Is it just me, or is the stuff on the internet a bit rubbish?
It’s certainly not what it once was. It was originally conceived as a place for us all to connect and share ideas and generally be groovy to each other. However, today it feels like it's turned into something that inflates negativity and increases the human discontent. Facebook has replaced the traditional media, resulting in a barrage of trash, and Fake News is running amuck with facts and integrity.
This perfect storm means content marketing has reached a breaking point. People are savvy to being sold to and they distrust and dismiss badly executed blogs, videos and social media campaigns, and rightly so! Content marketing needs to up its game in order to fend off the audiences growing intolerance of junk-content and clickbait, and the solution, I think, lies in generating empathy through storytelling.
I think we got lazy in the marketing industry
Of course there are inspiring and beautiful things still out there, and some companies and brands have harnessed their potential. We need to stop think in terms of ‘conversions’ and ‘clicks’ and bring back the focus to the human connection. We should reintroduce a little kindness, humour, inspiration and soul into content marketing, because having a real impact through a real connection, and creating brand trust is the ultimate goal, is it not?
But how can we come back from the brink?
Well its simple really, we need to build empathy and create trust via the stories we tell. This is not a new concept; it’s the same old adage we appear to have forgotten, that human beings are natural storytellers. We turn things that aren’t really stories into stories because we like narratives so much.
Faith, science, love, politics… all need a story for people to find them plausible. No story, no sale. But fear not, there is hope; here are great examples of brands that are getting it right.
Warning: this will make you cry
A triumph for utilising empathy in content marketing was a campaign called ‘English’. In December last year nearly 14 million people (just 2 million shy of the entire population of Germany!) watched a short video telling the story of one man’s journey to connect with his granddaughter.
A spokesperson from the agency behind the campaign, Bardzo in Warsaw, said “‘English’ is about young people leaving home for faraway lands, and the world growing smaller and more intimate, the children of diverse families. It’s about the role English plays in unifying cultures whose differences in language may feel insurmountable.” The story gave us a recognisable pattern through which the (huge) audience felt a connection to its meaning. It did, after all, show the real life situation faced by thousands of families today that made us feel, in my case, a whole lot.
So simple, so honest and so relevant to the audience
It wasn’t just in online content marketing where we saw empathy and truth triumph. Spotify used the mountains of data they hold to produce a series of light-hearted ads. Each advert (place on billboards in all major cities) had the desired effect because they highlighted the truth behind human quirks. The truth is powerful and sometimes incredible funny.
The campaign, which rolled out across over 12 markets, features localised messages that merged listener data with pop-culture references. So simple, so honest and so relevant to the audience it wanted to connect with.
By reaching out to us (the often desensitized and disengaged masses) and by being ‘human’, the brand created a bond. They shared intimate moments we have all had or recognise (We have all listened to sad songs on Valentine ’s Day have we not?) and the brand matched its values with our own. There was even one UK poster read: “Dear 3,749 people who streamed ‘ It’s The End Of The World As We Know It ‘ the day of the Brexit Vote. Hang in There.”
We all need to believe in stories
So, my advice to you marketing folk out there is, yeah sure, use all the tricks and whizzy tools available. Some really are magic and frankly, essential. But please don’t forget who you are talking to. People need to learn to once again trust the content they engage with. That trust can be built through sharing moments, through tears, laughter, embarrassment or even a sigh. Remember we all need to believe in stories, today more than ever.