Product Centric vs. Content Centric Marketing

I’ve read a lot of articles recently about why advertising agencies (and people in general) don’t “get” social media marketing.  I do a lot of training and consulting with ad agencies and big consumer brand companies.  I work with many advertising agencies, and they all have lots of smart people working there.  Many of them engage in social media themselves.

So why do ad agencies struggle with social media?

A big part of it is what is commonly referred to as content marketing.  We talk about online content marketing as if focusing on marketing content is a new thing.  It isn’t.

The focus of TV advertising is the content (the commercial).

The focus of a billboard is the content (the ad).

Sure there is also media buying and targeting, but the main focus is the content.

The idea that content is at the core of your marketing isn’t new.  That is why companies spend so much money coming up with clever catch lines and entertaining ads (like during the superbowl).

The thing is that most ad agencies and marketers are great at content marketing. It is just the wrong kind of content.

Content Needs to Shift from Product Centric to Value Centric

The focus of the content is what has to shift.  In traditional marketing the content is based on what will best sell the product.  Having been involved in consumer goods advertising I know that for a TV commercial to sell a product it has to provide some product benefits, feature the product for a certain amount of time, etc.

There is a formula for the content, based on 60+ years of experience and millions if not billions of dollars spent on testing ads.

Here is a crazy idea – maybe online marketing and social media marketing should be tested before posting it?  Imagine if online content went through the copy scoring process before it was posted?

The point is, we’ve had many years of experience in copy writing and testing for traditional marketing.  But the problem isn’t a focus on the content.  It is on the type of content.

Social Media Marketing Should Focus on Giving the Consumer Value

This is the real difference.  The focus is now on an entirely different type of content.  In traditional marketing the goal is to showcase the product.  In social media marketing the goal is to offer something of value to the customer.  Value can be entertaining, informational, resourceful, etc.

The key difference is that the focus of new media is on creating content that people actually want (and that also sells products).

This is the challenge.  Agencies and marketers need to adapt their thinking to consider how their marketing efforts are inherently valuable.  What content do people actually want?

If you think about traditional media, the TV show was the entertainment that people wanted.  The newspaper articles are what people want.  The ads are the cost of getting the material.

In new media marketing your marketing has to be the part that people want.  And it also has to sell your product.

Agencies have to Change the Focus of the Content

This is the result of what Seth Godin calls permission vs. interruption marketing.  In interruption marketing you pay for the right to interrupt me.  This is traditional marketing.  Your goal is to use the interruption time effectively.

In permission marketing the consumer gives you permission to connect with them because you provide interesting/entertaining/valuable content.  This is the same concept that Bob Gilbreath talks about in his book “The Next Evolution of Marketing” or Marketing with Meaning.

The real challenge of this is that agencies and brands have never been the entertainers.  The TV producers and newspaper writers have been.

Months ago when I interviewed HubSpot about their marketing strategy, Mike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing at HubSpot told me that they initial hired great writers for their content strategy.  They hired people with editorial backgrounds vs. marketing backgrounds.

Really, it should be Product Centric vs. Useful Centric Marketing (But

that doesn’t sound as good)

The fact that content matters isn’t new.  The kind of content that matters is new.

And it will take time to nail the content.  This is what TV commercials looked like in the 60’s.  It was a minute long (this one is also hysterical).