Content Lessons From Three Brands That Kept Their Brand Promise (and Three That Didn’t)

Share

Content marketing has the power to help companies articulate and communicate the brand promise—which goes beyond a corporate mission statement. Marketers can craft content that shows what they really stand for.

“The promise of content marketing is that we can directly connect to our customers,” says Ann Handley, chief content officer for MarketingProfs. “Customers don’t want to hear about what you do; they want to hear about what you can do for them. The smartest brands are aligning their content to something greater than themselves.”

A brand that has expertly demonstrated brand promise over the years is Subway. The website is full of content—mainly health advice, fitness tips, and meal suggestions from expert trainers, doctors, and dieticians—none of which advertises Subway in any way (and which sometimes even advises making your own meals at home). In addition, the brand sponsors shows, such as The Biggest Loser, and events like the American Heart Association Heart Walk.

All together, this content builds a picture of what Subway’s true brand promise is—helping you live a healthier life. There’s no mission statement telling you so; the story is told through the content. However, some brands find understanding the line between content that demonstrates the brand promise and advertising difficult.

“We are classically trained as marketers to describe value. We look at a product or service, and we can come up with very clever ways to talk about features and benefits to convince you that this product is great,” says Robert Rose, chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute. “But we’re not very good at creating original value. What we often get is a mishmash, where brands try to sprinkle a little bit of sales into informative content and end up with something that just feels like a watered-down ad. It doesn’t feel valuable to consumers nor does it enhance the brand’s story.”

Before any brand can create meaningful content that also lives and promotes the brand promise, they have to ask some hard questions.

“You have to understand who all of these buyers are and what their pain points are,” says Steve Farnsworth, content marketing strategist for B2B High Tech at the Steveology Group. “You have to ask, ‘Who are these people and why do they care?'”

Rose concurs adding, “Who is it we are trying to move? Who is our audience? What value will they get from this? How will they be better off after having received it?”

Here are some brands that have hit the right note in creating content that advances the brand promise and some that may need to go back to the drawing board.

Hit: LinkedIn

“Five years ago, LinkedIn was just a digital rolodex,” Handley says. “It was only a resource for people looking for a job. Increasingly, they’ve done a great job of telling their story. LinkedIn is now for anyone who has ambition.”

LinkedIn has changed its image through aggressive recruitment of talent for the LinkedIn Influencers program. The program provides a platform for thought leaders like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Guy Kawasaki to share their thoughts regularly with LinkedIn’s far-reaching community.

The LinkedIn Influencers program not only allows LinkedIn users the opportunity to follow their favorite influencers, it also cements an image of LinkedIn as a place for those who have ambition. The posts are not all career-related—they may be inspirational works, interesting stories, or life hacks—but they all show LinkedIn as a place where innovators go.

Handley also notes a LinkedIn slideshow telling the story of Matt Henshaw, a musician who uses LinkedIn to get music gigs.

“It underscores their mission to support anyone who has ambition, whether it’s a salesperson finding customers or a musician booking new gigs,” she says. “They are telling a bigger story by broadening their own story.”

Miss: Facebook Stories

Facebook was on the right path with Facebook Stories—envisioned as a content marketing platform, similar to LinkedIn’s efforts, which would feature stories of “people using Facebook in extraordinary ways.”

However, the platform has not really taken off as planned. “These stories range in topic and style so vastly that it is impossible to discern what end (if any) the site serves—and this problem shows in the search engine rankings,” writes Mike Straus. “Facebook’s main site is the second most-visited website in the world, with 15 daily pageviews per visitor. At the time of writing (August 5, 2014), Facebook Stories’ global traffic rank is 178,227 with less than two daily pageviews per visitor.”

While Facebook is trying to create value around the brand promise of keeping people connected, Facebook Stories is too focused on the product itself. LinkedIn Influencers don’t only write about LinkedIn, but Facebook requires users to describe how Facebook makes life better.

Furthermore, the stories lack a sense of focus, ranging from family stories to business advice, so who the target audience is (everybody perhaps?) is unclear. The content cannot be filtered based on interests—it’s all in one jumbled pot—making it very difficult for users to connect to content that interests them.

“Facebook’s lack of focus has hindered the Facebook Stories project, and it demonstrates why good content marketing serves a larger goal beyond simply creating content,” Straus says.  “In order to leverage the power of content marketing, businesses must maintain a focused content policy. The best content marketing plans contain concrete goals and a well-defined list of topics.”

Hit: Marketo

Marketo is a B2B marketing automation solution that is knocking content marketing out of the park.

“Go to their website and you will find that some of the best, cutting-edge information is readily available,” says Farnsworth. “They have e-books, guides, videos—all of the elements and education about the individual pieces of managing a lead. This content is not about their software at all, it’s about really good marketing elements to help companies move that lead along. I like what they do a lot.”

All that content reflects Marketo’s brand promise to help you become a better inbound marketer. The content helps users learn best practices for marketing, whether they use Marketo. However, thanks to well thought out content, when users think inbound marketing, they will think of Marketo as an expert resource.

Miss: Dell

Dell’s native advertising in the New York Times has been a target of much derision. A January piece titled “Will Millennials Ever Completely Shun the Office?” was cited by blogger Dan Shewan as being among the worst examples of content.

“Not only is the agenda of this piece completely transparent from the outset, the ‘Millennial work ethic’ angle is so tired it’s practically comatose,” writes Shewan. “Even the question posed by the article is ridiculous—no, Millennials will not ‘shun’ offices, because most of them are saddled with back-breaking student loan debt and can’t find work. Oh, but if they do choose to shun the office, they can always use Dell hardware to telecommute, right?”

Ultimately, those pieces of content don’t tell you anything about what Dell is about as a brand. Is it a hip brand for Millennials? Are the stories about rethinking the way you work?  Dell’s other native advertising posts have been removed from the New York Times, perhaps a sign that the content was not providing benefits to the brand or consumers.

Hit: Lego

Only when a brand gets out of its own way and creates a product or value distinct of the service can they engage the customer and differentiate value. This value doesn’t have to come in the form of an article, even feature-length films can convey brand purpose without

“The Lego Movie is such a great example of this,” Rose says. “I go to The Lego Movie not because it’s Lego; I go to The Lego Movie because it’s a great story, it’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s going to make me laugh and it’s going my kid happy. But ultimately, it’s going to lead me back to the Lego brand because they made me happy and made my kids happy and sparked my imagination. I can insert a business purpose into it. I just can’t insert the business into it.”

Lego’s film is a stellar example of content that lives the brand promise—a promise of fun, imagination and creativity.

Miss: McDonald’s

McDonald’s Moms’ Quality Correspondents shows what happens when brands try to mix marketing into content, creating something that is too commercial to be seen as useful or authentic.

One article about how McDonald’s procures its McCafé coffee could have been an interesting example of how coffee comes from field to cup. However, it is loaded with inauthentic lines such as “As part of the Moms’ Quality Correspondents program in the last two years, I have come to expect McDonald’s to require above-industry standards from its suppliers. The McCafé line of beverages was no exception.”

We’re supposed to believe that an everyday mom, and not someone in McDonald’s PR department, wrote this? Also, it seems odd that a brand famous for serving things like “pink slime” requires “above-industry standards from its suppliers.”

Another “mom” asserts that the Happy Meal toy is “very much part of the chain’s family dining concept where the time spent eating with the family is deemed to be an important part of the experience.” What they don’t explain, however, is how a plastic toy contributes to a family experience.

“McDonald’s thing for a long time was that people come to McDonald’s as families to hang out and have food together, and that was a very valid brand promise,” Farnsworth says.

McDonald’s now seems to be in an identity crisis… Is it a coffeehouse? Is it a place where you get healthy food? Is it a place where you get food for a dollar? This lack of self-awareness leads to content like the McDonald’s Moms’ Quality Correspondents.

“Who thought this stuff was important to parents?” Farnsworth asks. “It shows a complete disregard…for the consumer and a strong desire to check a task off of a list and move on—we wrote about how educational our toys are, box checked, job done. There is not one piece of content actually capturing parents’ concerns.”

How You Can Make Content That Connects

The key to making content that lives your brand promise lies first in understanding your brand, boiling it down to its core essence. After that happens, you can understand your customer and how your brand promise connects to them.

“All of these examples are about articulating and communicating that brand promise,” Farnsworth says. “I would say that 98% of companies do a crap job of content marketing, mainly due to their failure to map that content to the people who are buying it, including their pain points and why they buy the product.”

Reflection is difficult. It is hard for brands to stop trying to be everything to everyone and to focus on core purpose and the needs of the audience. It takes brands—and executives—out of their comfort zone when they have to take a critical view of what they actually do and do not represent… but a clear sense of self is the first step toward better content marketing.

MarketingProfs All In One

Share

WARNING: Avoid (at All Costs) Sites that Promise to Let You Hack Other Facebook Users

Share

RedExclamationMarkTriangle650Once again, Facebook users are reminded to stay very far away from websites and applications that claim to enable them to hack other users’ accounts, as Malwarebytes Labs , which reported on phishing site FBSniffing in June, unearthed two similar efforts: FBWand (no longer online at the time of this post) and Facebook Hacker.

Jovi Umawing of Malwarebytes Labs detailed how both bogus sites work in a blog post.

According to Umawing, now-offline FBWand appeared to have merely been a hoax. It claimed (unedited):

FBWand uses the latest security holes in Facebook, so you can get into your cheating husbands, annoying bosses or any other persons Facebook profile and read messages, upload pictures or do anything you like. FBWand is super easy to use. Password isn’t changed in the cracking process so the user in question won’t notice anything. Also the method we use is undetectable by Facebook and probably won’t be patched anytime soon.

To gain access to your victims E-Mail and Password, you will be required to get an authorization code from us through referring friends to FBWand.

Users were then taken to a page with three parts: an interface where they would enter the names of their targets, a list of features and testimonials, and a frequently-asked-questions section that claimed that accounts could be hacked in 20 seconds.

However, on its terms-of-service page, FBWand said it merely simulated Facebook hacking.

FBWandFBWandTermsOfService

Facebook Hacker, the more harmful of the two sites, was still live at the time of this post. Its pitch reads (unedited):

We are currently the #1 site in the Internet to provide this service for free and at amazing speeds and success rate. Don’t believe us? See how many like and share we have on Facebook and other social media and we are ranked #1 on google.

You may wonder why people hack Facebook accounts? The answer is simple. There are various reason as to why one would want to hack another persons Facebook account. Parents might want to see what their kids are doing online to monitor them. A boyfriend or girlfriend might want to see what their counterpart is doing behind their back. A husband would want to check if his wife is faithful or vice versa. Today in the world of Internet social media has become one of the most trending thing for people of every age. Many people share their deepest and darkest secrets, interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes with their friends. And this is the reason why people want access to others account to know everything about them.

We provide you with the best Facebook hacker available in the internet for absolutely free. Now you can hack Facebook password of just anyone you want. No more wasting time downloading Facebook password hacker or any other Facebook password cracker tools available in the internet. Most of these tools are fake and contain virus. This is why we offer you this 100% safe service to hack anyone on Facebook right from website hacking panel. No plugin or absolutely no download required. Get started now!

According to Umawing, clicking the “start hacking” button brings users to a page where they can enter the URLs for the profiles they want to hack. They are then taken to a “Members Panel,” where they are required to enter their user names and passwords – which is never a good idea — in order to access the results.

Facebook Hacker then displays specific information gleaned from Facebook’s Graph Search – user ID, user name, profile picture – along with a meter measuring the progress of the hack.

However, after being prompted to log in to their Facebook accounts in order to see the results (another red flag), users are then instructed to either share referral links with the aim of getting 15 Facebook or Twitter users to click on them, or to complete surveys, after which they are directed to another website, Download Files Fast.

FacebookHackerFacebookHackerStartPageFacebookHackerRunningFacebookHackerMembersPanelFacebookHackerShareToTwitterFacebookHackerTweetsDownloadFilesFast

Umawing concluded:

Although it’s true that no website is perfectly secure, one must not attempt to hack into them nor break into someone else’s online profile. These are illegal acts. Sites marketing themselves as free, user-friendly hacking-as-a-service (HaaS) tools, such as those I mentioned here, generally take advantage of user distrust against someone and profit on it, promising big but delivering nothing in the end. Avoid them at all cost.

Readers: Have you ever come across FBSniffing, FBWand, Facebook Hacker or similar sites?

Screenshots courtesy of Malwarebytes Labs. Warning sign image courtesy of Shutterstock.

AllFacebook

Share