- On October 1, 2018
It’s been a beautiful day in Amsterdam where I have just finished speaking in front of senior CPG leaders, ranting and raving about how to evolve traditional businesses once and for all. My gin & tonic in hand, I’m talking to a small group of participants who ask me: “The problem in our company is that the digital team has carved out a space for themselves and they are not integrated with the rest of the organisation”.
I roll my eyes. I simply cannot believe my ears. Companies have not managed to break the silos between marketing and sales. Then out of the blue a new silo shows up, this time from those you would least expect it: the digital team …if there is such a thing.
If truth be told, this could be your own company. We know and often hear most are making the same mistake. Digital teams are connected, plugged into the business and they are seen as the salvation army that has to do “the digital thing”. It’s not an ‘’IT’’ thing anymore.
Now the group is looking at me in seek of some sort of wisdom. In my head I have so many examples I could share. I want to make it as concrete and simple as possible because it’s often with the simple answers that we can find common ground.
“How much time do your Product Marketing teams spend in creating product packaging and in-store materials ?” – I’m asking them – “months ?” – they say in chorus. “Right!” – now comes the fun part – “and how much time do they spend creating the digital version of their product packaging, in-store materials and any other assets that build brand awareness, education, consideration, conversion and retention?” – they look at me and I can see the sparkle in their eyes, the one you get once you have just realised how simple the story could be to break those silos and get things in order.
The answer is so obvious yet it’s in a sorry state of affairs. While it may vary depending on the company structure, the truth is marketers in charge of products are spending little to no time in building the digital “image” of the same product for which they spend endless months creating a physical packaging or a display. And that is, my dear marketing colleagues, pure nonsense. No matter what type of organisation you have, the job of building the product story, getting consumers through the funnel, by what I will call for simplicity “Product Content”, belongs to the Product Marketing team, the Brand Manager or whoever is in charge of creating the packaging.
In this two-part article series my team and I want to debunk some of the myths surrounding the World of Product Content. The intent is to give marketing leaders a simple tool to realise how the job of their teams has evolved and provide a starting point with which the organisation can adapt.
While we cannot lay out the entire approach here, this should be enough to put Product Content on your agenda and give you the head start to fix it.
Table of contents
Companies have gone a long way trying to “play” the game of content marketing. One can find endless examples of company corporate blogs, all sorts of articles, how to demo videos and much more. The reality is few have really understood or bothered to accept that Product Content is a key essential element within any Content Marketing Strategy. In fact, in my opinion, this is the very reason why “consumer goods” companies have to start doing Content Marketing.
The variety of channels available in the internet era requires the development of a large amount of assets to communicate the features and benefits of your product. However, before these are produced, the product story is credible (and obviously considering the entire portfolio, the brand story too). Product and Brand Marketers have to understand the consumer DNA, be under their skin, know their personas, their shopping journey, their shopper habits and barriers. They need to understand what information, education and triggers they need along the infamous path to purchase. With online retailers (either direct to consumer or third party) showing continuous double-digit growth, the complexity of assets needed to showcase the product and brand story has increased further. You need high quality product and packaging images, product-focused videos and compelling copy that tells the story in a visually engaging way.
Content Marketing builds brands and within this brand universe, content relates to products. If organisations need to formalise it, we could call this sub-discipline of content marketing, Product Content Marketing. The owner and leader must be the same person (or team) that builds product related assets such as product packaging, TV copy, creative visuals and in-store materials.
This person needs to expand its job description and include the non-physical assets that are needed to do exactly the same job of selling. Today and for the future. This is what Digital Transformation and the Future of Work is all about.
While we have explained above why it’s not the Digital team who are responsible for Product Content, this myth is still relevant. Why ? because we need to define the role of a central digital team. If your organisation has one, this team has to build the infrastructure to enable Product Marketing and Brand Managers to do their job. They have to understand, analyse and re-design the processes and supporting technology. This team should be building the trainings and onboarding systems to operate the transformation, even if they are not the end users.
Think of the central digital team as the engineers who upgrade the company while working with those in the business to ensure that the new reality comes to place, while containing the potential disruption. This is positive transformation.
So the answer is no, you don’t need a central digital team to develop your Product Content Assets. You need an integrated approach. You need to do it smarter, faster, cheaper, at scale and at a higher quality. This is totally possible, you do not need to create new stuff from scratch. It needs to be ready to ‘’plug and play’’ in markets, ready to be stored, syndicated and measured.
More than a myth, this is a statement. Whether or not companies admit it, many “goods” companies and likely many “service” companies have built products and by aggregating many products together, they have built brands without real consumer insights. They might be good technologies competing on price or well positioned in verticals where being first or being visible on shelf matters enjoying a privileged position. However, a critical understanding of consumer and shopper insights is missing, resulting in marketers struggling to clearly articulate their target audience, consumer personas, shopper journey or shopper barriers..
While in a World where KPIs rotate around distribution, in-store visibility, media frequency and reach, price and promotion, companies could get away with it, today’s reality puts pressure on business results.
Consumers have become vocal about their product experience, they have access to knowledge and information, they can refer to peers and check reviews to make informed choices that fit with what they want, how they want it, where they want it. Guess where consumers do all of the above? Yes you got it right… online.
Now picture this, you have spent months to prepare the new packaging and in-store materials for your latest creation, a fantastic new product innovation. You have even got money to bring it into your Brand TV copy and in fact, it’s the hero product in a 5’’ Tag, what an achievement!
Your colleagues on the PR team are excited because bloggers are going to love the product and they are going to create loads of engaging content for you.
The sales team is pumped up as finally they have something to talk about with the buyers at the retailer and you know this is going to be a success.
Everything is ready, products are on the shelf and first sales report start to come through. You are doing ok but not as you expected. What happened?
You have completely forgotten to work on your Product Content for the many online channels. Let’s rewind. Just think about the online channels you should be considering at the start, this way you have an integrated holistic approach.
- Retailers: they have your product but no content or very poor content. Images are photos (or heavily photoshopped) that cost you lots of money, product descriptions are lacking category search keywords and no storytelling. The video on the product page is a cut of your TV copy, your TV tag and you discover after you do not have Global unlimited Usage Rights. Reviews are coming in they contain some good insights on the features and benefits your consumers love. Reading carefully, you could segment your audience through but nobody is reading (companies would say “listening”). Your key account managers have secured some good promotional deals and as part of your negotiation you had media space to use but no content to leverage so the retailer built it for you. Not surprisingly, it is providing poor results, however nobody is receiving data so it’s unknown.
- Influencers: your PR team was right, you got great content from your influencers but the kit used to engage them did not contain any digital images , implementation guidance or how to showcase the product. So, everyone did what they wanted in their own way and it all looks like a big gigantic mess.
- Social Media: a picture of your product made it to Instagram and Facebook but nobody received guidelines on how to amplify posts through media, hence engagement results were very low. Does this scenario sound familiar ? is it close to your reality ? The good news is it can be fixed.
Most TV advertising is not product focused. It is about building brand equity, brand awareness and communicating an experience or purpose.
Great advertising (and digital advertising) is very powerful, it’s engaging and emotional. It might make you laugh or cry.
What about Product Content? While it needs to fit within the overall brand concept and campaign idea, it also needs to be educational, informative, relevant and convincing. For this reason, we cannot and should not simply take a TV ad and use it on-line.
A shopper only has a short span of attention, your assets need to convince fast, trigger an action, resolve a shopper barrier.
So, when creating the brand and product experience online, let’s keep the live in-store experience top of mind.
Tell the story with powerful, engaging and relevant assets. Use the power of great copywriting, optimised for search, impactful and highly scalable imagery built in CGI, icons, show a short video, product demo or testimonials.
It’s your show, engage with your audience!
This is the end of part I, we will be back next week with more myths in Part II.
Contact us to learn more on how we can help your transform your company and providing a best in class Product Content experience
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