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Why storytelling is crucial in content marketing

Brands need to invest more in this on a long-term strategy.

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NEW DELHI: Storytelling in content marketing is a vital tool to connect with the audience. Content marketing has always been used in a more personal manner. However, in today’s digital era, brands are eager to not only be creative in their advertising but also using content to sell, connect and engage.

Madison Media Digital creative director Anuradha Agarwal says, “Content marketing can be the most cost-effective way for a new entrant to make a mark in a highly competitive market or for more established brands to play a larger role in the consumer’s life. Storytelling is a tried and tested means to create stickiness in an era where audiences are constantly distracted.”

22feet Tribal Worldwide president Preetham Venkky also opines that content marketing has a significant role to play in establishing trust towards a brand. However, the main challenge marketers face is that they don’t have the relevant KPIs in place to justify spends on content marketing.

According to him, “Brand marketers have short-term KPIs and look at monthly or quarterly KPIs linked to TOMA / SOV or equivalent. For content marketing to play a key role, the KPIs to marketers need to go beyond short-term and focus on the long-term.”

Venkky also explains that marketing saturation has made consumers distrust content that comes directly from the brands because it seems too sales-y. “Brands have to learn to be more benevolent and not look at directly measuring the business impact of every piece of content produced,” he says.

In the post-digital world, Venkky says that there is a shift in trust from brands to aggregator platforms. “With plenty of aggregator players in each industry investing heavily in content marketing (their primary source to grow their offering), brands will find it difficult to compete with them,” he adds.

Kumar Deb Sinha, executive VP, Dentsu Aegis Network and country head, The Story Lab India explains that advertising is based on fabricating brand stories to amplify the features of the product and their usage to stand out. This model worked until the volume of advertising became overwhelming for a consumer.

He says, “Content marketing starts playing a larger leadership role when marketers evolve to this realisation and use marketing as a tool to tell relevant consumer stories rather than brand stories. Some of the best examples of content marketing happen today in B2B marketing, where brands share content (whitepaper, research, latest trends, etc.) proactively with their prospective and existing consumers and initiate a conversation with him/her. A B2B marketer understands the significance of content marketing as the primary tool of engagement with their consumers. For a B2C marketer, unfortunately, it is still lagging behind the traditional routes which help reach a mass audience at low cost with minimal engagement.”

If used right, it can play a leadership role in the broader marketing planning of a brand. “For any effective content marketing approach, brands should focus on seamless storytelling across platforms to keep an audience engaged over time. A content-first, platform-specific approach is the need of the hour,” shares YAAP partner Manan Kapur.

Agarwal shares, “Brands need to find their place in this new world and connect with audiences through content that adds value to their life. The more authentic, credible and humane brands become, the better chances they have of building a loyal audience base."

Sinha explains that trust is dependent on many things. Foremost amongst them is product experience. If the product doesn’t live up to the experience promised or expected by the consumer, no amount of content marketing or advertising will ever deliver trust.

“It should be measured against parameters like relevant conversations it has driven for the brand (which is linked to brand marketing objective), engagement score vis-à-vis competition, sentiment analysis leading to the word of mouth and brand advocacy by their consumers and followers. It is the journey of falling in love with a brand,” he says.

With other forms of engagement taking importance, such as influencer and social media marketing, brands may think content marketing is outdated. Sinha believes that influencer and social media marketing is the easiest entry point but content marketing isn’t limited to this.

“I feel marketers/agencies miss the larger picture. We leave our content marketing effort limited to influencers and digital films only. We don’t take the conversation forward with our consumers that we have initiated through these initiatives. Content marketing can’t be a start and stop engagement through few initiatives a year. It has to be sustained engagement generating conversations around the year. And once you have sustained engagement, you will drive strong and meaningful conversations with consumers,” he says.

Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO and editor in chief Anil Wanvari says that there’s a lot of promotion happening in terms of TVCs, digital content and messaging by brands asking consumers to buy their respective products; which works contrary to the communication's objective. Because of the barrage of communications, consumers develop a blind spot to it when it is being served to them.

“To get the consumer's attention, a piece of communication needs to stand out . One way is to tell an engaging story, with different messaging. It tends to get larger traction if targeted right. It’s important that the messaging goes to the right set of audience. A consumer enjoys engagement with which he is able to resonate. A brand can sell a product by talking about its benefits or by weaving it into a piece of content well told but it needs to have a connection with its consumer,” he says.

“We recently partnered with ZEE5 and created content around Sushant Singh Rajput on which we got millions of impressions on Indiantelevision.com's sister  brand TellyChakkar.com. Zee5 wanted to communicate to its subscribers and potential subscribers that they could watch Suhshant's shows on the streaming service. We produced a piece of native content which talked about Sushant's greeat attributes, his life, his charm, and his shows. Fans loved it. It was shared, it created a lot of buzz, and conversations. It was a more effective way of communication; as it was very sticky too. Engagment, virality, go to a different level if a piece of communication has a story which is told well,” Wanvari adds.

If there is a long-term vision in place, content marketing can help humanise the brand, build authority trust and credibility, create awareness, generate organic sales and gradually, build loyalty.

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