WHY DOES YOUR MARKETING DEPARTMENT NEED A REVOLUTION?Sherif Makhlouf

A decade or two ago, when families gathered in front of TV sets to catch the evening show, the commercial break was always a good chance for everyone to finish any undone business before the main attraction was back on.

Despite how little people care about commercials, big brands still pay large sums of money to own a few seconds of their customers attention to push their messages, which may, or may not, reach customers. Now, with technology catalyzing an explosion of content, the case might be different.

What is happening?

Traditionally, advertising has been all about pushing a message to a wide customer base, whether it is through print, radio, TV, outdoor billboards or even during the early days of Internet marketing.  This model only works if you’re able to grab your customer’s undivided attention for enough time to elaborate on your product’s benefits sung through an ad jingle and then you keep repeating this until it sticks.

The fact of the matter is the consumer’s attention over the past decade has considerably diminished due to the amount of distractions around them. This can mainly be attributed to the explosion in content, including images, videos, audio and text being created and bombarded on them every second. A shocking revelation explained by Eric Schmidt the CEO of Google is that we are now creating content every two days that matches the content produced by the human race from its existence until 2003.

The communication equation, hence, became unbalanced. As the available content increases, customers’ attention has not changed so by time we will keep consuming less and less hence for our marketing and messages to resonate with customers it has to be remarkable, sharable and of immense value to them.

Additionally, technology has empowered customers to avoid unwanted interruptive types of content like advertising. When pop ads became popular, pop up blockers in internet browsers were invented. When TV ads became an annoyance to many viewers, TIVO was launched to allow them to record shows and watch later while skipping the ads. Even with phone calls, through an application, Truecaller, users can now get alerted if they get calls form numbers “identified as spammers” in essence killing the entire industry of telemarketing.

Why is this happening?

Technology has empowered individuals and businesses to create content. Everyday it becomes much easier to take an image or a video with your phone, and then publish it. Social networks offer accessible platforms for regular users to create and share their content.  According to DD Arabia, 36,000 new Facebook accounts are created daily in the Middle East alone, and a whole hour of video is uploaded to Youtube every minute alone with 108,000 tweets leading middle eastern users to conduct 100 millions searches on Google daily trying to scour this mount of content and find what is of value to them.

Another shift in paradigm that is happening has to do with the power to create and distribute content. In the past, only large business with considerable resources could create quality content and had the podium to distribute it. That’s not the case any more, in todays world everyone is a content creator and large businesses don’t have any exclusivity.

Consequently, sometimes customers’ feedback supersedes this original content. Memes and sarcastic posts about certain ads have gone viral and reached more people than the ad itself.

Content Marketing: Win/Win

Content marketing is a shift that is happening today in the way that people are distributing messages, whether the aim is introducing products and services to customers, or differentiating what businesses offer.

Customers’ attention is scarce, it only lasts for a certain number of hours, and hence the consumption of content is becoming less.

How can a business capture customers’ attention in this world when everyone else is competing for it not just competitors? The answer is: Shifting from a push strategy to a pull strategy. It’s a change in mindset, moving from creating marketing that we as marketers want people to see to marketing that customers actually want.  How to you create marketing that people want, simply by making it about them and not you.

In today’s market, instead of pushing messages towards people, business should be trying to create informative, entertaining, value adding and educating content that customers are already looking for and interested in consuming. This gives brands an opportunity to be found by customers in effect pulling them in to their websites, social media channels or even printed magazines.

This what motivated a company like RedBull to create a very popular magazine called The Red Bulletin — with a distribution of about 5 million copies full of engaging, informative content for the main target customer of RedBull: people who are interested in adventure and extreme sports. The magazine informs customers about the latest and greatest trends, tournaments, events and technologies related to their interest. Such strategy has helped RedBull own more of their customers’ attention to tell them all sorts of stories about the brand.

Content Marketing has been adopted in multiple rich media formats, especially online content, like infographics, a from of visual representation of data, which works well with content discussing numbers, investment figures and features of products.

One example of online content marketing is Photo Venture blog, which was launched by Canon. The blog educates amateur photographers and gears them towards become professionals, through rich in informative content.

Other forms include mobile applications. Charmin, a toilet paper company, created an application that uses location services to help users find all the public restrooms around them, with rating available for each one. The application is an example of creating value from your marketing that clients can use everyday.

Content Marketing as an opportunity

Content Marketing is an investment, but is also a huge opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs especially in emerging markets like Egypt. Such shift, does not only change what a marketing department does, but also creates a shift in what internal capabilities and skills businesses will need to market in the near future.

Content marketing destroys the exclusivity that large enterprises had by depending on a model of bought media and massive ad spending, and opens new channels for small business to create intimate relations with their clients and grab their attention via adding value and catering to their needs.

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