Five obvious-not-obvious lessons for more effective content marketing – from the world’s experts

April 26, 2021

Over the past five years, the World Media Awards have gathered and celebrated the very best international, content-led marketing campaigns – benchmarking the best work by global brands and tracking the increasing levels of creativity and effectiveness. As we head towards the deadline [20 May] for this year’s Awards and prepare for the judging, we’ve been asking our 2021 Jury what they believe are the essential ingredients for great content marketing.

1. Start with the consumer insight

This might seem to be obvious, but as Katharine Swarney, head of marketing communications for Nissan France says, “Start from a customer insight or truth to make sure you connect with your audience. Knowing your audience will also guide all media decisions”. Our Jury co-chair, Fabio Mancone, chief branding officer for Lombard Odier Group, adds that insights need to be about more than the consumer to be of real value – it’s also about where the brand can connect. As he says, “Successful content strategy connects customer value with business value. It starts with deep audience understanding, in having empathy, and connecting with passion points and interests”.

2. Develop a meaningful narrative

What do we mean by a “meaningful narrative”? Ruby Wight, creative lead for campaigns and partnerships at Burberry defines this as “An underlying story that resonates with the audience and the world they live in today”. Matthew Wellington, global investment director for The Financial Times agrees that it’s all about connections – and he’s also clear on what it’s not, “Advertising cannot be dictatorial; shouting at people doesn’t work. Content advertising offers a space for companies to showcase what makes them special – what unique benefits and advantages they bring to the audiences they intend to reach”. Our jury’s advice is to focus on this narrative first, and the content medium second. Denise Burrell Stinson, head of Brand Studio for The Washington Post says, “Sometimes people get stuck on using cutting-edge creative formats like 360 visuals or video just for the sake of using them, when another approach would have worked. But if you stick to a story-first approach, I believe you increase your chance at success”.

3. Get the right balance between the unexpected and the “on brand”

79% of those who responded to The World Media Group’s Future of Content Marketing survey in 2020 believed that investment in content marketing would continue to grow – and despite all the challenges of the past year, 23% of the advertisers who responded to our 2021 survey were increasing investment. So even if you have a meaningful narrative, how do you ensure it stands out from the crowd? Ruby Wight believes that to achieve that cut-through, you need “An execution that feels different from what is conventional in the category, something that feels unexpected and new.” Katharine Swarney urges advertisers and their creative teams to approach the brief with an open mind, adding that, “Some of the best content I have ever done came from creative proposals that seemed completely crazy at first but through development went on to become outstanding campaigns”. But just as Denise emphasised story over format, our jury would stress that crazy-for-crazy’s sake is not going to give you that cut-through on its own – Katharine added that, “you need to be authentic about your brand values and not try to act like a brand you are not”.

4. Add value for your audience

It’s all about making those connections between the audience’s interests and needs and where your brand can add value. “Adding value to a consumer’s life is key; treating your audience with respect; surrounding them but not in a way that feels forced; being clear what problem you are solving” all add up to the right approach, according to Elliot Moss, partner and director for business development at Mishcon de Reya. A number of our jury stressed the value of context – as Fabio Mancone put it, your storytelling should “seamlessly fit into the spaces the audience comes into contact with it”. If you can get the balance right between delivering the unexpected, embedding this in authenticity, and offering real value, then you should achieve your ultimate objective which should be, according to Ruby Wight, to start a conversation, “When your audience sees this content they should want to forward it to a friend, immediately!”

5. Ensure the whole team understand the objectives!

Being clear on your objectives before you start is our final tip – content marketing can raise brand awareness, change brand perceptions, stimulate purchase, reinforce brand loyalty…. And each objective requires a different approach. Denise Burrell stresses that the whole team [client, agency, media owner] need to be on the same page, “All people on a creative team should embark on their projects with a clear understanding of KPIs and what their piece is meant to achieve. Is it shifting audience sentiment, or raising awareness of an important event?”.

I’ll leave the last words to our Jury co-chair, “Successful content strategy connects customer value with business value. It starts with deep audience understanding, in having empathy, and connecting with passion points and interests. It then finds a credible role for the brand that adds genuine value to your audience’s life whilst at the same time, tells the brand story in a way that drives outcomes for the business.”

If you feel you have achieved that over the past year, then we’d love to hear from you! Find out more about how to enter the World Media Awards HERE.