Avoid Brand Brain Damage, Take a Brand Walkabout
As a business writer, I am intrigued to discover what makes an enterprise tick. How does it manage margins and make money? Who are the leaders, and who do they hire? Why do some thrive on evolution while others falter out of the gate?
Same goes for writing about content marketing, to the point where I wear X-ray specs every time I venture out. From planes, trains, restaurants and hotels to banks, grocery stores and hospitals, what are they doing content-wise?
Rather than inducing brand brain damage, this has elevated my awareness of the essential nature of content marketing, as follows.
No matter your field or industry, content marketing is not really about the external social media, digital, video, print or mobile vehicle you employ to communicate with the marketplace. Those are the physical channels for getting the word out and engaging people, yes, but content marketing comes from a higher place—namely, from a mindset that sees every aspect of the business as content.
Everything can be a talking point, from origins and history to office or store design to the presentation of products and services. Marketing content, quite simply, is the dynamic story of a business in operation, past, present and future. The challenge—opportunity, really—is to tell that story in an engaging, purposeful, honest and compelling way. Every business can and should be doing this—synonymous with the enterprise itself, the very ingredients are there at the ready.
The inspiration for these thoughts was a recent day-long walkabout in New York City. With no plan other than meandering, I crisscrossed lower Manhattan, starting with my first ever visit to an Apple retail store.
From the spiraling glass staircase to the employee-guided transition from arrival (“Welcome”) to the designated product area (“What are you looking for today?”), it was a total experience. No cash registers, just interactions, and the store, swarmed with people, positively vibrated with knowledge and passion. This was Seth Godin’s “tribal” theory of consumerism in action—no wonder Apple is the world’s highest valued brand.
Next, Kiehl’s. Founded as “an old world apothecary” in 1851 and still occupying its flagship space at “Pear Tree Corner,” this Gotham original today is a leader in body and hair care products. Engagement is the operative theme throughout the handsomely preserved space, from banners advertising the “Recycle and Be Rewarded” program to vintage motorcycles once belonging to Steve McQueen and Clark Gable on display. Informative rack cards and brochures complement the welcoming staff; the product displays are irresistible; and you leave informed, without asking, on how to extend the experience via social media.
Whole Foods? A hive of human activity, with spaces provided for lounging, dining, people-watching, playing chess, listening to music—and food shopping. Tribal again, using the content of space, music, food and service to maximum effect.
Build it and they will come; use all available content and context to write your customers into the story, and they will come again.
Jeff Heilman covers business, marketing, law and travel for a range of custom and trade publications. Also an award-winning photographer and copywriter, he ghostwrote Courageous Counsel, a book on the history of women general counsel in the Fortune 500, published September 2011.