Opinion

Content pollution: Is your brand guilty?

karen coleman biteContent marketing only works for brands that aim to do more than pollute people’s social media feeds, argues Bite Sydney’s Karen Coleman.   

Content isn’t anything new – it has always been the bedrock of a good communications in some form. And despite the current industry hype, content marketing isn’t new either. Brands are waking up to the need to engage with their consumers via relevant, targeted content marketing but unfortunately, the digital media explosion has contaminated some brands’ view of content.

The result? Content is being produced to please algorithms, not people.

All too often, content is neither relevant nor targeted, but instead aimlessly pushed out, polluting consumers’ lives. It’s like playing the numbers game with a machine gun in the hope of registering a hit, rather than the careful, highly targeted approach of a sniper.

Content pollution is becoming a problem for both brands and consumers. With so much stuff out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find content that is relevant, interesting and entertaining.

Take native advertising, which is when brands provide online content in the context of the user experience (think advertorials for the digital world). Our industry is going wild for native advertising today, and when done well, it can be enormously powerful. It takes all the best bits of editorial content – trust, authenticity, insight, relevance – and carefully weaves the brand message into it. However, do it badly and it can be the worst kind of content pollution.

It can obscure and dilute the user experience, and ultimately damage consumer sentiment towards a brand. This is why traditional editorial sees engagement rates of about 70%, while native ads only see about 24%.

So how do brands engage increasingly fickle consumers, for whom the next story is just a swipe away?

Look no further than the B2C space. Here you can see examples of brands finding innovative ways to engage with time-poor consumers with the help of targeted, relevant and interested content.

In Victoria, V/Line’s integrated “Guilt Trip” campaign, which leveraged free train tickets and an Aussie sense of humour to encourage city dwellers to visit family in country towns, resulted in 120,000 extra trips and spike in ticket sales.

Vline Portrait Press & Outdoor

Tourism Australia recently announced it is embarking on a new content-driven strategy, redesigning its website and collecting data on trending topics, all with the hope of serving as “the nation’ storyteller.”

The list goes on: British Airway’s multi-channel #LookUp campaign; Dove’s Real Beauty campaign and Google’s Think Quarterly online magazine.

Big brands are starting to find new and interesting ways to tell their stories and engage with consumers. But those marketing departments are often operating on big budgets and virtually unlimited resources. So what is the answer for the rest of us, particularly those in the B2B space?

In my mind, the answer is environmentally-friendly content marketing. Content that is objective, relevant, insightful and original. Content that is backed up by an insight and then an idea, and supported by a carefully curated community. Content that is well-researched and targeted, but simultaneously agile enough to be relevant to emerging trends.

There’s no one right type of content, it can take many forms. But if done right, it will be a breath of fresh air in the market for both consumers and brands alike.

Karen Coleman is GM of communications agency Bite Sydney

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