Every so often you hear an idea or a message that resonates immediately and powerfully. This post is about one of those times.
It happened during a Trend School conducted by researchers and analysts from The Intelligence Group. Their theme for this seminar: Innovation. More specifically, what it takes for brands to be valued as innovative, relevant, even “best friends forever” by Gen X, Y and (yes, believe it or not, they’re here among us) Gen Z consumers.
Early in the half-day seminar, lead presenter Allison Arling-Giorgi (if that last name sounds familiar, Allison’s my daughter in law) delivered this talking point, intended as something of a North Star for product managers and brand marketers to follow.
To achieve breakthrough innovation with today’s younger consumers…
“Operate in the culture, not in the category.”
As a case in point, she cited Kodak and Instagram. One sees (saw?) itself as a film manufacturer. The other as a facilitator of fun and easy sharing of life’s relationships, activities and memories via social media.
Key to operating in the culture, of course, is understanding what an audience thinks and feels. That made this particular talking point a perfect pivot into Allison’s subsequent slides on Gen X and Y attitudes and influences.
But later, as she was describing the aftereffects on Gen X of having been latchkey kids, and explaining why Gen Y still feels mired in the recession, at least half of my brain was still mulling the earlier call to action.
Operate in the culture, not in the category.
If that’s the key to innovation, is it not also central to effective content marketing?
Great Content: Audience Focused, Culturally Grounded
I believe it is.
After all, a tenet of effective content marketing is that your content (at least a good deal of it, especially the closer you get to the funnel’s brim) must be far less about you and your products and services, and much more about them (your audience) and their pain points and possibilities.
What better way to sharpen your strategy, to strive for engagement breakthrough, than to create content that positions you to be your audience’s resource, ally, even “BFF” where and how they work and live (“in the culture”)? At the same time, how critical is it when creating content to reach far beyond the product features and promotional messages that traditionally define competition and differentiation “in the category”?
Besides Instagram, the Trend School presentation offered several other examples of brands operating in the culture to deliver product and service innovation, and in the process invite brand affinity:
- Intel, with its What About Me? app, which lets users create personalized infographics of their digital lives.
- Jay Z and Powermat, collaborating to integrate mobile device charging mats into the music mogul’s 40/40 Club.
- J. Crew, where Creative Director Jenna Lyons is virtually living, looking and curating the brand aesthetic and experience.
- Etsy, the online marketplace for all things crafty and handmade, launching a scholarship program for women who wish to become coders and hackers.
- Method, which imbued character and “story” into its new line of cleaning products.
- Google, with its Project Re:Brief, a remake for the web of iconic TV ads.
- Zappos, welcoming headquarters visitors like old friends, providing tours, etc.
- Foldit, where the crowd is finding solutions to come of science’s gnarliest puzzles.
Notice how many of these case examples are, essentially, content marketing. Or at least close cousins of content. IF, that is, you define content similarly to how I do:
“Value-adding information, interactions and experiences by which brands engage, create momentum and build affinity with audiences vital to their success.”
Next time you evaluate your content strategy, or brainstorm that next round of advanced assets you hope will add value for your audience, ask yourself:
Are we still thinking and operating purely in category? Or are we out there, in the culture?
Not familiar with The Intelligence Group? They’re a self-described “youth-focused consumer insights and trend research company,” built on discovering and interpreting what younger generations think, do, feel and buy. The firm delivers its insights and interpretive services via multiple “Cassandra” branded products and services, including:
- Cassandra Report. A subscription-based, ongoing, regularly updated consumer trend study.
- Cassandra Live: In-person “Trend School” seminars.
- Cassandra Daily: A free daily trend e-newsletter (a personal favorite of mine).
- Cassandra Solutions: Proprietary research using an online community of hand-recruited consumers for custom client projects.
This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, subscribe to Content Is Marketing.