Storytelling can indeed be an important, if not critical element of content marketing. But it’s not the be-all, end-all of content marketing strategy. Now, I like a good story as much as the next person. Four of the most magical and riveting words in the English language are “once upon a time.” A story is a wonderful way to capture attention and interest. But it’s not the only way.
Recently I took part in a panel discussion on “branded content.” The proponents of that term asserted that all “branded content” is contingent on a marketer’s ability to tell a good story. Certainly content marketing tells plenty of great ones, from classics like Unilever’s Dove Real Beauty to newcomers like First Kiss, which (though arguably a stealth campaign for Wren Clothing), was as narrative as it was riveting.
But there are two other types of “branded content.” (OK, I dislike that term, which has its roots in print advertorial, from which is probably picks up the storytelling association. From now on let’s just use good, old-fashioned content marketing). Storytelling plays little, if any, role in these types of content, but both types of brand-generated content can be equally as effective as brand storytelling.
There are three types of brand-created content marketing (as distinct from content not created by a brand, e.g. user-generated content, ratings, reviews, aggregated and curated content). The first bucket, content that entertains, is what generally falls into the storytelling camp. Think entertaining videos and other forms of narrative entertainment. The two other types of content marketing are:
1. Educational or Informative Content
This type of content is used in B2B or long-sales cycle purchases. Think automotive. Consumer electronics. Computers. Appliances. Consulting services. Much of it centers around how-to’s, or what to look for when buying…a flat screen TV; child safety seat; a mainframe computer. Different elements of this type of content are often geared to the sales cycle, or around educating customers around a new product category.
Educational/informative content can be thought leadership: white papers, opinion pieces, executive or specialist blogs, new product introductions. It can be instructional (how to use, set-up, activate, make an informed decision). Or it can cross- or upsell additional products and accessories for an existing purchase, e.g. why you might need a new attachment for that lawnmower. Or mixer.
Bottom line, it’s helpful, useful, instructional, and helps all along the purchase cycle, from awareness through to purchase, brand loyalty and advocacy.
2. Utility Content
Utility content is utterly devoid of story. It exists to help consumers get something done, e.g. complete a task, provide highly timely or tailored information, or understand a need. Most often, utility content takes the form of an app or a calculator. Ever calculated an interest rate on a bank’s website? Looked up calories, or a recipe from a brand’s database of ingredients? Then you’ve used utility content.
Because this type of content is app-ified, it’s gaining tremendous momentum on mobile devices. Think Better Homes & Gardens real-estate tool. Location aware, it locates nearby properties for sale, but also delivers information about average sale prices in the neighborhood, nearby schools, taxes, and other information a home buyer needs to make a purchase decision. Sit or Squat, an app developed by Charmin, is the Yelp of public restrooms, helping people who gotta go find the nearest accessible public restroom, complete with ratings and reviews (likelihood of toilet paper, or cleanliness, for example).
In fact, as I write this column in-flight, I’m realizing I just used Delta’s app to check in and ascertain my status on the upgrade list (alas, no dice). At the gate, I got a push message from Marriott telling me my room is ready at the other end of my journey.
All of the above is content. All of it is – or can be – branded. Only some of it tells a story. And that’s OK.
Please read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published.