Tag Archive | "Brands"

5 Reasons Legacy Brands Struggle With SEO (and What to Do About Them)

Posted by Tom.Capper

Given the increasing importance of brand in SEO, it seems a cruel irony that many household name-brands seem to struggle with managing the channel. Yet, in my time at Distilled, I’ve seen just that: numerous name-brand sites in various states of stagnation and even more frustrated SEO managers attempting to prevent said stagnation. 

Despite global brand recognition and other established advantages that ought to drive growth, the reality is that having a household name doesn’t ensure SEO success. In this post, I’m going to explore why large, well-known brands can run into difficulties with organic performance, the patterns I’ve noticed, and some of the recommended tactics to address those challenges.

What we talk about when we talk about a legacy brand

For the purposes of this post, the term “legacy brand” applies to companies that have a very strong association with the product they sell, and may well have, in the past, been the ubiquitous provider for that product. This could mean that they were household names in the 20th century, or it could be that they pioneered and dominated their field in the early days of mass consumer web usage. A few varied examples (that Distilled has never worked with or been contacted by) include:

  • Wells Fargo (US)
  • Craigslist (US)
  • Tesco (UK)

These are cherry-picked, potentially extreme examples of legacy brands, but all three of the above, and most that fit this description have shown a marked decline in the last five years, in terms of organic visibility (confirmed by Sistrix, my tool of choice — your tool-of-choice may vary). It’s a common issue for large, well-established sites — peaking in 2013 and 2014 and never again reaching those highs.

It’s worth noting that stagnation is not the only possible state — sometimes brands can even be growing, but simply at a level far beneath the potential, you would expect from their offline ubiquity.

The question is: why does it keep happening?

Reason 1: Brand

Quite possibly the biggest hurdle standing in the way of a brand’s performance is the brand itself. This may seem like a bit of an odd one — we’d already established that the companies we’re talking about are big, recognized, household names. That in and of itself should help them in SEO, right?

The thing is, though, a lot of these big household names are recognized, but they’re not the one-stop shops that they used to be.

Here’s how the above name-brand examples are performing on search:

Other dominant, clearly vertical-leading brands in the UK, in general, are also not doing so well in branded search:

There’s a lot of potential reasons for why this may be — and we’ll even address some of them later — but a few notable ones include:

  • Complacency — particularly for brands that were early juggernauts of the web, they may have forgotten the need to reinforce their brand image and recognition.
  • More and more credible competitors. When you’re the only competent operator, as many of these brands once were, you had the whole pie. Now, you have to share it.
  • People trust search engines. In a lot of cases, ubiquitous brands decline, while the generic term is on the rise.

Check out this for the real estate example in the UK:

Rightmove and Zoopla are the two biggest brands in this space and have been for some time. There’s only one line there that’s trending upwards, though, and it’s the generic term, “houses for sale.”

What can I do about this?

Basically, get a move on! A lot of incumbents have been very slow to take action on things like top-of-funnel content, or only produce low-effort, exceptionally dry social media posts (I’ve posted before about some of these tactics here.) In fairness, it’s easy to see why — these channels and approaches likely have the least measurable returns. However, leaving a vacuum higher in your funnel is playing with fire, especially when you’re a recognized name. It opens an opportunity for smaller players to close the gap in recognition — at almost no cost.

Reason 2: Tech debt

I’m sure many people reading this will have experienced how hard it can be to get technical changes — particularly higher effort ones — implemented by larger, older organizations. This can stem from complex bureaucracy, aging and highly bespoke platforms, risk aversion, and, particularly for SEO, an inability to get senior buy-in for what can often be fairly abstract changes with little guaranteed reward.

What can I do about this?

At Distilled, we run into these challenges fairly often. I’ve seen dev queues that span, literally, for years. I’ve also seen organizations that are completely unable to change the most basic information on their sites, such as opening times or title tags. In fact, it was this exact issue that prompted the development of our ODN platform a few years ago as a way to circumvent technical limitations and prove the benefits when we did so.

There are less heavy-duty options available — GTM can be used for a range of changes as the last resort, albeit without the measurement component. CDN-level solutions like Cloudflare’s edge workers are also starting to gain traction within the SEO community.

Eventually, though, it’s necessary to tackle the problem at the source — by making headway within the politics of the organization. There’s a whole other post to be had there, if not several, but basically, it comes down to making yourself heard without undermining anyone. I’ve found that focusing on the downside is actually the most effective angle within big, risk-averse bureaucracies — essentially preying on the risk-aversion itself — as well as shouting loudly about any successes, however small.

Reason 3: Not updating tactics due to long-standing, ingrained practices

In a way, this comes back to risk aversion and politics — after all, legacy brands have a lot to lose. One particular manifestation I’ve often noticed in larger organizations is ongoing campaigns and tactics that haven’t been linked to improved rankings or revenue in years.

One conversation with a senior SEO at a major brand left me quite confused. I recall he said to me something along the lines of “we know this campaign isn’t right for us strategically, but we can’t get buy-in for anything else, so it’s this or lose the budget”. Fantastic.

This type of scenario can become commonplace when senior decision-makers don’t trust their staff — often, it’s a CMO, or similar executive leader, that hasn’t dipped their toe in SEO for a decade or more. When they do, they are unpleasantly surprised to discover that their SEO team isn’t buying any links this week and, actually, hasn’t for quite some time. Their reaction, then, is predictable: “No wonder the results are so poor!”

What can I do about this?

Unfortunately, you may have to humor this behavior in the short term. That doesn’t mean you should start (or continue) buying links, but it might be a good idea to ensure there’s similar-sounding activity in your strategy while you work on proving the ROI of your projects.

Medium-term, if you can get senior stakeholders out to conferences (I highly recommend SearchLove, though I may be biased), softly share articles and content “they may find interesting”, and drown them in news of the success of whatever other programs you’ve managed to get headway with, you can start to move them in the right direction.

Reason 4: Race to the bottom

It’s fair to say that, over time, it’s only become easier to launch an online business with a reasonably well-sorted site. I’ve observed in the past that new entrants don’t necessarily have to match tenured juggernauts like-for-like on factors like Domain Authority to hit the top spots.

As a result, it’s become common-place to see plucky, younger businesses rising quickly, and, at the very least, increasing the apparent level of choice where historically a legacy business might have had a monopoly on basic competence.

This is even more complicated when price is involved. Most SEOs agree that SERP behavior factors into rankings, so it’s easy to imagine legacy businesses, which disproportionately have a premium angle, struggling for clicks vs. attractively priced competitors. Google does not understand or care that you have a premium proposition — they’ll throw you in with the businesses competing purely on price all the same.

What can I do about this?

As I see it, there are two main approaches. One is abusing your size to crowd out smaller players (for instance, disproportionately targeting the keywords where they’ve managed to find a gap in your armor), and the second is, essentially, Conversion Rate Optimization.

Simple tactics like sorting a landing page by default by price (ascending), having clicky titles with a value-focused USP (e.g. free delivery), or well targeted (and not overdone) post-sales retention emails — all go a long way to mitigating the temptation of a cheaper or hackier competitor.

Reason 5: Super-aggregators (Amazon, Google)

In a lot of verticals, the pie is getting smaller, so it stands to reason the dominant players will be facing a diminishing slice.

A few obvious examples:

  • Local packs eroding local landing pages
  • Google Flights, Google Jobs, etc. eroding specialist sites
  • Amazon taking a huge chunk of e-commerce search

What can I do about this?

Again, there are two separate angles here, and one is a lot harder than the other. The first is similar to some of what I’ve mentioned above — move further up the funnel and lock in business before this ever comes to your prospective client Googling your head term and seeing Amazon and/or Google above you. This is only a mitigating tactic, however.

The second, which will be impossible for many or most businesses, is to jump into bed with the devil. If you ever do have the opportunity to be a data partner behind a Google or Amazon product, you may do well to swallow your pride and take it. You may be the only one of your competitors left in a few years, and if you don’t, it’ll be someone else.

Wrapping up

While a lot of the issues relate to complacency, and a lot of my suggested solutions relate to reinvesting as if you weren’t a dominant brand that might win by accident, I do think it’s worth exploring the mechanisms by which this translates into poorer performance.

This topic is unavoidably very tinted by my own experiences and opinions, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Similarly, I’m conscious that any one of my five reasons could have been a post in its own right — which ones would you like to see more fleshed out?

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Sparrho CEO: Using Augmented Intelligence to Build Trust in Brands

Many companies are working to build authentic and trusted brands with consumers. This is especially true with pharmaceuticals, biotech, and med-tech companies. The CEO of Sparrho, Dr. Vivian Chan, says that their approach combines artificial intelligence and 400,000 Ph.D.’s to deliver scientific data to companies. This data helps companies back up their marketing messages which enables them to more effectively build that vital trust with their customers.

Dr. Vivian Chan, Sparrho CEO, recently discussed on CNBC their unique hybrid AI approach to helping companies use science and information to back up their brands messaging:

AI Enables Humans to Make Better-Informed Decisions

Artificial intelligence is really about algorithms and how we can use data that we collect to enable humans to make better-informed decisions. I not at all about having computers make decisions on behalf of humans. In a way, I think it’s machines that will be helping evolve the tasks and not actually replacing the human roles. Human roles themselves will be evolving also as the technology improves. This allows humans to have more headspace to be thinking about things that machines can’t do right now.

Machines can’t necessarily summarize a lot of pieces of contextual analysis very well yet to a 100 percent accuracy and humans are still better at making nonlinear connection points. For example, being able to say that this mathematical equation is super relevant to an agricultural problem. If we don’t have the tagging and reference and citations humans are still better at making those nonlinear new connection points than machines.

Humans are still good at coming up with the questions. If you actually pose the right question and you train the data and the algorithms you might actually get the right answer. However, you still need to have the humans to be thinking about what the questions are in order to ultimately get the answers.

It’s About Using AI as a Means to an End

I  think the angle is really thinking about using AI as a means to an end and not just the end. Ultimately, this is a hybrid approach and various different people are calling it differently. Even MIT professors are calling it a hybrid approach. We’re calling it augmented intelligence. We need to come up with a good relationship between humans and machines. Marketing is about building relationships. It’s about building relationships between brands and consumers and now how do we build that relationship digitally?

Using Science to Build an Authenticated Brand

In this digital age, consumers are a lot more tech savvy but are also information savvy. They want to know what the is science behind certain things. Even if you’re talking about CPG, consumer packaged goods, what is the science behind a shampoo product right now when it claims 98 percent prevention of hair loss? What is the real science behind that and how do we actually bring that simplified science-oriented message to the consumer? How can consumers educate themselves and make informed decisions based on the products and thereby build a stronger brand relationship?

Ultimately what we’re trying to do at Sparrow is simplify science to build trust in brands. Especially for marketing departments and brands, it’s really allowing them to have the evidence-based science and the facts because building a very authenticated brand is what is meaningful to consumers. Research says that about 71 percent of consumers immediately reject content that looks like a sales pitch. Building a relationship and having an authenticated brand and content is super important in building that relationship between brand and consumers.

Sparrho Provides Content as a Service On Demand

We’re going even wider with that by providing what we call content as a service or relevant content on demand. We then integrate that into the digital platforms or the brands. We have what we call augmented intelligence with over 16 million pieces of content that is augmented by a network of more than 400,000 monthly active PhDs in a150 countries. They curate and summarize what’s actually happening in the latest of science.

We know that in about 60 percent of pharmaceuticals, biotech, and even med-tech companies, are spending more than $ 50 million per year just in content. Content has been the major driver for a lot of their marketing. In pharmaceuticals, they’re trying to really bring that relationship that they have offline to online. It’s at the heart of this digital transformation age that we are going through. This is really helping bring that relationship online by using the right engaging content. Our goal with Sparrow is to drive more engagement and ultimately more sales.

The post Sparrho CEO: Using Augmented Intelligence to Build Trust in Brands appeared first on WebProNews.

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SearchCap: Google Ads exact match name and brands in search

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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Google is retiring the AdWords & DoubleClick brands in a major rebranding aimed at simplification

Welcome to Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google Ad Manager.



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Local Empathy: The New Tool in Your Brand’s Emergency Kit

Posted by MiriamEllis

Implement generosity.

If I could sum up all of the thoughts I’m about to share with local enterprises, it would be with those two words.

Image via Lewis Kelly

Disasters and emergencies are unavoidable challenges faced by all local communities. How businesses respond to these stressful and sometimes devastating events spotlight company policy for cities to see. Once flood waters reside or cyclones trail away, once the dust settles, which of these two brands would you wish to call yours?:

How two brands’ reaction to disaster became a reputation-defining moment

As Hurricane Matthew moved toward the southeastern United States this month (in October 2016), millions of citizens evacuated, many of them not knowing where to find safe shelter. Brand A (a franchise location of an international hotel chain) responded by allegedly quadrupling the prices of its rooms — a practice known as ‘price gouging,’ which is illegal during declared emergencies in 34 states. Brand B (the international accommodations entity Airbnb) responded by sourcing thousands of free local rooms from its hosts for victims of the hurricane.

And then professional and social media responded with news stories, social communications, and reviews, trying both brands in the court of public opinion, doling out blame and praise.

This is how reputations are broken and made in today’s connected world, and the extremity of this tragic emergency situation brought two factors into high relief for these two brands:

Culture and preparedness

“I don’t know about the prices. I just run the hotel. I don’t set the prices. Corporate sets the prices.”

This is how the manager of the Brand A hotel franchise location responded when questioned by a TV news reporter regarding alleged price gouging, set amid a backdrop of elders and families with small children unable to afford a room at 4x its normal rate.

“We are deeply troubled by these allegations as they in no way reflect our brand values. This hotel is franchised. We don’t manage inventory or rates.”

This is the official response from corporate issued to the news network, and while Brand A promised to investigate, the public impression was made that the buck was being passed back and forth between different entities while evacuees were in danger. Based on the significant response from social media, including non-guideline-compliant user reviews from people who had never even stayed at this hotel, corporate culture was being perceived as greedy rather than fair to an extreme degree. It’s important to note here that I didn’t encounter a single sentiment expressed by consumers expecting that the rooms at this hotel would be given away for free. It was the quadrupling of the price that brought public condemnation.

emergency3.jpg

Consumers are not privy to the creation of company policy. They aren’t able to puzzle out who made the decision to raise prices as this hotel, or at the many other hotels, gas stations, and stores in Florida which viewed an emergency as an opportunity for profit. Doubtless, the concept of supply and demand fuels this type of decision-making, but in an atmosphere lacking adequate transparency, the consumer is left with judging whether policy feels fair or unfair, and whether it aligns with their personal value system.

While we’ll likely never know the internal communications which led to this franchise location being cited by the public and investigated by the authorities for alleged price gouging, it is crystal clear that the corporate brand was not prepared in advance with a policy for times of emergency to be enacted by all franchisees. This, then, leaves the franchisee working within vague latitudes of allowable practices, which can result in long-lasting damage to the overall brand, coupled with damage to the local community being served. It’s a scenario of universal negativity and one that certainly can’t be made up for by a few days’ worth of increased profits.

You’ve likely noticed by now that I am specifically not naming this hotel. In the empathetic spirit of the carefully-crafted TAGFEE policy of Moz, my goal here is not to shame a particular business. Rather, it’s my hope that seeing the outcomes of policy will embolden companies to aim high in mirroring the value systems of consumers who reward fairness and generosity with genuine loyalty.

Ideally, I’d love to live in a world in which all businesses are motivated by concern for the common good, but barring this, I would at least like to demonstrate how generous policy is actually good policy and good business. Let’s turn our eyes to Brand B, which lit a beacon of hope in the midst of this recent disaster, as described in this excerpt from Wired:

“This was profound,” says Patrick Meier, a humanitarian technology expert who consults for the World Bank, the Australian Red Cross, and Facebook. “Airbnb changed its code order to allow people to rent out their place for zero dollars, because you could not do that otherwise.”

Innovation shines brightly in this account of Airbnb recognizing that communities around the world contain considerable resources of goodwill, which can then be amplified via technology.

The company has dedicated its own resources to developing an emergency response strategy, including the hire of a disaster response expert and an overhaul of the website’s code to enable free rentals. Thanks to the generosity of hosts who are willing open their doors to their fellow man in a time of trouble, Airbnb has been able to facilitate relief in more than twenty major global events since 2013. Of course, the best part of this is the lives that have been eased and even saved in times of trouble, but numerous industries should also pay attention to how Airbnb has benefitted from this exemplary outreach.

Here’s a quick sampling of the exceptionally favorable media coverage of the emergency response strategy:

emergency8.jpg

That is a set of national and local references any business would envy. And the comments on articles like this one show just how well the public has received Airbnb’s efforts:

emergency12.jpg

In utter marketing-ese, these consumers have not only been exposed or re-exposed to the Airbnb brand via the article, but have also just gained one new positive association with it. They are on the road to becoming potential brand advocates.

What I appreciate most about this scenario is that, in contrast to Brand A’s situation, this one features universal positivity in which all parties share in the goodwill, and that is literally priceless. And, by taking an organized approach to emergency preparedness and creating policy surrounding it, Airbnb can expect to receive ongoing appreciative notice for their efforts.

Room for hero brands, large and small

The EPA predicts a rise in extreme weather events in the United States due to climate change, including increases in the precipitation and wind of storms in some areas, and the spread of drought in others. Added to inevitable annual occurrences such as tornadoes, blizzards, and earthquakes, there are two questions every intelligent brand should be asking and answering internally right now: How can we help in the short term and how can we help in the long term?

Immediate relief

In the short term, your business can take a cue from Airbnb and discover available resources or develop new ones for providing help in a disaster. I noticed a Hurricane Matthew story in which a Papa John’s pizza deliverer helped a man in Nebraska get in touch with his grandmother in Florida whom he had been trying to reach for three anxious days. What if the pizza chain developed a new emergency preparedness policy from this human interest story, using their delivery fleet to reconnect loved ones… perhaps with a free pizza thrown into the bargain?

Or, there are restaurants with the ability to provide food or a percentage of profits to local food banks if they are lucky enough to still have electricity while their neighbors are less fortunate.

Maybe your company doesn’t have the resources of Everbridge, which has helped some 900+ counties and organizations communicate critical safety information in emergencies, but maybe your supermarket or the lobby of your legal practice can offer a free, warm, dry Wi-Fi hotspot to neighbors in an emergency.

In brief, if your business offers goods and services to your local community, create a plan for how, if you are fortunate enough to escape the worst effects of a disaster, you can share what you have with neighbors in need.

Long-term plans

According to Pew Research, 77% of Latin Americans, 60% of Europeans, 48% of the population of Asia and the Pacific, and 41% of the U.S. population are worried about the immediacy of the impacts of global warming. A global median of 51% indicates that climate change is affecting people right now.

From a business perspective, this means that the time for your brand to form and announce its plans for contributing to the climate solution is right now. Your efficient, green, and renewable energy practices, if made transparent, can do much to let the public know that not only will you be there for them in the short term in sudden emergencies, but that you are also doing your part to reduce future extreme weather events.

Whether your business model is green-based or you incorporate green practices into your existing brand, sharing what you are doing to be a good neighbor in both the short and long term can earn the genuine goodwill of the local communities you wish to serve.

Do something great

I often imagine the future unlived when I see brands making awkward or self-damaging decisions. I rub my forehead and squint my eyes, envisioning what they might have done differently.

Imagine if Brand A had implemented generosity. Imagine if, instead of raising its prices during that dreadful emergency, Brand A had offered a deep discount on its rooms to be sure that even the least fortunate community members had a secure place to stay during the hurricane. Imagine if they had opened up their lounges and lobbies and invited in homeless veterans for the night, granting them safety in exchange for their service. Imagine if they had warmly reached out to families, letting them know that cherished pets would be welcome during the storm, too.

Imagine the gratitude of those who had been helped.

Imagine the social media response, the links, the new stories, unstructured citations, reviews…

Yes, it might have been unprofitable monetarily. It might have even been mayhem. But it would have been great.

To me, firemen have always exemplified a species of greatness. In moments of extreme danger, they forget themselves and act for the good of others. Imagine putting a fireman’s heart at the heart of your brand, to be brought out during times of emergency. Why not bring it up at the next all-staff meeting? Brainstorm existing resources, develop new ones, write out a plan, make it a policy… Stand tall on the local business scene, stand up, be great!

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How to manage local listings for enterprise brands

Getting a handle on the data for multiple-location businesses can be a significant challenge. Columnist Brian Smith provides step-by-step guidelines to making it happen.

The post How to manage local listings for enterprise brands appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Brands Beat Generics

When markets are new they are unproven, thus they often have limited investment targeting them.

That in turn means it can be easy to win in new markets just by virtue of existing.

It wouldn’t be hard to rank well creating a blog today about the evolution of the 3D printing industry, or a how to site focused on Arduino or Raspberry Pi devices.

Couple a bit of passion with significant effort & limited competition and winning is quite easy.

Likewise in a small niche geographic market one can easily win with a generic, because the location acts as a market filter which limits competition.

But as markets age and become more proven, capital rushes in, which pushes out most of the generic unbranded players.

Back in 2011 I wrote about how Google had effectively killed the concept of category killer domains through the combination of ad displacement, vertical search & the algorithmic ranking shift moving away from relevancy toward awareness. 2 months before I wrote that post Walgreen Co. acquired Drugstore.com for about $ 429 million. At the time Drugstore.com was one of the top 10 biggest ecommerce pure plays.

Thursday Walgreens Boots announced it would shut down Drugstore.com & Beauty.com:

The company is still trying to fine tune its e-commerce strategy but clearly wants to focus more of its resources on one main site. “They want to make sure they can invest more of the equity in Walgreens.com,” said Brian Owens, a director at the consultancy Kantar Retail. “Drugstore.com and Beauty.com are distractions.”

Big brands can sometimes get coverage of “meh” content by virtue of being associated with a big brand, but when they buy out pure-play secondary e-commerce sites those often fail to gain traction and get shuttered:

Other retailers have picked up pure-play e-commerce sites, only to shut them down shortly thereafter. Target Corp. last year shuttered ChefsCatalog.com and Cooking.com, less than three years after buying them.

The lack of publishing savvy among most large retailers mean there will be a water cycle of opportunity which keeps re-appearing, however as the web gets more saturated many of these opportunities are going to become increasingly niche options riding new market trends.

If you invest in zero-sum markets there needs to be some point of differentiation to drive switching. There might be opportunity for a cooking.com or a drugstore.com targeting emerging and frontier markets where brands are under-represented online (much like launching Drugstore.com in the US back in 1999), but it is unlikely pure-play ecommerce sites will be able to win in established markets if they use generically descriptive domains which make building brand awareness and perceived differentiation next to impossible.

Target not only shut down cooking.com, but they didn’t even bother redirecting the domain name to an associated part of their website.

It is now listed for sale.

Many short & generic domain names are guaranteed to remain in a purgatory status.

  • The price point is typically far too high for a passionate hobbyist to buy them & attempt to turn them into something differentiated.
  • The names are too generic for a bigger company to do much with them as a secondary option
    • the search relevancy & social discovery algorithms are moving away from generic toward brand
    • retailers have to save their best ideas for their main branded site
    • the rise of cross-device tracking + ad retargeting further incentivize them to focus exclusively on a single bigger site)
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How to Find Your Brand’s Disruptive Opportunity

Posted by ronell-smith

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

In 2009, I wrote a magazine story about a Japanese lure company selling high-end fishing lures in the US for $ 20 to $ 50 each. With anglers buying the lures in droves, it was only a matter of time before competitors followed suit, creating carbon copies of the best sellers, which lead to a market frenzy the industry had never seen.

Months later, I interviewed the owner of the lure company everyone was copying. His comments were eye-opening and accurate.

“I don’t get it,” he said, referring to the competition. “I sell one million lures for $ 25. They sell 10 to 15 million lures for $ 5 to $ 10. I should be copying them.”

Basic math highlights the truth of his words: $ 25 million < $ 50 million–$ 150 million.

A good idea doesn’t mean good for your brand

What looked like an idea — selling more expensive products to eager buyers — sufficed as a blinder to what would become an amazing opportunity: finding a way to sell more low-cost lures.

For those of us involved in content marketing, we’re used to scenarios like these. Right?

The competition does something cool or interesting or that gets links, likes, or conversions, and we lose our minds in an attempt to copy them, even if it makes zero sense for us to do so.

Buzzfeed, anyone?

Sure, list posts can be and have been effective, but other than throwing some traffic your way, for most businesses the long-term value simply isn’t there.

But we live in a monkey-see, monkey-do world, so whatever the competition does, we attempt to do it better.

Never mind the fact that (a) we don’t really know how successful they are, or (b) how successful attempting the same tactics will prove for us.

Most important, because our resources are limited, we don’t often see how choosing to chase others’ ideas means we typically cannot adequately focus on the opportunities right in front of us.

Opportunities > ideas

At Mozcon 2015, the word “disruption” kept being spoken by speakers on stage. In fact, a prominent theme of Rand’s opening talk was how a number of prominent brands were willing to disrupt themselves:

  • Facebook: The brand’s Little Red Book, given to all employees, contains many useful, guiding tidbits, among them, “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.”
  • Microsoft: After years of openly expressing contempt for Linux, the brand is welcoming working with the open-source outsider.

And as someone who was fortunate enough to stumble onto disruption (correctly called disruptive innovation) after college, hearing Rand talk about this theory made me very proud.

Problem is, what these businesses he described are doing is not really disruption.

In a strict business sense, the examples he shared are known as a pivot, where businesses re-imagine (or refashion) themselves and/or their assets in an entirely different light, as a way to grow, ward off competitors, solve big problems or grow their audience.

What is disruption?

Disruption is something far more significant, especially for brands looking to set themselves apart in competitive markets.

Coined by current Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his 1996 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,” innovative disruption refers to the transformation of a product or a service in such a way that it makes it more affordable and more accessible to a wider audience.

These products start at the bottom, catering to a market that cannot afford the more expensive (and more popular) option. But, as in the case of the lure companies, by focusing on the bottom of the market, there is less competition and greater numbers who can afford the product.

One of the most prominent and most vivid examples of disruptive innovation is how smartphones disrupted the laptop market, which in the 1980s disrupted the desktop market, which itself disrupted the mainframe computer.

Disruptors enter the market at the bottom, where people or industries are being underserved, which is a result of the major players in a vertical choosing to go upstream and over-serve the market, often through added features and benefits people cannot use and don’t need.

But while they continue to cater to the high end of the market, disruptors slide in and gobble up market share at the bottom, before moving upstream to challenge their biggest competitors as the former’s products or services improve in quality, grow in popularity, and suffice as a viable option for even those with more discerning taste.

Why should content marketers care?

For those of you wondering what any of this has to do with content marketing, I say “plenty.” Think about the biggest challenges currently weighing down content marketing, beginning with brands…

  • Laboring to create engaging content
  • Failing to to understand their audience and their needs
  • Lacking clarity on which metrics to use in determining the success of their marketing efforts

I’m convinced this occurs because brands are too focused on better serving audiences they neither own nor enjoy the full support of, instead of looking for the next opportunity on the horizon. Or they’re too focused on ideas, instead of opportunities.

Finding your brand’s disruptive opportunity means you’re not competing in the same sandbox as everyone else, which means your chances of dominating the category are much, much higher.

Brands making it work

When Facebook announced 2G Tuesdays, whereby it asks some of its employees to use their brand’s apps over a slower 2G connection, it was billed as an opportunity for the company to see the challenges people in the developing world have when using their products.

Maybe.

That’s probably only part of the story. It’s just as likely that the company, which has nearly one billion active users, is looking at what additional services it can offer people in developing countries. It’s a good bet that, to garner interest from the other 6.4 billion people on earth, the service they offer won’t look anything like the Facebook we now know and (mostly) love.

Or what about Wavestorm, a company which sells surfboards for $ 99.99 and are offered exclusively at discount warehouse Costco? The company entered the bottom of the market, where surfboards regularly cost $ 300 to $ 1,000 or more. Even the brand’s owner is not shy in saying that he realizes the folks who can only pay $ 99 today will likely be willing to spend far more in the future.

Is your brand ready to find its disruptive opportunity?

Seize your brand’s disruptive opportunity

The beginning is always the most painful part, and this exercise will be no different. Begin by pulling the marketing team together for a brainstorming session.

Then throw two ideas on the table:

  1. What are the verticals where a large portion of the audience is underserved?
  2. What are we uniquely qualified to offer at least one of these markets that the competition would have a hard time beating us on?

Here’s the kicker: You cannot limit yourself to any specific vertical.

To many of you, the idea will sound crazy at first. That is, until you re-read the questions and see that what you’re really asked to do is think of where you should be looking for growth, expanded opportunities that you maybe have not and would not otherwise look for.

When I talk to brands, what I frequently hear is that they have maxed out in a market, lack the skilled staff to compete in their vertical, or are no longer able to connect with the audience in a meaningful way.

As tastes have changed, these brands have not been able to keep up.

So instead of playing catch-up, my suggestion is to slowly but surely start charting a new path, one where the territory is fertile (i.e., lots of opportunities) and the competition is not entrenched.

Don’t let fear get in your way.

Maybe you’re an agency sick of losing clients. You could take options off the table, offering only those services that you’ve determined, during the discovery process, will benefit the client. Any prospect who wants to cherry-pick services would have to look elsewhere.

How is this disruptive? The vast majority of agencies offer a smorgasbord of services, many of which they do poorly, while many others specialize in areas where they have deep expertise. The sweet spot is often in the middle, where you identify needs but only take on the most glaring of those needs, or very specific needs, which could move the business forward. (The management consulting field is currently being disrupted in similar fashion.)

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of disruption at work.

Disruption in action

When I first encountered strength coaches Dean Somerset and Tony Gentilcore, they were both making a name for themselves as bloggers and trainers in Canada and Boston, respectively. Fast forward seven years, and they are now two of the most well-known, most-sought-after young experts in the field.

While most trainers go after the largest piece of the pie — fat loss clients — they’ve focused on helping folks to move better (i.e., mobility) rather than just look better, which means clients can enjoy their newfound size and weight. Also, they spend a considerable amount of time traveling the US, Canada and Europe, teaching other strength coaches how to be better at their jobs.

One of my favorite examples of a small brand that’s taken up the challenge to disrupt a sector is Boston-based Wistia, the video-hosting company that makes it easier for businesses to add their videos to the web.

The brand was founded in 2006, which is significant because video-hosting juggernaut YouTube came to fruition in 2005.

You might ask yourself, “What were [Wistia] thinking?” One word: Opportunity.

Where others saw a dominant player owning a category, they saw a dominant player opening a category so wide that others had room to thrive.

(Not shown to scale, of course)

“We had an opportunity to go deeper on one segment of this market and create specialized features that YouTube would never build as a broad-based platform,” says Wistia co-founder and CEO Chris Savage.

So while YouTube focuses on being everything to everyone, Wistia has singled out a lucrative, largely ignored piece of the pie they can own and dominate.

Next steps

Let me be emphatic: I have no expectation that businesses will read this post, then dramatically reshape their products, product lines, or services overnight. The point of this article is to make it clear that opportunities are all around, and the more open we are to these opportunities, the more we’ll increase our chances of continued success and limit the number of missed opportunities.

In the end, the lure companies chasing the Japanese brands realized their error too late: The category is now dominated by low-cost alternatives that cost a fraction of the price of the originals.

If only one the copycats had looked more closely at the numbers, they could have seen the opportunity ahead.

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Brands That Won (and Lost) Google in 2015

Posted by Dr-Pete

As part of the MozCast 10K (a 10,000-keyword daily Google tracker), we keep a close eye on the domains with the most page-one Google real-estate. As of December 1st, these were the “Big 10″:

“Share” represents the percentage of total results each domain has across the entire data set. Of course, absolute rankings can vary a lot depending on the data set, but what’s more interesting is how any given brand moves over time.

We watch day-to-day movements closely as search marketers, and often track winners and losers when Google announces a big update, but I thought it would be interesting to take the long-term view. Who are the brands who won and lost the most Google real estate in the past year? All of the data from this post is from the MozCast 10K and spans December 1, 2014–December 1, 2015.

Biggest winners in 2015

If we look at absolute gains in total page-one Google real estate, the winners are in the table below. The “Rank” columns shows their current position in the Top 100:

Online retail giant Amazon.com held tight to the #2 position in our data set, making the biggest overall gain. Etsy made impressive gains, jumping from the #81 spot at the end of 2014 to the #31 spot on December 1st, 2015. Even with its financial woes, Groupon performed solidly on Google, moving from the #87 spot to #40. Instagram jumped from outside of the Top 100 entirely (#141) to #57.

It’s interesting to note that two of the biggest gains in 2015 were for Google properties, YouTube and Google Play. YouTube moved from #5 to #4, and Google Play came in just shy of the Top 10 at #12. YouTube gains don’t count growth in Video Cards, large video links which dominate some Google results. Here’s an example Video Card from a search for “chandelier”:

The numbers in the chart above may seem small, but keep in mind that there’s only a 0.01% difference in total Google real-estate between #9 and #10 in the overall “Big 10.” A tenth-of-a-percent represents massive land holdings in the world of page-one results.

Most improved in 2015

Another way to slice-and-dice winners in 2015 is to look at sites with the biggest relative gains. In other words, who improved the most relative to their position in 2014? Here are the Top 10 Most Improved:

Six of these are repeats from the overall winners list, but looking at relative changes, Etsy’s and Instagram’s gains are even more impressive. Both sites more than doubled their page-one Google real estate in our data set, with Etsy seeing gains of over 150%.

Biggest losers in 2015

Google real estate is limited, and for every winner there ultimately has to be one or more losers. These are the sites that took the heaviest absolute losses in our data set:

Social media giant Twitter was the big loser in 2015, falling out of the Top 10, from #6 in 2014 to #15 at the end of 2015. This “loss” may be deceptive, however, as Google and Twitter struck a deal in August of this year to display Tweets directly in search results. Here’s an example, from a branded search for “Etsy”:

Tweets are now a true Google vertical result, occupying an organic position and appearing in almost 6% of the searches that we track. Fellow social media site, Pinterest, also lost ground in 2015, after nearly breaking into the Top 10 (they were #11 in 2014). Unfortunately for Pinterest, their losses weren’t offset by a sweetheart deal with Google.

Google-dominating Wikipedia showed a weak spot in their armor this year, losing twice the ground that #2 Amazon gained. Wikipedia took some losses early in 2015, and then ran into more trouble with their mid-year switch to a secure (https:) site.

Online auction site and aspiring retailer eBay added to their troubles in 2015, dropping out of the Top 10 from #9 to #17. eBay took heavy losses in May of 2014, but then partially recovered going into the beginning of 2015. As of December 1st, all of those short-term gains have disappeared in our data set.

Yelp gave up its #4 position in 2015 to YouTube, and seemed to suffer from some of Google’s local changes this year. Retailers Walmart and Overstock also saw year-over-year losses, as did online answer site wikiHow.

An oddly dominant site in 2014, the NIH’s National Library of Medicine site dropped from #17 to #20. Their presence may be the result of a high number of medical queries in our data set, and was probably impacted by a handful of niche Google updates, including the launch of the Medical Knowledge Panel, such as this one for “type 2 diabetes”:

On the bright side, it looks like the Tax Man took a hit in 2015, with the IRS dropping from #19 to #27. While it seems odd that two government (.gov) sites hit our list of losers, I suspect this was coincidental.

The envelope, please…

While Amazon’s continued dominance is impressive, and Wikipedia’s tumble from grace is certainly worth noting, I think the big story this year is Etsy. In addition to taking the #2 spot in total gains, they more than doubled their 2014 Google page-one real estate and rocketed from the #81 overall position in our data set to #31. Etsy and other niche online retailers will be the ones to watch in 2016.

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Why Meaning Will Ultimately Determine Your Brand’s Content Marketing Success

Posted by ronell-smith

In 2009 Fletcher Cleaves was a top high school football prospect ready for the next level, eager to do in college what he’d done in high school: rack up yards as a running back. But before Cleaves could realize his dream of playing at the next level, a texting, distracted driver plowed into the car he was driving, forever changing his life’s trajectory.

Today, Cleaves, paralyzed from the chest down as a result of the accident, serves as a tragic reminder of something as seemingly harmless as texting and driving can alter lives. It’s impossible to watch the video below and not immediately realize three important facts:

  1. Texting and driving is a big deal.
  2. This young man was unfairly robbed of his future.
  3. This big brand nailed the messaging.

Telecommunications brands (and airline companies) enjoy some of the worst customer service ratings on the planet. And to make matters worse, their core messaging via print, radio and online ads is equally atrocious, doing very little to make would-be customers give them a second look.

However, with the latest iteration of the “It Can Wait” campaign, which is rich with stories and features stunning video recreation, AT&T did something all brands looking to make a mark in content marketing should copy: They delivered content with meaning.

The end of utility

We live in a world rich in information and teeming with data. The ability to analyze the results of our content marketing efforts, even in real-time, is as astonishing as it is mesmerizing and revealing. Our teams can know, before a word is written, a design delivered or a report is generated what the results should be based on the assigned key performance indicators (KPIs). The automation present in online marketing can make it feel as though the world we inhabit is more fantasy than reality, as if the press of a button will always lead to the results we expect.

Yet we still struggle with how to create content that commands attention, that nudges prospects to take immediate action, that leads to the vast majority of our customers moving from brand loyalists to brand ambassadors and advocates.

Why is this?

I propose that we’ve misread the tea leaves.

In the last three years, marketers (even this one) have sung from the rooftops that your content must be useful and relevant, have immediacy, and deliver impact. And if you followed this advice, you likely found a modicum of success, if only for a short time.

How could we expect any different when the customers we’re all clamoring for are being bombarded with thousands of messages every day? When that happens, even the most resonant voices get drowned out. And for those of us who’ve thrown our hats into the usefulness and relevance ring, we’ve largely committed ourselves to a life of struggle that’s tough to recover from.

This line of thinking occurred to me in July of 2014, as I finished Jay Baer’s book Youtility during the plane ride home from MozCon 2014. I agree with and applaud Baer for bringing to light the novel term, which he defines as “Marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”

But I’m afraid this ship has largely sailed. Not because usefulness is any less importance, but because the threshold was so low that every brand and their sister jumped online via websites, social media, forums, message boards and everywhere else with information that temporarily sated prospects’ appetites but did little to create a lasting impression.

If your desire is to create a brand whose content is sought-after and, indeed, clamored for, you must bake meaning into your content.

Without meaning, your brand’s content is adrift

Like many of you, most of my early content-creation efforts were centered around pleasing Google, whereby my inspiration was for thinking in terms of queries:

1: Informational: Where prospects are likely to look for information

2: Navigational: What prospects are likely to be looking for on those sites

3: Transactional: What prospects are ready/likely to buy

The result of this thinking (outlined in the graphic below) was the myriad 350-word posts that now clog the web.

There’s a better way.

It’s time your content led with meaning, and that process begins with a revamping of the thought process surrounding content ideation and content creation. Why is that important?

We cannot win otherwise, says Bill Sebald, founder of Greenlane SEO, a Pennsylvania-based SEO firm.

“Think about it,” he says. “Many brands are still writing low-quality articles that deliver little value and have zero impact to their customers or prospects. That’s bad enough, but when you consider the prevalence of these thin content pieces, is there any wonder how the Panda Update evokes fear in these same brands? Being useful is great. It can and does work fine, for a while. But what you want as a brand is lasting impact, people seeking you out, top-of-mind awareness. As it regards content marketing, that only happens when your brand is known for delivering content with meaning, which sticks in the gut of the folks who read it.”

(image source)

In All Your Content Doesn’t Matter Without Meaning, Sebald shared five easy-to-follow questions he thinks brands should ask themselves as they work to create content with meaning:

  • Did I say anything new?
  • Did I say something that will get someone’s attention?
  • Is the content part of a strategy?
  • Am I really an expert in this topic?
  • Did my copy focus on relationships Google knows about?

Any brand committed to asking themselves at least three of those questions before any content is created is swimming in the deep end of the pool, having moved away from the pack and on the way to delivering meaningful content.

After reading Sebald’s post, I dug into my notes to discern what I think it takes to win the race for content marketings next frontier.

If your brand is looking to separate from the back, I’d like to share three ideas I’ve seen work well for brands of all sizes, even in boring verticals, such as HVAC and plumbing.

1. Be where your prospects are, at the time they need your information, with a message so good they cannot ignore you.

As a lifelong angler, I’m keen to compare marketing to bass fishing, whereby bait and location are pretty much all that matters. Or so I thought, until one day I got my hands on an underwater camera and could see fish swimming all around my lure, which they ignored.

(image source)

That’s when I realized bait and location are only as good as timing.

No matter how great the quality of my tackle or how well-placed was my lure, the fish must be ready to bite for me to find success.

How your brand can put this thinking to work: Personalize your company’s blog by adding bi-weekly or monthly interviews with people who’ve used your services/products, and who can share information that’s hyper-relevant to issues prospects are likely dealing with at the time.

For example, in the month of October a pool company might highlight a customer who maintains their own pool but who hires a pool company for winterization help. Or, in the same month, an accountant might share a video blog of a couple who owns a small business and does a great job of staying on top of expenses.

You might notice that I never said the person spotlighted mentions the brand or even uses them for service. That’s immaterial. What’s key is (a) the person shares a compelling story that’s (b) delivered on your blog and (c) is information they can use right away for where they are in the decision-making process. (It’s important that the content not appear salesy because too often the prospects who’re most likely to need your services aren’t even looking for those services. They’re simply suckers for a good story.)

2. Make them feel confident about what the brand stands for, not simply the purchase they might someday make.

One of my favorite words from college is ubiquity. Get to know this word if your brand is to produce meaningful content. Your brand should show up in all the places and for all the things prospects would expect to find you ranking for, conversing about and, more important, being shared by others for.

To instill your content with meaning, it must show up in places and for things prospects likely would expect to find it showing up for. This isn’t simply about ubiquity. It shows empathy.

A brand that does this better than most is Seattle-based REI. It’s amazing the range of terms they rank highly for. If they sell it, there’s a great chance REI shows up somewhere in or near the top of the SERPs for the category.

For example, I simply typed “snow goggles” into the search box, and voila, look who shows up. Also, look who they show up above. Better yet, imagine all of the large eyewear brands they’re outcompeting for this position.

By clicking on the query, you immediately see why they’re at the top of the SERPS: The content is rich in visuals and answers every question a prospect would ever have surrounding snow goggles.

I discovered the strength of REI’s content ideation and creation efforts in 2013, while completing a content strategy roadmap for one of the largest two-way radio manufacturers in the world.

Despite the brand’s heft, REI was always ahead of them in the SERPs, with social shares, in online conversations, etc.

When I visited with Jonathon Colman, formerly the in-house SEO for REI, at Facebook headquarters in

San Francisco, I understood why REI had content ubiquity: “From the start, they did something right that continues to [work in their favor],” says Colman, who works for Facebook in the areas of product user experience and content strategy. “They simply focused on creating and sharing the best content for their users, not on marketing.”

Those words resonated with me, as they should with you.

How your brand can put this thinking to work

Stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a customer. I’ve written before about keeping and sharing a document that lists the questions and comments prospects and customers share during calls, on social media and via any any other platforms used to capture customer sentiment.

This document could form the basis for content that’s written and shared by your marketing team. However, your brand must go farther to deliver meaning through it’s content.

An approach I’ve recommended to clients and seen good success with works as follows:

  • Focus on creating one big piece of content per month: This pulls your team away from thinking about creating content for content’s sake. It also ensures that the team is able to marshal its resources to research, design, and create content with meaning. The goal with each big content piece is to answer every reasonable question and/or objection a prospect might have before doing business with you. For example, an SEO agency might, in month one, create a big content piece titled “How Small Companies Can Win With Personalized Content,” detailing in depth how becoming a popular local expert can earn the brand links, gain press attention and increase overall business. In month two, the same agency might go all-in on a post titled “How Your Mom and Pop Shop Can Beat the Big Guys,” whereby they outline an actionable plan for how to smartly use their blog, one social media platform and a small PPC budget to generate awareness, site visits, links and earned media. Prospects are likely to see the agency as the one to help get them over the hump.
  • Ignore the competition: Instead of checking the SERPs to see what’s ranking highest for content in your vertical on the topic you wish to create, look at the content that’s being shared outside your area by brands that have no relation to your vertical. You cannot win long-term by copying a strategy that your competition is better equipped to deploy, so don’t emulate them. Look at what non-competing brands are doing to deliver meaningful content. It could be a TV show, even, which you study for how characters are developed. Think of the regional car dealerships who grew to be household names in the late ’90s by delivering sitcom-style commercials and ads based off popular TV shows that meant something to the audience. Your brand can find similar inspiration by looking outside your area.
  • Make consistency a mainstay: REI wins at content marketing in large part because the brand is consistent. No matter where you find their content, it’s thorough and deserving of its place in the pantheon of content marketers. Don’t simply pour your heart into the big content piece, then allow everything else to fall by the wayside. Your brand must imbue every area, all departments and any content shared with meaning. This effort takes shape as the development, design and product teams placing users in the driver’s seat early on in the process; the marketing team only sharing information that, first and foremost, addresses the needs of the audience; the customer service team creating customer happiness, not quashing complaints; and sales team members frequently checking on prospects, even when no sale is imminent.

The goal here is to, as the saying goes, be so good they cannot ignore you.

3. Help your customers become the best versions of themselves

It’s likely you’ve seen the graphic below online before, maybe even on the Buffer Blog, which is where I found it. The image expertly sums up where I think the brands who ultimately win at content marketing will have to go: Turning away from their own interests and keying in on how the brand can better enable the customer to (a) better do what they endeavor to do and (b) become a version of themselves they never imagined possible.

(image source)

Sound far-fetched? Imagine the car commercials showing an average Joe who is all of a sudden a handsome hero admired by beautiful passersby because of his new wheels.

Your brand can become the means-something-to-prospects darling of its industry, too, with the adoption of three simple steps applied with conviction:

  1. Personalization — Develop people (at least one, but a few would be even better) in your company who can become the public face of the brand, who make it easier for prospects to form a connection with the company and more likely that content is shared and amplified more frequently as their popularity increases.
  2. Become a helper, not a hero Stop thinking that your content or your product or your service needs to be life-changing to get the attention of prospects. They desire to be the heroes and sheroes of their own journey; they simply need an assist from you to create a lasting bond they won’t soon forget about.
  3. Make users’ stories a core of your marketing efforts — Let’s get this straight: No one gives a damn about your story. Your brand’s story only becomes relevant when prospects have been made to feel important, special by you then desire to explore further the meaning behind the brands. How do you accomplish that task? By integrating the stories of customers into your marketing efforts.

How your brand can put this thinking to work

The importance of using an engaging personality to deliver meaning for your content cannot be overstated. In fact, it’s likely the shortest path to winning attention and garnering success.

I’ll use Canadian personal trainer Dean Somerset as an example. I discovered Somerset a few years ago when he dropped a few helpful knowledge bombs in the comments of a fitness blog I was reading. I then found a link to his blog, which I have now become a religious follower of. Over the years, we’ve traded numerous emails, interacted myriad times via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and I’ve even hired him for training assessments.

Why?

Aside from being brilliant, he’s a goofball who takes his work, not himself, too seriously.


(image source)

But most important, the core of every post he creates or video he shares or every Facebook Q&A he offers is helping others become better at physical health and physical fitness than they ever imagined they could.

The result is that, in a relatively short time span, Somerset has become one of the top young minds in the fitness industry, in no small part because he creates heroes with nearly every piece of content he shares. (If you doubt me, watch the video below.)

Don’t think for a second that your brand can’t do the same:

  • Look for members on your team who have personality and who are uniquely qualified to create content (e.g., video, text, SlideShare, etc.) on topics readers care about. Empower them to share, converse and engage around this content, whether locally (e.g., Meetups) nationally (e.g., conferences) or online (e.g., blogs, social media, etc.).
  • The script these experts must work from, for everything they share, should begin with the question, “How can this [blog, video, etc.] help at least one person do something better tomorrow that they cannot yet do today?” Answer this question, and you won’t simply create meaning for your content, you’ll create meaning, relevance and top-of-mind awareness for the brand as well.

It’s hard for a brand to escape being successful if this mindset is ever-present.

The last area we’ll look at is storytelling, which is very popular in content marketing. And almost no one gets it right.

Yes, people do love stories. They eat them up, especially compelling, heart-wrenching stories or, even better, tales of tremendous uplift.

However, people are not interested in your brand’s story — at least not yet.

The only story brands should be telling are those of their users. The brands who have realized this are leaving the brand storytellers in the dust, while turning up the dial on meaning and significance to the audience.

A great example is Patagonia and their Worn Wear video series. Instead of creating ads showcasing the durability of their products, they filmed actual customers who’ve been using the same Patagonia products for years and who wouldn’t trade the brand’s products for those of any other company.

These are rabid fans, loyal to the nth degree.

Don’t drink the brand storytelling Kool-Aid. Tell the stories of your users.

Identify a handful of ardent fans of your product or service, then reach out to them via phone to ask if they’d mind being part of a short-video series you’re doing to showcase people and brands doing great things. (I mentioned a similar approach earlier, which is ideal for the smallest companies. I think this effort plays into a much broader strategy for larger brands.)

Depending on your budget and their location, you could either have a small camera crew visit their office or walk them through how to shoot what you need on their mobile devices. You could also provide them with a script.

Here’s the kicker: During the video, they are not allowed to talk about your brand, product or service in any way shape or form.

The goal is to get video of them going about their day, at home and at work, as they share what makes them tick, what’s important to them, who they are and why they do what they do.

This is their story, remember? And as such, your brand is a bit player, not a/the star. Also, the lack of a mention washes away any suspicion viewers might have of your brand’s motives. Most important, however, you get a real, authentic success story on your website and domain, so the implication is that your brand was a helper in this heroic journey.

If this post accomplishes anything, my wish is that it makes clear how necessary and how realistic it is for your brand to create meaningful content.

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