg says a strong emotional connection can create a sense of community with like-minded brand believers by hitting "an emotional sweet spot".

The chief digital officer of McCann Worldgroup in Africa, Clyde Mallon, believes that how messages are disseminated is becoming vital. Brands, he says, will need to "create new models for content creation that provide the means for shooting, editing and distribution that is always on".

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The Red Zone is a marketing and media website featuring breaking news from the industry as well as insightful opinion pieces and up to the minute event coverage.
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