Which Came First? The Content Or The Egg?

Discussion
Sep 04, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the rDialogue blog.

Everyone’s talking about content like it’s a revolutionary new concept. In reality, it isn’t new, but it’s becoming more and more vital to provide relevant content to your customers to keep them engaged in the digital age of hyper clutter. In fact, some very smart companies have been using content to deepen customer relationships for decades—over a century in some cases—by providing a wealth of information beyond their core product.

There’s no better example than the Michelin Guide (which I admittedly didn’t know). At the turn of the century, brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin published the first Michelin Guide and distributed them at no charge in an effort to encourage car owners (of which there were less than 3,000 in France at the time) to take car trips and travel. Four years and 35,000 copies later, they published their second Michelin Guide—this one for Belgium—and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over 100 years ago, these brothers understood and delivered what so many retailers are struggling with today. They knew more travel meant more replacement tires—and that travel tips and guides would spur travel and replacement tires. Countless other retailers—in particular consumer packaged goods companies—have provided relevant content for years through recipes, cookbooks, websites and newsletters. Think back to your mother’s or your grandmother’s kitchen. I can clearly remember a multitude of pamphlets and cookbooks and mail-in recipe booklets from Campbell’s and Betty Crocker. And while today you’re more likely to find all of that information on a website or through an app, it was—and still is—relevant content.

My favorite content partnership right now is the collaboration between Tractor Supply Company and The Chicken Whisperer. Brilliant in its simplicity, The Chicken Whisperer provides videos and newsletter content and goes on quarterly road trips to meet customers at Tractor Supply stores. His information is relevant and of great interest to Tractor Supply customers, driving them to the website and stores, without Tractor Supply having to develop any of the content themselves.

Providing relevant content doesn’t require you to become an expert in a multitude of content areas; instead you can leverage others’ expertise through partnerships and bloggers. But it does require understanding your customers and the types of content they’ll find valuable.

It’s easy for any company to start leveraging content marketing, one article, blog or travel guide at a time, slowly determining what your customers need to know to have a reason to use your product or engage with your brand.

How is the role of content evolving for marketers in the digital age? What advice would you offer for improving the relevance and reach of a brand’s content?

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15 Comments on "Which Came First? The Content Or The Egg?"


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Tom Redd
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Content has been a BIG ISSUE since the creation of retail. The digital age just creates more channels and this means more demand for content. Content should already be priority #1 in any product or retail marketing program. You can never, ever have too much content available to a person spending cash!

Tom…a content-rich retail guy….

Joel Rubinson
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

The internet has trained consumers to go about researching a possible purchase differently. The degree to which they are encouraged to lean forward and seek out information, becoming their own tour guides, is transformative. Consumers will seek out relevant content in self-guided ways and often this begins with a search where relevant content is presented via search results. How could a marketer ignore this process? How could they NOT create content that is optimized to be an attractor for people considering a purchase of what they have to sell?

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

There are still great examples of brand content (or, as we used to call some of them, “newsletters”) that have not gone digital. For example a nationwide specialty grocer has a detailed newsletter that describes new items and suggest great recipes for their products. This is a hard copy paper that customer can pick up and leave around the house that is a great reminder to shop that store soon.

As far as digital, there are countless vehicles for brand promotion that are serving both CPG and retail companies…and the customers they serve. The challenge is to create interesting, fresh content regularly, so the shopper has something new to see, say, each week. Give shoppers a compelling reason to come back to see the new content you have created. This is an intentional, focused effort that needs dedicated people on the task.

Joan Treistman
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
I can’t help myself sometimes. I started to wonder about Michelin and all their current customers who travel by plane and train and not automobile. But that’s not fair. It turned out to be a great business on its own…not just an influence on its primary business. The point of the article was stated at the end, about supplying content that gives customers  “a reason to use your product or engage with your brand.” The title of the article referred to which came first, Content or The Egg. Well the egg is a form of packaging and that is what content needs regardless of how good it is. Michelin had a small and easy to carry book for travelers. The digital world offers an expansive array of possibilities for the marketer and the consumer. The delivery system and the content are more integrated today than ever before. Marketers have to know what content to deliver of course, but if their choice of media or media sub-groups is not aligned with their target’s life style…it’s not… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Jodi, thanks for bringing this discussion full circle. Relevant content and storytelling has been the core of human communication since folks were using charcoal to draw woolly mammoths on cave walls. Understanding your desired audience and their broader world will provide you with the foundation to be able to tell your story but you need to be creative and connect the dots like the Michelin brothers did. They understood that travel led to tires; just like Andy Schneider aka, The Chicken Whisperer, understands that folks that shop at Tractor Supply Company will most likely have chicken issues! (How many of you Googled ‘The Chicken Whisperer’!!??).

Brands all have a story to tell and shoppers enjoy hearing a great story that connects with them emotionally. Check your archives and I’ll bet there is a wealth of material that you thought had no value or relevance! Wrong! That material is priceless! Gather it, curate it, manage it and publish it! Your shoppers and customers will love it!

Ian Percy
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
Three thoughts… First, it’s impossible to not have content. Every retailer is putting out content, no matter what. But as Jodi writes, it must show an understanding of your customers and what THEY find valuable. Second, we are generally pathetic at telling a good story; and it’s the ‘story’ that matters, not simply information or even a list of benefits. Think of watching the Olympics or the X-Factor. What is often more fascinating than the performance is the back story of the performer—their personal story. If you were forced at gun point to tell a fascinating retail story, would you have one or would you enthrall us with a dissertation about six sigma? Third, the story has to be told from the customer’s point of view…NOT the retailers. For example, if a retailer has a “Vision Statement,” how likely is it that a customer reading it would exclaim “Wow, that’s what I want too. How can I help that become a reality?” Even job descriptions should be composed from the customer’s perspective. Part of the… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
Content has always been there, however, it was usually available in just one or two formats. Now, content can be created and displayed in multiple formats—and less expensively (as in sometimes free) than ever. Content can be on a website, Facebook post, YouTube video, Pinterest, Google Plus… and on and on. There are more places than ever for companies to take advantage of for product and content placement. The opportunity to expand reach to the masses as well as segmented groups has never been easier. The key is to provide value added content. Make customers LOVE you. Don’t just advertise or promote. Give them something that endears them to you. Ace Hardware posts videos on how to do certain home-improvement projects. Not everyone who views it is an Ace Hardware customer today. But it doesn’t matter. It’s positive and value added. Certain brands have posted some very funny videos that have gone viral. It’s not as much of a blatant promotion as it is about having fun. Create content that is engaging, value added, more… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Allow me to morph this discussion slightly, broaden it really, to the bigger issue of focusing on the delivery system versus the content (or, in a different sense, the business proposition).

I listened to a great analysis from a “rule breaking” investment service over the holiday weekend. The entire focus of the first 45 minutes was how disruptive technologies would devastate cable companies. As you might imagine, several new tech companies were mentioned as smart investment plays to capitalize on this.

But then the discussion did a 180 in the last 15 minutes. The “rule breakers” breakout advice? Ignore all the delivery system bets and buy the content providers. Their rationale? That way you win, no matter whether it’s an “i-something” or an “x-something” you wind up using to get your content. It’s the content you want.

Parallels? I think so.

David Zahn
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

I think Ian’s point should be read by marketers and executives across our entire industry. The content is not a “me-me-me” proposition (we do this, and we were founded then, and we believe in, etc.) WITHOUT it being DIRECTLY connected to the shopper/consumer/buyer.

Often, the internet has become a huge price checker for shoppers and then people providing reviews/complaints/compliments about a company/product/service. The “education” of the shopper is where I see content going next (what you COULD DO, what you CAN LEARN, how your life COULD IMPROVE, etc.) through use of our products/services/company’s offering.

James Tenser
Guest
5 years 7 months ago
It seems “content” is a wheel that keeps on rolling. Remember the “content is king” slogan that was popular at the peak of the dot-com frenzy? It’s relevance then was the hunger for product data and other information needed to populate the new web sites. If you build it, you have to fill it with something, right? Content was soon displaced by “commerce” as folks got the shopping cart and delivery mechanisms worked out and consumers got used to the idea of shopping remotely. After a period of more or less centralized control, the social-mobile reality has caused user-created content to explode, but in an entirely uncontrolled manner. It is into this chaotic environment that the new content marketers are venturing. They hope their organized campaigns will somehow float above the SoMoLoMe din, resulting in a degree of influence over brand perceptions. A whole industry of B2C content marketing agencies is emerging to service this trend. The risk is that these messages drown in a vast content sea in which the relevant mixes with the… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

To me, relevant content is conversation starters, ideally seeded with a resonant emotional trigger that inspires those that read it to get involved. Best trigger framework I’ve seen in a long time is in Sally Hoghead’s “Fascinate” book. Worth a read. Her trigger combinations are especially relevant to almost all brands.

The conversations/content that influences behavior the most is peer-to-peer. It’s prudent to be a starter, an extender and to listen well so you don’t overstay your conversational welcome.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

It’s the same question we’ve always had: are you trying to improve your customer’s lives, or are you simply trying to sell more product? Unless you can (truthfully) say it’s the former—and provide a brief explanation as to how—you’re never going to be relevant. I don’t see that “digital” has anything to do with it.

Bryan Pearson
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

Companies need to use customer data to create customer intimacy and drive relevant communications.

Here’s a recent example from Netflix based on their recent introduction of customer profiles within a household.

Netflix has now put the customer in charge, giving us the option to willingly share personal choices that it can then use to improve the brand experience. With this simple-to-attain information, Netflix can discern how each individual in the home interacts with its service, enabling it to better understand not only individuals, but also the household, down the road.

More information on the Netflix example here: http://pearson4loyalty.com/2013/08/netflix-uncovers-clue-to-customer-preferences/

What other examples have you seen lately?

Lee Kent
Guest
5 years 7 months ago

In yesterdays marketing, content was colorful language, attention getting words, emotion drivers, put it in their faces signage, anything that might get the attention of the consumer and maybe stir up the buying urge.

Today’s marketing is anything but the above. Today’s consumers, especially the younger ones, don’t want anything they didn’t ask for and especially not in their faces! Today’s content is about putting the goods and services in context and making it relevant. Then you have to go to where your customer is likely to hang out. Whether it be online, in-store, wherever…so THEY can find YOU!

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
5 years 7 months ago

Content is useless unless it invites conversation and useful dialogue. Gone are the days where you can shout at your customers and expect them to follow.

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