Why companies create content – Part one: to create and change perception

There’s a lot written about how to plan, publish and promote content, but much less on the reasons for doing so in the first place.

The majority of businesses know there’s a damn good reason for having branded social media profiles and regularly communicating with their audience about something other than their products, but actually pinpointing ‘why’ can often be difficult.

After reviewing the output of thousands of companies we’ve established seven core reasons for creating content. These can all be tied to genuine business objectives; tangible activities that can be tracked and contribute to the bottom line.

Working out the rationale for activity is often harder than actually getting on and doing it, but that’s where the heart of a solid strategy lies. Get that bit right and everything else should slot neatly into place.

Here is part one of our seven part series:

Part one: to create or change perception

Brand identity is one of the most powerful assets a business has. Maintaining a positive one can have a dramatic (albeit indirect) effect on revenue; the opposite also rings very true.

The content your company publishes acts as the public face, creating an instant impression to people arriving at your corner of the web. What you say and how you say it ultimately dictates who you are.

Traditional brands may want to show they’re still relevant in a modern market. Companies in competitive and homogenised industries (e.g. utilities, banking) can demonstrate differentiation to customers. Startups can upset the status quo, using their new kid on the block status to get people excited about how things should be.

While connecting ‘perception’ and ‘profits’ can be a bit finger in the air, correlating what you create online to peaks (and troughs) in sales allows you to see how and where content can make an impact.

A matter of taste

Coke vs. Pepsi is a battle as old as time itself – or at least since the 1970s. In the digital age, this is less about blind taste tests and more about #ShareACoke vs. the reinvigorated #PepsiChallenge.

One pushes the theme of family and friendships, one’s more about exciting experiences. While there’s crossover, these broad concepts offer a general sense of how these companies want people to feel when their brands pass through the conscience.

Can you guess which of these Instagram posts is from @cocacola and which was posted by @pepsi? Find the answer at the bottom of this article.

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When it comes to money, during the 2011 trial period of ‘Share A Coke’ in Australia, the company claim consumption jumped 7% among young audiences. That’s a hell of a lot of cola!

When asked “If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?” Jeremy Rudge,  Creative Excellence Lead for Coca-Cola said:

“We’d probably spend a fraction of what we spent on TV. As I said, there wasn’t the confidence in social media then that there is now. “Share a Coke” showed that this new landscape was here. There is still a belief in the marketing world that you need to spend big on media to make sure people see your ideas, but we have proved that you can focus your resources on building ideas people want.”

Note specifically that he says “see your ideas” not “buy your products” – people don’t need to be told to buy a Coke, they need to be fed with content to support the idea that it’s a beverage that fits with their lifestyle.

Creating effortless presence

Rolls-Royce have been making the world’s best motor cars since the early 20th Century. They’re one of the most desirable brands on the planet and have developed an online audience that’s the envy of others.

CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös talks about the business in a very bold way:

“Nobody needs a Rolls-Royce. It’s a luxury good at the end of the day and you are deciding about it as you decide on a very precious watch, jewellery, a chalet in the Swiss Alps, something which you enjoy and which you buy to reward yourself for certain achievements in life.”

The vast, vast majority of their global audience can only ever dream of sitting in a Rolls-Royce, let alone owning one. So why do they commit resources to building content to fuel an online presence?

This isn’t about shifting units, it’s about building an army of enthusiasts and maintaining Rolls-Royce’s status at the pinnacle of the luxury market. They want those travelling in their vehicles to see passers-by giving them a thumbs up, not a middle finger.

They create aspirational associations with cool people like Lewis Hamilton, Sienna Miller and Labrinth, share footage from track events and art exhibitions, and photograph cars beside marinas with a backdrop of superyachts.

It would be easy to dip into the archives and show off iconic cars from the company’s illustrious history. But this is a new era for Rolls-Royce, one where they’re trying to appeal to captains of football clubs just as much as they are heads of state.

Content is geared towards removing a feeling of inaccessibility, inviting people ‘Inside Rolls-Royce’ to marvel at the methods and materials used, offering a sense of the unfathomable number of bespoke combinations available to buyers.

Together as a collective stream, this content paints a picture of who today’s Rolls-Royce owners are, with a view to planting a seed with people that they may one day join this exclusive club.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Warren Buffett

What is it you want people to think when they come across your content. If you treat everything you produce as part of a collective set rather than as individual pieces, over time you’ll be able to shape positive attitudes and influence opinions.

PS: The picture above was from Pepsi, the one below from Coca-Cola.

As an aside to this seven part series, check out Ayima’s free DIY Content Marketing Strategy ecourse, designed to help improve the ROI of your content.

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