Thought Leadership
  • Content marketing

Tap into your audience’s passions - create honest content marketing

Paul Button
28th January 2015

Can brands stand out just by being honest?

Something quite positive can come of being honest to our customers – even when the message could, at first glance, appear to be negative. So can brands stand out just by being honest?

Honesty marketing, or more to the point ‘insane honesty’ was a hot topic at the CMA Content Marketing Summit and those who attended Doug Kessler’s keynote may have well walked away feeling fired up.

I won’t regurgitate everything he covered, but it was refreshing to hear someone talk so openly about building trust. In such a competitive landscape with so many platforms to reach your consumer, standing out and achieving true engagement is more difficult than ever. Doug pointed out the need for ‘total proactive honesty’, even though it goes against the grain for most marketeers: “you need to volunteer your weaknesses, put your worst foot forward,” he told the audience.

The days of traditional marketing have gone. Brands can no longer get away with telling people what they think they want to hear – they need to focus on what their brand is about, their essence, their core beliefs and what they stand for – sometimes even showing the imperfections to keep it truly real.

Be truthful and real

Here are some campaigns (old and new) that really embrace honest marketing. Why? They’ve successfully combined being real and truthful with an element of risk. The end result is memorable, successful campaigns that makes their fans smile.

Honesty grabs attention. It can shock: something that can be difficult to achieve. Avis’ ads from the 1960s are a perfect example. In terms of market share, the company was way behind its biggest rival Hertz. Instead of shoving unique selling points down consumers’ throats, pretending to be the same as its rival, it made a point of being proactive about it’s market position: “We try harder. When you’re not the biggest you have to”.


Honest Content Marketing - Avis

A more recent campaign that launched across multiple media platforms was #ThisGirlCan – an empowering national campaign developed by Sport England that encourages women of all ages and sizes to get fit, has 100 percent embraced honest marketing. Real women take centre stage in campaign content and creative having been filmed, photographed and interviewed whilst actively participating in sport.

The language is real too: “Sweat like a pig, feeling like a fox”, “Full time mum, part time Mermaid”, “I jiggle, therefore I am”, “I’m slow but I’m lapping everyone on the couch” and “I kick balls, deal with it” are just some of the pure messages displayed.

So why has #ThisGirlCan gone viral? It’s real, it focuses on the truth, it’s humorous, it’s empathetic and it taps into people’s passion.

Approaching 3.5 millions view in one week alone, the campaign is going from strength to strength.

The next challenge for Sport England is to build an engaged community off the back of this campaign, widening the net further and continuing to motivate its target market for the coming months. That’s where it gets exciting, and true success will only be achieved if they remain consistent day-in, day-out. Increasing participation is the name of the game.

Take a risk, surprise and delight

Over the past 12 months we have seen Britain’s supermarkets do battle in some of the toughest trading conditions for decades. Winning market share and establishing a clear position continues to be a challenge, so it was refreshing to see the German discount supermarket, Lidl take a risk and produce content that was brave, truthful and honest. It injected humour through real life stories with the campaign #LidlSurprises. The campaign went across TV, print, in-store ads and social media. Similar to that of Avis in the 1960s, it turns the brand’s negative image into a positive. Lidl’s ads use a similar tongue-in-cheek tone that uses people’s negative image of the brand to highlight the quality of its products.

The brand also used customer tweets in its print and in-store marketing. These remained consistent with the campaign, showing customers making comments about how surprised they were that Lidl actually sold great products. For example, “Lidl are doing Chianti and it’s well nice. There; I’ve said it.”


Honest Content Marketing - Lidl Surprises

At this point, it’s worth drawing a comparison to a campaign that Waitrose carried out called #WaitroseReasons – they asked consumers to share their experiences of the brand. Many people hijacked the hashtag to poke fun at the brand, and the tweets were generally jokes about the brand’s upmarket image. This somewhat failed campaign clearly provided the impetus for one of the most loved Facebook pages of 2014 “Overheard in Waitrose”.

This Facebook page has become a hilarious viral sensation that whilst making fun of the middle class consumer has in-turn attracted a huge following (that are made up of those consumers, or those who want to be) – a following of over 375,000 fans compared to just 232,000 on their official page.

Whilst the brand does not allude to any ownership of this page or its content, it just shows how being honest, and having fun with your audience can prove to be hugely positive. Posts such as “Jemima, you’ll have to take the Rosemary off the Focaccia before we feed the ducks, Darling… they can’t digest it!” have received thousands of likes. Most of the entries are spoofs, although are said to come from the chatter that Waitrose staff overhear.

The point I’m making is that in a competitive and busy landscape such honesty can be disruptive and achieve real cut-through. For the supermarkets the problem that exists is that whilst Jemima’s mum is buying Focaccia at Waitrose, she’s just as likely to buy her Chianti from Lidl. So, getting attention through content marketing and having constant engagement with your customers is more critical than ever.

Be brave

Brands that take (calculated) risks, who are brave and embrace creative content marketing, will prosper over those that don’t. The old ways of traditional product marketing have died a death.

For example, if you are a footwear brand, the default go-to is ‘lets produce some product tours’, or maybe an ‘unboxing’. Whilst we know that these are hugely popular for consumers in the research process and therefore important to do, they should simply be a basic ingredient of your content marketing – after all most consumers will be looking for independence when digesting such content.

If you want to become a media owner then think about what your brand stands for: surprise and delight your consumers with content that shows your personality. Content that will entertain and content that they will trust. If you achieve this, then I guarantee your storytelling will be shared and most importantly consumers will keep coming back for more.

Take the example of Merrell – a global leader in the outdoor footwear and apparel space. Think about it: when marketing footwear do people really want to know about those products technical specifications, or would the brand have more success in engaging their audience through storytelling and tapping into their passions?

Merrell is a great example here, not only have they embraced content marketing and storytelling as a means to attract fans, build brand loyalty and drive revenue, they’ve being brave with content topics. For example, on their consumer facing blog, ‘5 places to have sex on the trail’ generated over 380 shares and ‘How to survive a bear encounter’ was shared over 4,700 times. Good content has the power to go viral. And in the case of Merrell this content not only went viral but it became a key referral source for online retail, translating in sales.

So what’s my point?

Never be afraid of, or underestimate, the power of demonstrating real empathy when building a content marketing strategy. Be transparent and be honest: often these key attributes will be the backbone of a successful content campaign.

As with any successful strategy, planning is critical: establishing tone of voice and your editorial boundaries will keep you focused. Then execute, be consistent, mix up your delivery and have fun – because if you do, your consumers will spot it immediately and come along for the ride.

Say hello

So if you’re feeling brave, want to take a fresh approach to your brand’s content marketing, and tap into your audience’s passions, we’d love to hear from you –

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