The strongest brands are relentlessly relevant. They make smart, bold moves that amaze customers, push competitors out of consideration and can even define entirely new categories and markets.
While a business’s products and services can too easily become commoditized, the emotional connections a brand makes with its consumers are key to building relevance and loyalty.
In Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index® we found that many brands like LinkedIn, McDonalds, Subway, and Ziploc perform poorly on creating these emotional connections, and in turn, their relevance scores suffer. The companies that are forming strong emotional connections with their consumers, like Disney, Hershey and Sephora, ranked higher.
What do emotional brands have in common? Content
Content is an under-leveraged tool to build and grow emotional connections, and, when done well, it builds relevance and drives growth. Businesses are using content for sure, but as our colleagues at Altimeter found in their report, The 2016 State of Digital Content, “brands use content mostly to create awareness and build credibility as thought leaders, neglecting other opportunities such as inspiring trust or providing product support.”
5 ways to build emotional connections through content
To determine what content works best, we looked at what the top performers in our Index are creating and discovered five ways they are using content to build emotional connections, and thereby, improve relevance:
1. Use data to inform your content
In Altimeter’s research, almost all companies (99%) use some kind of data to create relevant content. These insights help ensure the content you create will be loved. For example:
- Unlike any other entertainment brand, Netflix is customer obsessed, letting behavioral data drive its content creation right down to the plots it develops and the stars it casts.
- LEGO — now the biggest toy brand on the planet — has tapped search for signals on creating relevant content.
- IBM first pioneered using search intent modeling to inform scripts for its long-tail videos. With real-time data so accessible, you shouldn’t guess with your content.
2. Fuel a conversation
Mission-oriented brands such as TOMS make their social media, newsletter and catalogue content not just about their shoes and eyewear, but also about the quest they’re on and the activities and progress they’ve made. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie first became a New York Times best-selling author with his publication of “Start Something That Matters,” and there are at least 20 other examples of books written by company founders in any bookstore.
Note: We notice a bit of movement-exhaustion in the market, and are seeing brands partner more with nonprofits (or each other) to be both relevant and heard.
3. Motivate by teaching
Sephora’s beauty tutorials, L’Oréal’s beauty hub, recipes in Hershey’s Kitchen and Tide’s stain removal tips are both inspirational and pragmatic, driving consideration and purchase because they empower the consumer with a solution. But remember, it’s a competitive environment. Existing customers will find it, but for prospects, this type of content often needs (paid) amplification and distribution to get discovered.
4. Reward your fans
Like Netflix, Pixar’s hero content is its product. It understands the joy of its fans and rewards the most loyal ones with “Easter eggs,” embedded within the clips they post online. Ford also builds content through valuable influencers, whether it’s live from an auto show or at other timely events.
5. Pick the right place for your dates
Successful social brands like Zara carefully choose their priority channels and find success on places like Instagram or Snapchat. Nordstrom, on the other hand, hosts a blog with shockingly few shares and, likely, low readership. Brands need to resist pressure to be everywhere. They should use content marketing strategies and distribution tools to choose the right channels for the right engagement.
Developing content strategies to build relevance
Prophet develops audience-led content strategies, built on a deep understanding of customers’ content needs, behaviors, and preferences. We use our proprietary content archetypes developed with Altimeter to quickly develop strategies and criteria that help brands make decisions about content every day. We also help tackle content planning, development and distribution, translating the strategy into roadmaps, governance, attribution models and identifying the best uses of channels, formats and even information layers.
A content strategy is an investment in your brand and business that pays off. It helps you build critical emotional connections, which we’ve seen help businesses thrive — and grow.