08 April 2013

Can't content marketing also be visceral, rather than merely informative?

Look, a book on fashion. How quaint!
Can't content marketing can't be useful for brands that, by convention, rely heavily on photos and video? Say, for luxury cars? Is content marketing, with a toolbox full of white papers, podcasts, and professional reviews, etc, too dependent on rational decision-making? Can content marketing be adapted to make baser, more emotive appeals to buyers' desires?

Here's a common fallacy prevents a wider adoption of content marketing: that content marketing can only take the form of objective content; that informative marketing by necessity excludes emotion and the need for creativity.

Copywriting expert Andy Maslen wrote in his book Write to Sell that people may buy on emotional grounds, but they always want to rationalise their decisions. Just because your prospect can afford it doesn’t mean they will buy it.

So let’s consider this: when we shop online, do we search the web with an open mind, willing to consider any and all options we come across? Or do we sometimes search with one product in mind, hoping that more information will help us make up our mind?

People who search on the Internet aren’t seeking 100% objective facts. They seek others' opinions, especially well-considered ones. They don't necessarily hate branded content if it teaches them something new, or provides a solution to their problem. Not to put too fine a point on it, but content marketing’s as much about appealing the modern consumer's need to do research as it is about their real needs.

To get a sense of see how content marketing works for luxury products, we need look no further than traditional media and publishing. Why is there a market for product review-heavy motoring journalism, if all car enthusiasts wanted were tastefully-lighted photos of cars? Why is there demand for behind-the-scenes write-ups of fashion shows and designer goods production, if all consumers cared for were fashion shoots and boutique showrooms?

Because people don't just buy on reflex or preference alone. Even when the main motive for purchase is ostentation, most people don't immediately buy the product with the most "bling" on it. They read up on critical or user reviews; they consider other options; they visit showrooms to try out the actual product. Research is something people do for almost any product these days, especially now that the Internet has made information so readily available.

Just as complex products (e.g. smart phones, college education, PC software, books) tend to have buyers who consider product features and capabilities before making a decision, the price tag and the "quality" or "brand cache" built luxury products also encourages customers to do substantial research before putting down their credit card. A considered buying process is part of what makes them feel good about their eventual purchase.