A fine balance
Sovereign’s chief officer of marketing and strategy Chris Lamers says this campaign was about “dipping a toe” in the waters of content marketing and he says it got fantastic amounts of engagement. And Bauer’s ability to conduct research brought a fresh perspective to its business that it wouldn’t normally get.
“The internet is full of great content that people never read, but working with a publishing partner is a great way to create content that people actually do read.”
While media owners are always keen to talk about brands stepping back and having faith in their ability to engage audiences, Lamers says it can sometimes go too far and be too subtle. Like any marketing investment, there needs to be attribution back to the brand for it to be effective, but it can’t be too salesy or it will turn people off.
Gardiner says the new world of content marketing is very fresh and a lot of clients are getting into it for the first time. That’s a promising trend for publishers, but there are lots of fish hooks around trust, sign-off and what brands want to achieve. So he says it’s important to be clear about the outcome from the start.
“And the KPIs need to reflect that.”
Lamers agrees. But he admits marketers often want the best of both worlds. They want the phone to ring and they want an increase in brand preference.
He says this campaign has given it enough confidence to continue to experiment with content marketing, which “undoubtedly has a much brighter future than display advertising with the way click through rates are going”, but he says it will probably aim to take a more sustained approach over a longer period and create clearer branded properties in the future.
While the digital realm allows marketers to look for proof of engagement, simply seeing an ad (or an interesting sponsored story) still has an impact. And likeability is a key factor in customer decisions. He points to the often irrational choices consumers make about wine (for example, choosing Dog Point because you have a dog), or the power of Fly Buys, where he worked previously, to influence shopping behaviour.
Some of those decisions come from deep in our sub-conscious and when he looks at some of its softer marketing activity, such as its naming rights sponsorship of the Tri Series with Triathlon NZ, there is an “unequivocal” correlation to sales. And he thinks content marketing is in a similar category.
Gardiner believes the softer sell of content often works well when combined with the harder sell of traditional advertising. And as Burson-Marsteller Asia Pacific chief operating officer Margaret Key explained: “Advertising is telling somebody over and over again that you are a great lover. PR is hiring someone else to tell people that you are a great lover. Content marketing is telling people a story about why you are a great lover.”