The new enablers

Sharing helps consumers process information, so it's always worth making content people want to pass along, says Aldo Cundari.

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By Aldo Cundari

Forward thinking brands are finding new ways to integrate all elements of the marketing mix and curate content to build strong relationships. The right message, to the right people, at the right place, at the right time has never been more important.

Despite an overwhelming supply of information, customers have an insatiable need for good content. Not only to read, but also to share. Your customers now spend one hour and 21 minutes more per day consuming media than they did 10 years ago and rely heavily on the search to inform purchase decisions. But these are not passive audiences; they’re engaged and selective. When customers evaluate information to frame their purchase decisions, who do they trust most? They seek information from family, friends, your “Brand Advocates.” Brand Advocates have great influence on the decision-making process and the brand’s reputation, as they become Sharecasters. Advocates engage in receiving, combining, creating, reviewing and redistributing knowledge and advice (or criticism) about your brand.

The importance of this advocate group for your brand is highlighted in Forrester’s 2013 North American Technographics Survey. When asked: “To what extent do you trust each of the following types of advertising/promotion?” the results clearly show that all content is not created equal. Customers overwhelmingly prefer to pull information from sources they consider trustworthy.

Brand/product recommendations from friends and family

 70%

Professionally written online reviews

55%

Customer written online reviews

46%

Natural search engine results

43%

Information on websites of companies or brands

32%

Sponsored search engine results

27%

Emails from companies or brands

18%

Post by companies or brands on social media sites

15%

Ads in websites

10%

Text messages from companies from brands

9%

It is important to build content with the intention of it being shared. Brands have to empathize with the needs of both the advocate and the people in their social community. Customers share content for a variety of reasons and a recent NYT Marketing study outlined why:

  • 73% say they process information more deeply and thoughtfully when they share it
  • 85% say reading other people’s responses helps them understand and process information
  • 94% carefully consider how the info they share will be useful to others
  • 49% say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action
  • 68% share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about

Sharing requires a delicate balance between the brand, content and customer need. Creating content that encourages sharing and builds a genuine bond with your customers isn’t easy. To earn trust and loyalty, you need a useful and engaging story that resonates with their needs. It’s a daunting task, so when creating new content, remember Occam’s Razor; try to simplify the message by asking yourself three questions:

1. What can we do to meet the needs of our customer? (Why will they care?)
2. How does it match up with our business objectives? (Is it building trust?)
3. Why is this consistent with our brand values? (Is it believable?)

To demonstrate how a customer-centric content strategy engages advocates, and through their support, encourages others to connect with a brand, lets look at BMW Canada. The 2012 launch of the BMW 1 Series M Coupe provided an opportunity to communicate the brand’s high performance credentials through brand advocates.

Cundari worked with the car co, and approached the brief with sharability in mind. We created a series of short films, including “Walls,” (featuring a BMW as it sped through a series of silhouette cutouts in concrete walls) and “Helipad” (featuring the car drifting atop the world’s highest helipad). Both were meant to push the limits, and both were meant to be thrilling to watch. But, more important, both were meant to be shared. More than seven million people watched the ads online, with more than 18,000 tweets, 1,200 blog posts and 500,000 Facebook shares, resulting in the three of the most successful sales months in the brand’s history.

The campaign started with seeding to a small group of select brand advocates and influencers before a larger integrated push. Because the story was useful and engaging, it resonated organically with the advocates and their audiences very quickly and naturally going viral.

This is why marketers need to rethink their marketing playbook where advocates have the ears and hearts of your customers. Crafting campaigns with them and their audience habits in mind is an absolute must.

Aldo_Cundari_PRINT_WOOD_BACKGROUND_NEW_CROPPEDAldo Cundari is chairman and CEO Cundari.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock