There are lots of ways to build a brand, many of which you probably never thought about. Find out how to use content marketing to create a brand identity.
If somebody were to ask you right now what your main goal is in terms of content marketing, what would you say? Sales? Prospects? Leads? Revenue? How many of you would add building a brand identity to that list?
If building a brand identity is not on your list, you are doing something wrong.
That’s not to say you should forget about sales, revenue, etc. However, these things will come along naturally when you build a strong brand identity. Why? Because of trust. A credible brand identity is a trusted brand identity. In fact, according to a study, 90% of people make up their mind about a brand after doing a search about it.
You can spread this trustworthy brand identity through content marketing.
Aine Bonner, Content Marketing Manager at Global Shares is a big advocate of using content marketing as a means of building a brand identity.
“You can absolutely create a brand identity with content marketing,'' says Aine. “It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario really: which comes first? You can define who you are as a brand and then produce content that’s on point and in keeping with that brand.”
The question now is “how”?
The answer lies within this article. Let’s take a look at how you can use content marketing to create a credible, trusted brand that will benefit you in the long run.
You might be wondering of all the options out there, why focus on content marketing as the main tool for building a brand identity. Our reply was originally “because it’s awesome!” but we decided to opt for a more eloquent answer from Jonathan Bluemel, Senior Content Marketing Manager at leading fin-tech ecosystem finleap, instead.
“Content marketing is a valuable instrument in the marketing mix that keeps brand identity in motion” says Jonathan.
“In my view, building a healthy brand identity with the help of content marketing involves three elements:
1. Discovery: Content marketing is like a sponge that absorbs new trends, insights and, customer pain points from the outside world (via e.g. SEO, web analytics, thought leaders, industrial experts). All new impulses and insights are being edited and made digestible for your own company by means of content creation. In this way, new product ideas are constantly being developed, previously unknown topics and market gaps are discovered and valuable assets for customer success are designed.
2. Transport: An unknown brand has three arch-enemies: invisibility, lack of trustworthiness and no relevance. Content marketing helps to overcome all of these three enemies. How? By helping to transport the expertise and distinctiveness of the company as well as the added value of the services and products to the outside world. The most important content parameters such as relevance, up-to-dateness and feasibility can show when content should best be communicated to the outside world.
3. Build and Confirm: Content marketing not only transports brand content but it can help you build up your brand identity as well. Previously created content is subjected to an ongoing success measurement. You can deepen successful topics further while discovering niches to expand on. These discoveries are immensely valuable for a brand identity, because content marketing sharpens the focus on the appropriate topics, discards the inappropriate and seeks constant exchange with the outside world.”
Thanks for that, Jonathan! Content Marketing Manager Liesa Huppertz also has some wise words to add on why brands should use content marketing:
"As a content marketing expert I often get asked what the difference is between traditional marketing and content marketing. I have a very short answer to that: With traditional marketing you’re telling the world that you’re a rockstar, with content marketing however, you’re proving it.
Content Marketing makes you stand out from the competition by reflecting your position as an authority in your field of expertise. Imagine your company sells superfoods which are in high demand these days. Your customer starts his buying journey by comparing prices and products online and finds two sellers, let’s call them company A and company B, with similar offers. But: Company A doesn’t only show product details on the website as company B does it; they also provide valuable information on nutrition, smoothie recipes and a background story of why superfoods are important.
What do you think, where is the customer more likely to end up buying? Where would you buy?"
Now let’s dig deeper into how content marketing can help build a brand identity.
Believe us when we say it, telling a brand story really is an incredibly effective marketing tool.
Storytelling is something that has been ingrained in our existence since time began. We like to tell stories, hear stories, communicate via stories, and most importantly, connect with stories.
You need this connection with your target audience in order to be a successful brand. This can be done by telling the story of your company: who you are, what you represent, and what your goals are.
TOMS Shoes do storytelling extremely well. The company has dedicated an entire page on their site to the story behind their company. After seeing child poverty while traveling through Argentina, founder Blake Mycoskie created TOMS Shoes, “a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.”
TOMS has tapped into the notion that today’s customers, especially millennials, need their brands to have intrinsic value. Zita Cassizzi, former Chief Digital Officer at TOMS got that understanding how important it was to build a movement people were happy to be part of. In an interview with Forbes, Cassizzi explained how this movement was apparent in the company’s content marketing: “Valuable content should be what the customer cares about at that particular time and will spend his or her time engaging with.”
Airbnb is known for putting its customers right at the heart of what it does. And where is this heart? In the home, of course! The marketing team at Airbnb wanted travellers and hosts to see Airbnb beyond a means of simply renting space. They wanted their rentals to be considered a home away from home.
“You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong,'' explained Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere.”
As a result, Airbnb became a brand associated with home, focusing on the real experiences only a home can provide.
Airbnb uses content marketing to take their brand identity above and beyond by sharing stories based in some of its most popular rental locations. Instead of telling the company story, Airbnb tells those of their customers. What could be more personable and relatable than hearing from fellow Airbnb users?
Both TOMS and Airbnb do a great job of interloping their story with people’s lives. When they share this story, it does a better job of grabbing attention than any “buy me” paid advertisement can.
Find your story and share it using content marketing. Show your target audience you have the same values they do via informative articles, beautiful images, and/or a video they just can’t look away from. Catch their eye by using one form of content marketing and see how consumers seep into other areas before soon becoming loyal customers.
We’re sure that the brand stories of TOMS and Airbnb have softened your heart but don’t take the easy way out by trying to replicate the identity they have built. A strong brand identity is also a unique brand identity that helps you stand out from your competitors.
The first port of call in using content marketing to build your brand identity is adding that story we mentioned above to as many content pieces that make sense. By adding your story to your content, you can turn anything you create from dull and boring into engaging pieces that your target audience will want to click on.
It’s a chance to relay facts through a narrative, which will make them a whole lot more entertaining. As humans, we’re all looking for things to connect with and a narrative is something that is instantly connectable.
Stories can also prompt action. Add a narrative to a bland piece of writing, and you will transform it into content that instantly creates an emotional response in readers. They then won’t be able to resist acting in the way you had in mind, whether that’s to sign up for your email list or to click through to your online shop.
As you are reading this article you are automatically thinking of all the cool blog articles you have written that your story can be added to. And that’s great. Your story should be there considering 346 million people read blogs throughout the world. At the same time, there are more than 500 million blogs live in the world today, with over two million blog posts being published daily. This means it is easy for your brand identity to drown in a sea of others.
If you want to give your brand identity that extra push as well as something a little more special, go down some content avenues that no one else is exploring. Take a look at these trend predictions for 2020 and see how you can create your own niche in them:
Remember when Pokemon Go first broke out into the gaming world? This is one of the first major uses of augmented reality. These days, it’s not just for games. More apps are starting to use AR (think Instagram filters and SnapChat lenses) and this new media will be big in the content marketing world come next year.
One example of this is the IKEA Place app. Consumers who are considering buying new furniture can see how IKEA pieces will fit into their home and current decor. Just snap a picture of a room and you can then place true-to-scale, 3D images of furniture in the pic.
Is there a way you could be using AR in your content marketing that no other brand is doing? Breaking into a rarely used content marketing territory such as AR, gives you something that your brand can become known for, something that adds more to your identity.
Tech like Alexa and Siri may not be new, but not many brands use this kind of voice technology in their content marketing just yet.
But that looks set to change next year. This is the bandwagon that you want to be driving, rather than jumping on once the trend is already underway.
There’s no getting away from the fact that voice-control is becoming a much bigger part of our everyday lives, so it’s about time brands started using it in their content marketing and brand identity as well. Make it part of your website or implement it in your app and other platform interfaces in order to stay ahead of all the competition.Again, becoming known for your use of voice technology as part of your content marketing can set you apart from competitors and really double down to ensure your brand identity is clear in your audience’s mind.
Remember those connections that were explained in the above point about telling a story? These are important for brand recall. The stronger a connection between your brand and consumers, then the stronger their brand awareness and recollection of you will be.
The overall value of your brand is the sum of its many parts. In most cases, these parts are your beliefs, vision, and company goals. But what can often be overlooked is the value your brand can bring to those who purchase from you. Share this value within your brand’s story.
Rob Smith, Digital Marketing Manager at ramarketing explains further using the case of a B2B brand as an example:
“[One] way [to use content marketing to create a brand identity] is through the core messaging that the brand is trying to get across. This may be that the brand wants to be seen as 'innovative' or 'agile' for example. This content marketing would present these brand values by discussing cutting edge techniques they are using or though case studies showing their ability to turn a project around quickly.”
“Cutting edge techniques”, “quick project turnaround”; if we were a company looking for a marketing service these terms would certainly catch our eye. Why? Because they bring ease and value to our everyday operations.
Simply tell your target audience how your brand can add value to their lives and build a brand identity around this value.
This shouldn’t be too hard to do in terms of content marketing. Start with publishing some case studies that are full of facts and figures demonstrating how you have helped your clients/customers. Then go even bigger by publishing a whitepaper. Now, if you include information that shows how you helped a specific client/customer, the value of your product will become apparent.
Let’s take a look at an example of a brand that has created a strong brand identity by creating value: Nike.
Nike’s values are strongly linked to their famous slogan, “Just Do It”.
Motivation is key to the company and all its customers. By bringing inspiration through its innovative products, it continues to be one of the leading sportswear brands around the world. Its inclusivity and belief that anyone with a body is an athlete is another reason why it continues to be a huge international hit.
What’s more, the Nike slogan is completely timeless. It also crosses boundaries, as Davide Grasso, VP of Global Brand Marketing at Nike explains:
“It has been translated into many, many languages [...] One of my favourite examples is this one: The American Foundation for the Blind gave Nike the 1995 Access Award for its creation and distribution of a ‘Just Do It’ poster done in braille.” [from Creative Review]
In fact, if you ask Grasso, he’d explain that the marketers at Nike don’t believe in slogans:
“Instead, what we’ve found to be most effective is inviting people to join us in what we believe in and what we stand for. And what we stand for is to serve and honor athletes. I think that’s why ‘Just Do It’ has had such an impact over the last 20 years and continues to. It’s genuine and speaks to our core mission.” [from Creative Review]
If Nike had a sports club, we’d definitely want to be a part of it!
As well as being different, your brand should be memorable.
Think of it this way: if your brand isn’t easy to remember then people might forget about it no matter how different it is from all the others.
One great example of this is Hubspot. Their content marketing has helped them to stick in the minds of many professionals.
If you were to ask, we’re sure that the majority of marketing professionals would name Hubspot as a fantastic go-to place for marketing resources and advice. As a marketer, we are sure you will have used the brand before.
But why are they so memorable? Because they create fantastic content that is bursting with insider knowledge and tips. They create blogs and other resources that people in the industry want to read.
Imagine if you could build a brand like that. One that every industry professional has on their tongue and has a strong reputation as a result.
You can do this with content marketing. Once people begin to associate your content with quality, then this will rub off onto your brand.
Hubspot’s main secret weapon is their very own inbound sales engine. They went against the grain of using traditional outbound marketing methods and instead used their own content and services by offering first-class blog posts, industry resources, and reputable webinars. Customers then want to engage with the brand and be associated with them.
If you’re able to build and create similar quality tools, such as eBooks, whitepapers, and tutorials, that are relevant to your niche, then you should see a flood of web traffic heading your way.
However, as Aine Bonner of Global Shares reminds us, “creating a brand identity through the content you produce is an ongoing process. Quality content will continue to nurture your brand and help it flourish. Your content needs to be engaging, emotional and have an authentic tone of voice. The more you produce and distribute through your various channels, the more people will learn about what it is you do and will remember you. It is this type of content that will stand to you in helping your brand grow from strength to strength.”
By now, you should be very familiar with your target audience. That’s good because you always need to keep them in mind when creating your content.
You’ll be half-way there if you start off with publishing content that you know they want to see. And you’ll know exactly what kind of content will appeal to them if you know and understand your target audience fully.
Once you have gotten to know each and every demographic that makes up your target audiences, you’ll be able to understand them better. You’ll figure out what drives their views and opinions and therefore, will be able to create content that resonates with them.
Ultimately, the more targeted content you can put out into the public domain, the better. Your audience will easily see this type of content and might even actively seek it out. Once the word spreads about this fantastic content, you will be able to build a very firm reputation of being an expert in your industry and field.
Just don’t fall into the age-old trap of stopping there. Content marketing goes beyond simply creating content. It’s equally about getting your content in the faces of the right people. Remember, there are millions of blogs online. Simply posting something and hoping the right people find it is not enough.
So, after creating your content, your number-one goal should be to push it right under the nose of your target audience.
We suggested some more forward-thinking and innovative ways to do content marketing earlier in this article. But that doesn’t mean you should steer away entirely from the tried and tested methods. Some of the best things you can do within your content marketing strategy are:
Social media influencers are a big deal today. If you find one who you know your target audience will be following, then you should see if they are interested in collaborating. By doing sponsored posts on their channels that link to your blog posts and other forms of content, you’re creating a new pathway for consumers to find you.
The content marketers were making 10 years ago is completely different to what brands are creating today. That’s because our tastes change over time and what was once seen as cool and fashionable might be seen as old fashioned now. So, make sure you’re utilizing the types of content that a modern audience wants to actively seek out—think videos, social media posts, and stylish articles for your blog. If your content isn’t relevant for the contemporary world anymore, then there’s little chance of it reaching your target audience.
It’s often overlooked by content marketers, but using referrals is a great way to develop your brand identity through word of mouth.One referral scheme to take some inspiration from is the one by mattress firm Dream Bed. Instead of just using the scheme as a way to grow their customer base, they have transformed it into a platform for showing off the brand’s charitable side.
For everyone who refers a friend through the scheme, the brand will also donate a mattress for a person in need.Using referral schemes in this way is a great way to showcase your brand’s values and create more of a defined brand identity. Just like Dream Bed are known as the charitable mattress firm, you could also become known as the charitable brand in your niche.
You need to have a promotional campaign embedded in your content strategy as well. And there’s no better campaign tool than social media. If you align your social media and content, it’s like having a secret weapon that can really get your marketing off with a bang!
Setting up a content calendar can really help with this.
You’ve probably already drawn up a schedule for future blog posts. But have you also thought about how you can fit their promotion into your social media plan? Aligning a calendar for both social and content could be just the ticket.
For instance, imagine you were planning on writing a blog post that celebrates the female members of your team for International Women’s Day. You can add this to your calendar so that you remember to publish it to your blog on the day itself, March 8th. As well as that, make sure there is a note on your social media calendar so that a link to the post is published to all your social channels and promoted thoroughly.
People need to know about your brand, and the only way they will find anything out about it is by telling them yourself.
Keep on reminding the public about who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. Push this message out far and wide so there is no doubt about your brand. Keep on publishing blog posts, tweet on a regular basis, and push more and more innovative content out for your audience to see.
Eventually, the public will have a strong sense of your brand identity, and there won’t be any doubt in your message.
Think it’s time to freshen up your brand’s look? You bet your content marketing can help you with this side of brand identity, too!
If your brand tracking software has shown you that your target audience is actually somewhat younger than what you’d originally thought, then it could be worth adding some youth to your branding. This could entail changing your web copy up so it’s less formal and will appeal to millennials and Gen Z.
Take the aftershave brand Old Spice, for example. Once seen as a very outdated scent that peaked in popularity in the 1970s and ‘80s, it has seen a big makeover in the past couple of years.
In the mid-2010s, the male-fragrance brand teamed up with NFL player Isaiah Mustafa who starred in a number of TV ads that were actually aimed at women. These ads had the sole aim of shifting the perception of Old Spice from being outdated to a fragrance that was alluring to women. Along with some fun updates to the language used—they started calling its body wash line “scent vacations”—they successfully began to target a younger audience.
Sometimes things might not go according to plan.
A tweet might go viral for all the wrong reasons; your online reviews might take a nosedive; a PR disaster might turn customers away from you. When things like this start to snowball, it might seem like there’s no way back from the edge.
It is possible to contain things, though, and carry out some important damage control. This can be done with a clever and reactive content marketing strategy.
Remember this tweet from the NRA back in 2012? The brand tweeted “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Any weekend plans?” This might seem innocent enough coming from the National Rifle Association, however, it was seen as grossly miss-timed as a mass shooting had occurred in Colorado just hours before.
There was a huge backlash, which prompted the brand to quickly apologize. They also explained that the individual who was running their social media at the time was completely unaware of the prior event.
Let this be a warning for all brand tweeters—you need to always be aware of the wider picture and understand the context of each and every tweet.
Apologetic and positive—that’s what your content needs to be in the face of a PR issue. From publishing a statement on social media to posting an apology in a blog post, there are ways you can limit the damage and ensure that your brand’s reputation comes out as in-tact as possible. It also pays to answer each of the hundreds of bad reviews and emails that will inevitably flood into your inbox.
By being proactive and professional in this way with your content strategy, you will find that the disaster blows over a lot quicker than you might have thought, and your customers will slowly return.
Speaking of proactivity, you can also work in damage control before a scandal could even happen. If over time you are able to show that you are a strong, trustworthy brand that offers value, your customers might be more forgiving toward one minor slip-up that might occur. Still though, better not to make that slip-up at all.
So, you’ve built a brand and have got a firm handle on its identity. You’re clear on your vision and all of the values and goals, plus you’re sure that these are shared with your target audience.
Don’t waste any time in letting your audience and customers know all about this!
Again, this is something that content marketing can help you with.
You shouldn’t just shout about your brand once and then keep schtum. This is a message that you need to continually send, and what better way than by putting your content to good use?
The public then won’t have any issues trying to understand your brand, and it also shows them why they should put their trust in you.
Can you think of a brand that you haven’t heard from in a while? They might have neglected their social media and other forms of advertising, but that doesn’t mean that they are defunct. Even so, you might now be unclear on what they actually stand for.
Would you make an effort to search for this brand and use them again? Probably not.
Simply put, you’ve lost your trust in them.
And you sure don’t want this scenario playing out with your target audience for your own brand...
So, create some shareable content that you can continually push out into the public sphere. Make your blog posts, social media posts, and website easy to find using some strong content marketing strategies. And then there’s no way your customers will stop hearing about your brand and its message.
Not only will replaying your brand’s message ensure that your customers do not lose sight of your values and vision, but it will also ensure that you stay fresh in your mind. That will help heaps with brand recall. And as we know, consumers are a lot more likely to trust and choose brands that they know well!
This closely links to the point above about always shouting about your brand. Having a solid content marketing campaign in place will show people that you are serious about being around for the long term.
This is a key point for all B2B businesses and brands. If you’re in this industry, then there’s a good chance that you’re charging your clients a regular fee or subscription. Whether that’s to use some corporate software or for regular access to your business services, this is the most common way B2B brands operate.
Paying a monthly subscription will give your customers peace of mind that they can always rely on your service. Showing your audience that you intend to be around for the long-term will make them think about reliability and reassurance when they think of your brand. This, in turn, reinforces your brand identity in their minds.
Establishing a very strong content campaign can also help you to convey stability. Your content will describe your visions for the future and will really assure your clients that you will be able to deliver well into the future.
Think of your various pieces of content as building blocks. All of these blocks can be put together to create brand identity. The more blocks you have, and the stronger they are linked, then the better they are for your brand identity. Over time, you can place larger and much more stable foundations to create a completely watertight brand.
Imagine this… Once your brand has been around for a while, the brand recognition and awareness will start to really pick up. This will cement your brand’s identity as one that is reliable and can be trusted. Any other attributes and characteristics that you’ve been pushing should also start being associated with your brand. This is a result of you being around long enough for your audience to start connecting them to your brand identity.
This can also be linked to creating a long-term, consistent message. If your brand is going to survive for years to come, you need to guarantee its consistency.
Rob Smith of ramarketing explains his take on this:
“Consistency in content is a big part of this - having a consistent voice and message throughout all marketing channels creates a stronger impression of what a 'brand' sounds and looks like.
This is powerful when building a brand, as their target audience will get to know a brand and the elements like voice, messaging and values as they interact with it. This allows us to connect with people on a personal level, as they look for companies with similar values to themselves.“
So, there you have it. There’s a whole lot more to content marketing than just being an SEO tool. When you do it well, you can use it to shape your brand identity. Most of the time, this is all down to increasing your trustworthiness.
From telling your brand story and defining your value to differentiating yourself and aiding any future rebrand: there’s so much that content marketing can help you with.
Are you ready to make yours work for you and your brand identity in 2020?