Content Is King

Let’s face it: Marketing has hit a wall. Everyone is looking for the next unique way to engage the broadest demographic possible, but they just can’t break through. Do you want to know why? Go to the websites of startups, mid-sized businesses, and massive conglomerates. What do you see? They all have the same aesthetic, the same content, and the same tone — each packaged just differently enough to make them look unique.

Audiences want new content faster than marketers can provide it. Just as social media embraces trends, businesses market to consumers. Once a company strikes a chord that resonates with the masses, everyone jumps on the bandwagon until the marketing strategy is wildly overused and therefore ineffective. Rather than businesses dictating how they market to consumers, the pendulum has swung so that marketing strategies are in the hands of the consumer.

The quick progression of technology in recent years could be a cause of this shift of power, but the reason matters less than the result. Businesses are left to either try to create the next big marketing trend or ride an existing one until it’s out of gas. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Every business is sitting on a gold mine of content-driven marketing; they just haven’t tapped into it. The biggest resource for a company to market is its leader.

One strategy that has gained a significant amount of traction in recent years is the personal branding of companies’ leaders. But just as other marketing has become standardized and generic, so has personal branding. Owners and CEOs have become robotic in what they say and how they act. It’s as if they’ve all gone through the same media coaching.

Leaders are so concerned with slipping up that they won’t take risks. But when did being authentic become risky? Here’s the truth of the matter: If you’re a business leader, people will listen to you. Most people are drawn to the same qualities that make a person successful. But the second you begin heavily regulating the way you think, act, and feel, potential consumers are going to turn away. If you’re considering using authentic content in your marketing, here are three reasons to reassure you that it’s a good idea.

It’s Accessible
Marketing is all about creating a dialogue. Take a moment and think about the most significant conversations you’ve ever had. Did any of them begin with you using a formula of how to engage someone? Odds are the conversation resulted from sharing a genuine moment with someone you value. If your business is truly seeking to have meaningful dialogue with customers, the best way to do that is to treat them like you would a neighbor or friend. All good communication takes is a sender, a receiver, and a medium. If you open up a deliberate channel, you’ll be more accessible to your audience and have a greater opportunity to create new ideas and strategies with them.

It’s Unique
Every business tries to cultivate distinct and engaging content, but no one wants to take a big risk and be rejected. The problem is that most companies tie unique selling propositions (USPs) to the features of their product or service rather than focusing on what is truly special about their business: its leader. If you want to distinguish yourself by using a USP, try marketing your individuality. You may find that people want to be a part of something more genuine than formulaic.

It’s Respectful
In many cases, highlighting your personality with branding will end up garnering more respect from your customers than just going through the standard marketing motions. But if you’re not careful, this strategy can also go wildly astray. The companies who have failed in this respect are well-documented, and their sales have suffered. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, Michael Jeffries, once said he only wanted “cool, good-looking people” to shop at his store and that “a lot of people don’t belong” in his company’s clothing. As a result, the retailer’s sales swiftly dropped by $60 million, and Jeffries was forced to retire soon after. It’s important to remember that being authentic doesn't require you to share your darkest secrets, political views, or controversial opinions with your customers. But it does require you to support causes you care about, answer questions honestly, and be genuine.

When push comes to shove, you have to choose your business. Do you want to blend in with the masses or do you want to build a business that stands out by genuinely engaging with consumers? The decision may seem easy, but “playing it safe” by using tired and overused marketing strategies is precisely that — safe. You won't step on any toes, you won’t alienate potential customers, and you won't cause rifts in the business community. But you also won’t stand out or stay relevant. The choice is up to you.