Content marketing – applying the principle of ‘form follows function’ to deliver great customer experience

Content really is the BUZZ word of the moment when it comes to digital marketing. Everyone from PR to search to social marketers are talking about how high quality, relevant and timely content is fast becoming the only way of truly gaining exposure and driving engagement online.

Whilst I couldn’t agree more with this I do think there are rather large variations in the meaning of and use of “content”.

To me “content” is any form of media that serves a purpose.  I attended a brilliant talk by Dave Trott at BrightonSEO a few weeks ago and he was talking about the Bauhaus theory of ‘form follows function’ (the principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose).

Content for content’s sake

Dave Trott’s words really rung true with me and couldn’t be more applicable to digital. This is because of the range of different marketers creating content to suit their purposes. Online PR folk are talking about creating content to engage bloggers, usability experts want to create content that helps convert, search marketers want to create content that will attract links, social marketers want to create applications to drive engagement and so on.

With all of this content being created and no doubt serving a purpose for those individual marketing threads I can’t help thinking we are going to end up with a smorgasbord of content for each brand that all tells a slightly different story and makes the customer experience with the brand a little disjointed.

Shouldn’t we all be working together to create threads of content with the customer experience in mind? Shouldn’t the function be to provide the ultimate experience for the customer rather than more granular objectives of “get more links”, “likes”, “conversions”, etc.

Finding the content sweet spot

If we work on truly understanding the customer; their values, needs, requirements and expectations of both the brand itself AND of a good shopping experience then we can use that data to find the content “sweet spots” that communicate the brand story and engage the customer on every level. This theme of content and messaging can then be adapted to suit specific channels, forms, mediums and purposes. With the customer at the heart of content planning and execution you will be more likely to create content that they want to absorb, interact with or engage with at each stage of their buying journey.

Having an effective content strategy that comes from the point of view of the customer first AND THEN the specific marketing functions will create a far stronger brand experience which is reinforced at each touch point.

It is crucial that ALL content stakeholders work to a central plan of themes and messaging that can be adapted to suit specific requirements. One theme of content can cascade out into multiple forms that increases conversion rates, shares, traffic and so on BUT first and foremost engage the customer with the brand and its values.

This sentiment is echoed in an article in a recent “Marketing” magazine where Alan Mitchell argues that consumer service is trumping traditional advertising (subscription only link). He cited a recent Volkswagen GTI launch in the USA where advertising, in its traditional sense, was cast aside. Instead, a racing game app drove an 80% leap in leads, test-drives and quote requests. Yes, this was a piece of great content but what VW did first was to ensure it was interesting and, more importantly, useful to the customer.

The original piece of content was then cascaded out by the customer through social channels, gained exposure via PR and probably a whole load of links to the VW website too.

Form followed function.

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