Selling product by not selling

Posted on Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Direct Mail, Shopper Marketing, Trade Advertising, Website

How Content Marketing connects with consumers

In the early days of commerce merchants and craftsmen had a closer relationship with their customers. There were more personal interactions between those who made things and those who bought them. You could walk into any town and hear interesting stories: about the blacksmith who could masterfully shoe a Percheron before you could fully hardboil an egg or about the confectioner who made candy so intoxicatingly delicious that half the marriage proposals in town started by presenting a box of their chocolates. And those were the products and services that made it to the top of the list.

Then we entered the era of expanded distribution. Chocolates were prepackaged. Instead of being delivered by horse and wagon, manufactured goods were distributed farther and faster by boat, train and truck. Along with mass distribution came mass communication. Suddenly story telling belonged to those who could afford to have it published. Merchants and manufacturers would spin advertising tales designed to illuminate the populace on how wonderful their products were. Story telling became more ‘selling’ than story.

Now that everyone with a computer and an Internet connection has a voice and every business is a publisher, story telling is back – in a big way! We know it as Content Marketing.

contentmarketingMobile and digital technologies, along with current social media platforms, have added a new degree of richness to story telling. Many things can be considered content: e-newsletters, videos, blogs, infographics, podcasts, white papers, e-books and custom content magazines.

Direct sell advertising is still effective – with television being the most impactful medium. However, because everyone has gotten used to being continually sold to, advertising has to work harder to break through. Unless the viewing consumer has an immediate need for the product being sold the advertising for it may simply get filtered out. This can happen mechanically through DVRs and devices such as Tivo or simply by the viewer mentally tuning out.

Consumers are interested in products and services that benefit their lives. This is where Content Marketing can help. Content Marketing is about telling your story and telling it in the best way possible – a way that offers additional value to your consumers. It connects your consumers with your brand by offering utility and meaning to your brand’s products. It’s information your consumers want.

Kraft Foods’ content focuses heavily on recipes – telling the story of how to make a delicious meal and maximize family time. They deliver this type of content though their food&family magazine, website and a YouTube channel. The successful restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, connects with their patrons by espousing a certain set of values: food sourcing, transparency, sustainability and ethical agriculture. The company produces video content pertaining to these topics and pushes it out through social media. Chipotle also created a television mini-series called, Farmed and Dangerous, which will air on Hulu. It’s billed as a comedy series – a story about the ‘outrageously twisted’ world of industrial agriculture. Natural food retailer, Whole Foods, tells the story of setting out in search of a healthier lifestyle – with a focus on eating well. Their blog has a section called Healthy Eating that includes information on getting started, what to eat and healthy cooking. All of the above content educates, entertains or somehow enlightens the consumer. Although all of it ties back to the core function of the business presenting it, none of it is a direct sell.

The interesting thing about Content Marketing is that, not only does it make it easier to connect your brand to the lives of your consumers, it helps your advertising to not have to work so hard. As a food marketer, that’s content you can use.

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