Values-Based Marketing: Activating and Engaging Consumers with Content

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In this, our third and final installment on values-based marketing, our focus is on the importance of content in consumer activation and customer engagement. Whether looking at past or future trends, content has and continues to dominate the marketing conversation as brands strive to reach continually elusive consumers and transient customers.

Whether it is a blog post such as this one, written for and published on your website, news distributed through email, posts shared in social channels, or even a printed catalog, content is to values-based marketing what oil is to the automotive industry — fuel.   

While our first article detailed what values-based marketing is, why it is important and how to begin shifting your business to meet changing consumer expectations, the emphasis of our second article was around four key operational strategies to evoke intensified consumer interest and customer loyalty through the lens of the food and beverage consumer packaged goods industry.

What we did not discuss in those two articles was this basic, yet crucial definition — what is the difference between a consumer and a customer? For our purposes, a consumer is a person who either is or is not aware of your brand, and even if she is, she has not purchased it. A customer, on the other hand, is someone who has purchased your brand at least once.

Along those same lines, it is important to define what we mean when we refer to content. An often posed question: What exactly is content? Let’s start there.

Defining Content Marketing

In its simplest form, content is the answer. In marketing terms, it is the solution to a need.

Content can be words, images, audio or video, composed or produced, published and distributed as emails, articles, white papers, blogs, social posts, press releases, descriptive website text, search optimized keywords or pay-per-click AdWords. It is both analog and digital, and moreover, an imperative component of all forms of marketing — values-based included.    

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” As marketers, these profitable actions we seek to drive are made even more relevant, and more attractive to consumers and customers alike, when we fuse values-based messaging in the content we create and distribute.  

Whether your business is B2B or B2C, think of and consider these use cases as opportunities for values-based content marketing:

  • For answering questions
  • For establishing credibility
  • For instilling trust
  • For provoking engagement
  • For encouraging loyalty
  • For initiating dialogue
  • For converting sales

It is incredibly important to have a strategy. Knowing who you are communicating with, thinking through what you intend or need to communicate, determining what methods and channels you will use to communicate, committing to when you will communicate, and identifying how you will measure your efficacy should all be mapped out before you start your content marketing efforts. Doing this first will enable you to craft and share the right information in the right place at the right time with the right customer, and ultimately will lead to greater activation, engagement and results.

Examples of Content Marketing Excellence

Understanding its purpose and benefits, leading brands are leveraging values-based content marketing across industries. Let’s evaluate, and appreciate, these three shining examples.

1.  Patagonia

Patagonia’s mission is rooted in social responsibility: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” An idyllic purpose indeed, but Patagonia backs it up with content that literally takes a stand. Back in December for example, their site went dark when they replaced their homepage with these words, “The President Stole Your Land,” in response to the current administration’s rollback of environmental protections for two national monuments and more than 2 million acres of land. As if that wasn’t proof enough in their values, they then followed up that tactic with a lawsuit against the administration itself.

If you do not agree with their political position then that is your prerogative, but that too is the point. This type of content only resonates with Patagonia’s customers and potential customers — people who share their values. Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line, shares stories about the environment, including firm declarations about where the company stands on environmental, social and political issues. They also leverage podcasts and actively distribute content through social channels, the purpose of which is to drive their engaged fans to the longer-form content found on their blog. More recently, they have even started to produce and support activism-centric short films. Patagonia’s catalog is yet another channel example of their position. Pick one up, or view their 2017 catalog here online. Less than half of it is dedicated to product, the rest is focused on content.  

Patagonia’s content strategy is perfectly aligned with its mission, emphasizing the spread of its environmental message over product sales, and it is being rewarded by a growing community of loyalists who support the company’s mission through active sharing of content, and of course, through product purchases as well.

2.  Warby Parker

Founded in 2010 with “a rebellious spirit,” Warby Parker has rocketed to success in becoming a billion-dollar brand. The business model is simple and appealing, allowing customers to choose, receive and try on five frames for five days free of charge. And it marries its product sales with a “buy one, give one” donation program for VisionSpring, who in turn distributes the glasses in developing countries. Additionally, the company claims to be 100% carbon neutral. Combined, its retail model, goodwill and environmental interests have enabled Warby Parker to leverage content as the anchor of its brand-building strategy.

Warby Parker’s distinctive brand voice is the basis for its often unconventional approach. Take its 2013 and 2014 annual reports for example; both went viral among consumers, the media and even other brands looking to shake up convention. Essentially, Warby Parker asked the question, “why do annual reports have to be so institutional and cold?” Its answer: they do not.

With its blog, Warby Parker leverages a more lifestyle-centric approach. It has a significant literary angle, which is appealing to its core customers, those who consider themselves hip and artistically minded. It gives them reason to come back time and time again, regardless of any immediate need or lack thereof for frames. Warby Parker also invites user-generated content, which makes for intensely active fans on social media. Check out its Instagram images, the content of which is pulled back into an ongoing blog series dedicated to customers wearing its glasses.  

All told, Warby Parker is well on its way to becoming a $2 billion brand by way of its consistent efforts to be both inclusive and responsible.

3.  Unilever/Dove

“The Dove Self-Esteem Project,” the brand says,“was created from a vision where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.” Through this initiative, Dove has reached over 20 million young people with self-esteem education. Its online resources include educational and inspirational content for parents, mentors, teachers and youth leaders to be used and shared.  

Back in 2004, Dove launched its “Real Beauty” campaign, the point of which was, and remains, that all women are beautiful, no matter their shape, size, or how they seemingly measure up against society’s standard of “normal.” In the 13 years since, Dove has become a leader in purpose-driven values-based marketing, much of which has been driven by its seemingly clairvoyant content strategy.

While it is continually becoming more difficult to reach elusive consumers by overcoming ad blindness and rising above the noise, Dove appears to be on, even ahead of trend in its efforts. Consider the present day #MeToo movement in relation to Dove’s My Beauty My Say campaign from 2016. That campaign featured women who stood up for themselves when others had put them down or taken advantage of them. Although separate initiatives, the #MeToo movement has activated multiple generations of women, like the aforementioned campaign, and has served to demonstrate for younger generations that it is within your right to defend yourself. At the time of this writing, the primary video from that campaign had nearly 13.1 million views on YouTube.

More than methods and channels, the real beauty in Dove’s content strategy is its timeliness and relevance. It has proven the value of values-based content time and again. It has and continues to do so simply by focusing on elevating personal stories that are pertinent to facilitating broader public discourse, and that also connect with customers on deeply emotional levels. And the fact that these are real stories only solidifies Dove’s authenticity.     

As Rob Candelino, GM and VP of Marketing for Dove’s parent company Unilever said, “Brands can make a real difference in the world…it’s a monumental accomplishment for us to make you feel better or stand a little taller today.”

The Bottom Line

As cliche as it may sound, and as often as it has been and continues to be repeated, content is king. The primary reason for this is that content is concerned with the customer. It serves as an attractor rather than a repellent. It is engaging because it is more about them than it is about you. And that is the secret ingredient.

Values-Based Marketing Summary

To tie up our series on values-based marketing, let’s briefly recap what we have focused on through all three articles. Following are the high-level key takeaways:

  1. It is time to shift your strategy from product to customer-centric.
  2. Define your purpose — what you stand for and why.
  3. Define how you do what you do.
  4. Define what you do.
  5. Evaluate the competitive landscape.
  6. Talk to your customers — find out who they are and what matters to them.
  7. Determine your value proposition.
  8. Develop your activation strategy.
  9. Lead with content.

What you do next with this information is up to you. We would suggest you invest some time in research, in talking with your customers and investigating your company’s temperature on this subject. But consider this — the longer you wait to get started equates to competitor advantages. The answer and the opportunity are both in the here and now.   

Ready to get started? Contact us today to put values-based marketing into practice for your company or brand.

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