Happily content: why Bank of Melbourne thinks like a media company first
Jac Phillips argues that publishing is the new marketing – but that’s easier said than done.
“You don’t feel like a bank,” he said to me. I nearly kissed him. You see, I had a vision: I wanted us to think like a media company first and retailer second. What we sold was important, but the way we communicated our products and services as an industry, generally, wasn’t very entertaining.
As marketers, our primary objective is to drive awareness and consideration of our brands. And in a communication-cluttered marketplace where everyone is striving to capture consumer attention, we need to think and behave differently if we have any chance of cutting through. As a bank, when we ‘compete’ for attention we are up against luxury brands, technology companies, fashion, food, sport and many other sexy products and experiences, which people are passionate about.
Not many people are as passionate about opening a bank account.
So here’s the thing. I believe publishing is the new marketing. Thinking like a media company first (not a bank), our tactics have had to change somewhat… we have had to create compelling stories people want to engage with. Not just read, but also discuss, respond to and share. Not easy – as consumers we are increasingly over-connected and often underwhelmed. We need to engage people, not sell them things. More than ever brands need to become entertainers. And especially brands like banks, financial services, utility companies and, God forbid, governments.
We are connecting to many things thanks to mobile technology, but not experiencing as much as we once did. The future belongs to the curious, so in an age of connectedness, the solution is to create ideas people want to share and then put these on platforms that encourage dialogue not monologue.
So enter content marketing – one of the buzzwords of our connected era. Don Draper would grimace. The ‘Mad Men’ of the 1950s knew what was best for housewives, they didn’t need her public feedback and they certainly didn’t need her involvement when it came to selling the latest brand of beauty soap.
Our new world order as publishers, as media companies, sees us inviting consumer engagement across many different channels. Brands are less like benevolent dictators today and more like diplomats – we show more vulnerability, we regularly express to consumers that we need and value their thoughts and ideas.
Some are doing this better than others, so what’s the trick?
I recently had the great pleasure of spending some time with Samantha Murphy, founder of a company called Happily Contented. Here’s what she told me.
JP: The word ‘content’ is used so much these days. What does it mean?
SM: Essentially it’s anything you read, see or hear: articles, images, videos, podcasts, infographics etc.
JP: What makes for great content?
SM: Truth. Humanity. It never seems to fail that when we experience content that moves us, such as Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’, there’s an element of humanity we connect with, a common ground that resonates. We see ourselves in it.
JP: What are the obstacles and opportunities with content for brands?
SM: I think the current obstacle with content for larger brands in Australia stems from their alignment with potentially traditional agencies that haven’t adapted to the digital age or have done so in a piecemeal fashion. When marketers increased their digital spends, creative directors were expected to drive the content and most don’t have an understanding of the breadth of the role.
A true content strategist not only creates the ideas for the content itself, but also understands the user experience surrounding it. How will the content be consumed? What is the desired end result and the journey to bring that to fruition? There are many layers and it’s very different to creating a television commercial or outdoor campaign.
Conversely, I think the opportunities for real storytelling are unlimited. More than ever people are hungry for something real and meaningful in their lives. Don’t show me a man climbing a mountain if you want me to buy your wine. Show me a parent who has taken care of the kids all day or someone building a start-up who’s still at their desk at midnight.
People who climb mountains probably aren’t drinking wine. Brands who are willing to transparently share in creating real stories for real people have a lot to gain, as Bank of Melbourne has with your ‘Makers’ campaign and Business State magazine. These are opportunities to integrate into the very hearts and minds of people, becoming a part of their support system for life. That’s powerful!
JP: What’s the difference between a content strategist and a storyteller?
SM: Creating an effective content strategy is more of a holistic, technical role that, if done effectively, serves as a bridge between marketing and product or service.
With storytelling, while there’ll always be an element of strategy, the focus is more on finding the most effective way and means to convey the experience of what happened.
A true storyteller not only evokes feeling in the listener, they also place them in the moment by using the perfect medium and distribution channel to enhance the experience. The story and the listener are the most important priorities, not the call to action surrounding the product. Many brands don’t understand the importance of great storytelling. I can sincerely say present company excluded.
JP: Thank you, Sam! One final question, being American born, how do you feel Australia fares in the content landscape?
SM: I think there’s still a tremendous amount of education necessary on the importance of content and the amount of work that goes into it.
It’s very detailed work that people often don’t want to invest time and money into, to their detriment. We are living in a world where time is our greatest asset, so brands are vying for attention rather than money. Get people’s attention and the loyalty or commercialisation will follow.
While I was at ad agency J Walter Thompson, it was challenging trying to convince people of the importance of not cutting corners and integrating content strategy at the very beginning of the branding phase, rather than being pulled in post site-build. It just isn’t effective and it makes for a frustrating experience all around with content being created to fit technology. It should always be technology supporting the content, so the content needs to lead the story.
A great content strategist needs to understand the big picture from a branding perspective in order to create for every channel the work will be consumed in. As you of all people know Jac, it’s a huge undertaking when done properly and yet its fundamentals need to fall out of the simple brand elements.
The reason I created Happily Contented is not only to be able to focus more on the human element of content, but also to educate people about storytelling from an individual perspective. Everyone who comes through our workshops will learn how to connect with their own personal story, whether they want to learn for their brand or themselves. Once you’re prepared to be vulnerable enough to tell your own story truthfully, even if only to yourself, you can then tell engaging stories about anyone and anything.
So there you have it
Build brands through creating and serving entertaining content that consumers consent to follow, like, respond and share instead of simply interrupting with an ad. A smart content strategy will allow your brand to create meaningful connections with customers and, as marketers and businesspeople, surely there is no higher or happier purpose. I am feeling quite contented.
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