Back in the day (approximately three short years ago), we wrote a little blog post about how to convince your boss that you need video in your marketing mix. Flash-forward to the end of 2019, and the value of video is simply a no-brainer. However, some businesses are still sticking to the same old strategies, and truth be told, the times have changed yet again. In today’s marketing landscape, you can’t depend on e-books, video email signatures, or one-off videos for social media to help you stand out amongst the competition and grow a strong, well-loved brand.
Getting people to genuinely like your brand through traditional marketing strategies and digital advertising is harder than ever, and we need a new way to engage an audience that’ll truly foster an affinity for our businesses. So, what are we getting at here? Well, as you may have noticed lately, we’re going all in on episodic video content (and we think you should too!). Most of us dedicate entire Saturdays to binge-watching series like Stranger Things and The Handmaid’s Tale because the content is just that good. So, why can’t businesses get in on the game?
We’re not saying your company should shell out millions of dollars to create an original series with A-list actors. But luckily, creating an episodic series for your company within the constraints of a marketing budget is not impossible, either. We know a ton of businesses from a wide array of industries are doing that as we speak, and we even did it ourselves at Wistia with our docu-series, One, Ten, One Hundred, and our latest talk show for marketers, Brandwagon. While this may sound like an ambitious venture, an episodic video series is an evergreen piece of content that can generate a ton of different benefits for your brand and your business.
If you’re already completely sold on this idea, that’s great! Now, it’s just time to get your boss on board. In this post, we’ve gathered the evidence you need to support your pitch for making an episodic video series and why it should be your company’s next big marketing move.
To be seen as a leader and an innovator in your industry, ranking at the top of search queries with traditional content strategies isn’t as easy as it used to be. The sheer density of written content today is overwhelming when you look at the numbers. For example, according to 2018 internet statistics, over four million blog posts are published every single day. When you take a minute to assess that stat, differentiating your brand through written content on the web seems like a shout into the void for many businesses, unless they’ve already established a loyal fan base.
Patrick Campbell, CEO of ProfitWell, a subscription software company, is someone who has dwelled over the decreasing effectiveness of e-books and blog posts for his business. This influenced the company to shift its strategy to creating episodic series for niche audiences, which has become one of their primary marketing vehicles. With his background in data-science, Campbell uncovered that the average cost of creating a written e-book cost more for ProfitWell than their new strategy of creating shows like Pricing Page Teardown. And as a result, Campbell proclaimed that this episodic content strategy is having an incredible impact on the business while building their brand in unprecedented ways.
“Campbell uncovered that the average cost of creating a written e-book cost more for ProfitWell than their new strategy of creating shows like Pricing Page Teardown.”
In terms of traditional advertising, we’re no stranger to seeing a campaign we put our hearts and souls (and a couple of million dollars) into not meet our expectations. For a brief overview of what happened a few years back, our co-founders, Chris Savage and Brendan Schwartz, explained at our live-streamed event “Change the Channel” that Wistia spent $2 million on an ad campaign consisting of web ads, billboards, and NPR spots. The campaign got us 43 million impressions. However, it got us no more traffic than one relatively successful blog post.
This was one of the most expensive mistakes we’ve ever made. What was the main problem, you ask? Well, we underestimated the fact that digital advertising doesn’t actually make people like you (regardless of how cute the ad is) and no one wants to be bothered by unsolicited ads. Your chances of building brand affinity with a witty tagline or targeted 10-second video ad won’t convince people to become loyal advocates of your brand.
Furthermore, creating compelling and entertaining video ads powerful enough to garner new brand fans like some of the best Superbowl spots is unattainable for most small and medium-sized businesses. Even a well-known brand like Nike can’t consistently maintain virality or a positive image with their creative campaigns in the minds of consumers. For small and medium-sized businesses out there trying to compete with the caliber of Superbowl ads, it’s time to think about casting your net around niche audiences and getting them to spend more time with your brand. And the best way to do that is through valuable and entertaining episodic content.
Another strong case for creating a video series is based on the way users choose to consume media. In this binge-watching era, users are embracing the trend of watching video content for several hours straight when it’s worthwhile and engaging.
When you invest in creating long-form content that offers value and entertainment for a niche audience, the increase in time spent with your brand for one engaged individual is significant. There’s no comparison when you think about someone who willingly watched 10 minutes of a single 25-minute episode of your show and someone who was forced to watch a 10-second video ad upwards of seven times on social media. Echoing the last argument we made, people often show disdain toward unsolicited ads on social when they go there to be distracted, entertained, or informed.
Dan Slagen of ThriveHive, a SaaS company providing guided marketing solutions for small businesses, is someone who can attest to episodic series’ positive impact on time spent with a brand. Based on data from analyzing peoples’ viewing habits of their series Locals, which brings you behind the scenes of local businesses, ThriveHive has found that people who make it to the three or five-minute mark of an episode are most likely to watch all the way through. That simply means that when the right people in your audience discover your series, they have the potential to watch a ton of it. Tell that one to your boss!
“ThriveHive has found that people who make it to the three or five-minute mark of an episode are most likely to watch all the way through.”
Binge-worthy content is also the most scalable type of product your business can offer your audience. Follow the lead of media companies who’ve developed an effective social media advertising strategy that doesn’t get on people’s nerves. For series like The Good Place, media companies create trailers that are optimized for specific platforms they’re distributed on. When folks are on their favorite platforms and are looking to be entertained, distracted, or to learn about something, these trailers reach people at the right place at the right time. Audiences that find these trailers or snippets entertaining and worth checking out are then directed to the full episode to watch at their leisure.
If your business creates an episodic series, you can scale your marketing assets just like media companies by creating a trailer to tease the release, extracting clips from the actual series to promote it, engaging people with behind-the-scenes footage, and much more. Investing in producing an episodic series is investing in an evergreen piece of content for your business that’ll support your brand indefinitely. And you’ll be able to reuse and re-create marketing assets from your series far into the future.
For example, a year ago we released our four-part docu-series One, Ten, One Hundred and created a bunch of marketing assets to get people excited and interested in watching. One year later, and we re-marketed the series on social and posted behind-the-scenes footage to reach new audiences. As a result, we saw new people access this evergreen piece of content and spread the word to others that it’s worth watching, too.
Even after we’ve stopped promoting the docu-series, we’re still seeing One, Ten, One Hundred bring in about 5,000 new people every month. The original campaign also permanently increased brand search (queries with “wistia” in them) by 11%, which has stayed steady. Lastly, it brings in more than 100 leads per month.
With an episodic series for your business, you’ll be surprised by how many times you can tie it into conversations you have and the marketing assets you need to support your brand long after its release.
The final (and arguably most compelling) piece of evidence to show your boss and stakeholders when pitching episodic content is simply the fact that other businesses in your space are already investing in it. Sounds pretty simple, right? The truth is, sometimes you need to just prove that the trend is already well under way in order to get your boss bought in on doing it. Remember, there was once a time where people thought Instagram wasn’t really a social platform for businesses, and clearly over the years that theory has been proven wrong.
Businesses in unexpected industries are experimenting and taking risks with episodic video to build an engaged audience for their brand, so chances are you’ll have some examples to point to in your own industry. But regardless of the space you’re in, your boss is most certainly paying attention to what your competitors are doing, so you should leverage that when making a case for creating an episodic series. The last thing you want for your business from a marketing perspective is to seem outdated and behind the times. Showcasing how other companies and competitors are making this content is a great way to prove that you’re not alone when it comes to believing in this strategy.
We’ve already mentioned two businesses that are completely bought-in on developing shows — ProfitWell and ThriveHive — and they’re definitely not the only ones! One business producing a short-form series is ezCater, the world’s largest online catering marketplace. We chatted with Sarah Gurr, ezCater’s Head of Content Marketing, to get the inside scoop behind their strategy. Their series, Restaurant Roots, features unique stories from their partners such as SA PA and Modern Thai Cuisine in Boston. Instead of taking a conventional approach to written customer testimonials, this engaging episodic video series showcases the heart of each restaurant with narrations from respective founders to establish a deeper connection between ezCater and prospective customers and other restaurant operators.
Another business we believe is leading the way with this audience-building strategy is Mailchimp. Mark DiCristina, the Head of Brand at Mailchimp, described how the marketing automation software platform has decided to invest in creative content over brand advertising. The company has been releasing short-form video series, films, and podcasts out of their own new content studio, Mailchimp Presents. With content that inspires, motivates, and makes people feel like they’re not alone, Mailchimp Presents has developed a valuable platform for an audience of entrepreneurs, while increasing the amount of time people spend with their overarching brand. When DiCristina sat down with Chris Savage on the first episode of Brandwagon, he also shared that “ … the people who engage with this content are paying us more quickly. And when they pay us, they pay us more money, which is just completely mind-blowing.” This fact isn’t mind-blowing because he’s surprised people like the content — it’s because the content isn’t about the Mailchimp product at all.
“The people who engage with this content are paying us [Mailchimp] more quickly. And when they pay us, they pay us more money, which is just completely mind-blowing.”
If you want more examples of companies with episodic video strategies, look no further than our blog. Prove to your boss that other businesses are ahead of the game, and they just might be on-board to take a bigger creative risk for growing your brand.
We understand approaching your boss and company stakeholders with an idea to create an episodic video series might sound absurd, but hey, it’s almost 2020 — anything can happen! All jokes aside, the future of marketing has shifted and brands need a new way to stand out amongst the competition. It’s time to convince everyone that episodic video content will help you cut through the noise and build better brand affinity in the long-run.
Why Your Business’s Brand is More Important Than Ever
When it comes to purchasing a product or signing up for a software or service, more often than not consumers will buy from and remain loyal to the brand that resonates with them the most. So naturally, in today’s cluttered marketing landscape, building your brand and growing a loyal audience should be a top priority for most marketers. Yet, small and medium-sized companies still insist on sticking to the same old strategies — ones that don’t help them cut through the noise. It has us wondering … what gives? Why aren’t more businesses investing in growing their brands?
In this post, we’ll explain how marketing has shifted and why traditional tactics aren’t as effective as they used to be. Read on to learn why your business’s brand is more important than ever and why you should invest in doing more (and better) brand marketing.
At our live-streamed event, Change the Channel, our co-founders Chris Savage and Brendan Schwartz discussed how building your business has drastically changed over the past few years. In their experience, growing an audience was previously an entirely different ballgame. Savage said, “It used to be the case that you’d post something on Facebook and your entire audience would see it. Now organic reach is below 2%. So that audience that you worked really hard to build, now you have to pay to reach them.”
The stark decrease in organic reach signaled that something had to change. Nowadays, in order to stand out amongst the competition, marketers must invest in brand marketing to reach the right people at the right time and build an audience of brand advocates.
Marketers today are also at a disadvantage if they live and die by a data-driven approach to brand marketing. We’re all working with the same tools and tech these days, which means all of our competitors are on the same playing field as us. We all have the ability to calculate every interaction and every bit of marketing spend to see exactly how our digital marketing efforts tie to revenue. What was once a competitive edge is now merely common practice for businesses across industries.
“What was once a competitive edge is now merely common practice for businesses across industries.”
We shouldn’t toss data analysis out the window for good, but we do need to find a new way to differentiate ourselves in saturated markets — which means putting an end to constant tinkering and starting to take even bigger, riskier swings. We think businesses can do that by investing more in their brands and the stories they are uniquely positioned to tell.
We know what you’re thinking — we wrote this blog post that you’re currently reading and we’re saying content marketing isn’t exactly revolutionary anymore. That’s because, while it may not be a novel practice anymore, it’s still valuable. But investing in content marketing alone will no longer do the heavy lifting for your brand it once capable of doing. Unless you already have a large following, positioning your business as a thought leader with a single blog post is like tossing a coin into a magical fountain and hoping your audience would boom overnight.
To put things into perspective, there are about 30 blog posts being published every second, and quite frankly, a lot of this content is low-quality and self-serving. This makes it confusing for people to sift through the dust and find any valuable content your business is creating. Even if they do discover your content, will your brand leave a lasting impression and make them want to come back for more?
“To put things into perspective, there are about 30 blog posts being published every second, and quite frankly, a lot of this content is low-quality and self-serving.”
It’s time for marketers to lean into the greatest differentiator you’ve had all along — your brand. We rely so much on recommendations for products and services from friends, family, and co-workers, that building a reputable brand consumers can connect with is essential to not only growing sales, but also influencing how people speak about your business to others.
That’s where we think Brand Affinity Marketing can help. With this approach, businesses create and distribute binge-worthy content with the goal of positively impacting the overall sentiment, perception, and value of their brand. The truth is, digital advertising has become less effective over time and generating affinity for your brand is more important than awareness. So, why not let go of those old rusty marketing tactics and jump into creating more engaging content that’ll grow you an audience of true fans for your brand?
3 Common Problems Marketers Face When They Focus Too Much on Brand Awareness
Marketers have started experiencing some serious growing pains as of late. For years, most of us have followed a tried-and-true formula for getting people to know about our brands — create engaging content, post regularly on social media, run some eye-catching ads — lather, rinse, repeat. The problem with this approach is that marketers today have nearly all the same tools at their disposal.
We all know what it takes to make our content marketing efforts successful. We all know that we have to pay to play on social media. And because we’re all well aware of this, the internet has become a really crowded, cluttered place. Businesses have focused so much on making people aware that they exist, that they’ve lost sight of what matters most — getting people to actually like their brands.
In fact, the pursuit of brand awareness alone has ended up stunting growth for many businesses. Here are some common problems marketers face when they’re on the hunt for brand awareness, and brand awareness alone. If you can relate to any of these, you may just want to take a closer look at your goals for the year ahead and consider shifting your strategy accordingly.
Metrics that measure brand awareness like views and impressions don’t actually indicate whether people like your brand or not. For instance, it’s impossible to determine the quality of a view or impression. According to Google Analytics, a page view is any instance where a page is loaded or reloaded in a browser. On Facebook, an impression is the number of times your ad was displayed on someone’s screen. So, without taking the time to dig much deeper into either metric, a five-second view or impression would be counted the same as a five-minute view or impression.
Now, these metrics clearly don’t reveal very much, but, in the world of digital marketing, they’re easy to measure and track. The resulting chase for vanity metrics has pushed marketing teams to produce content that merely juices up these numbers instead of actually providing value to their audience. Since SEO tools can help marketers pinpoint the keywords, headers, and angle of a post or video required to rank on Google or YouTube and, in turn, attract as many views as possible, the results for virtually any competitive search term have eerily similar titles, examples, and structures.
“The resulting chase for vanity metrics has pushed marketing teams to produce content that merely juices up these numbers instead of actually providing value to their audience.”
Most marketers also source their research from the same search results, so everyone’s essentially copying each other in order to rank on Google and YouTube. The result? Bland and boring content, uninspired ads, and more of the same.
Just because you reach a ton of people (even millions!) that doesn’t mean you’ll connect with them, let alone convince them to buy anything from your business. Traffic and impressions don’t always equate to resonance, and they certainly don’t guarantee more revenue.
For example, here at Wistia we once spent $2 million on an ad campaign that featured some of our most creative work to date. With 43 million impressions, it certainly seemed like a successful campaign. But once we dug a little deeper into the data, we found out that our campaign generated the same amount of web traffic as a reasonably successful blog post, converted minimal leads, and generated barely any business. That’s one expensive and, embarrassingly, pretty ineffective campaign! Here’s a little look back at one of the ads we ran (we still stand by its cuteness):
Another interesting case study on brand awareness takes place in the marketing automation space. HubSpot, one of the market’s leaders, focuses heavily on building brand awareness and currently has four times as many social media followers and almost double the amount of organic traffic as Mailchimp, one of HubSpot’s main competitors.
However, Mailchimp, a business that focuses more on building brand affinity than awareness, has been able to generate more revenue and profit than HubSpot. Now, we’re not saying this the sole reason for Mailchimp’s success, but it’s an interesting case study in what can happen when you focus less on reaching the masses and more on reaching the right folks.
It’s true, Google and Facebook’s advertising model lets businesses find new audiences with ads, however, that doesn’t mean you’re reaching the right folks or that they’re happy about it. Just think about your own personal experience with ads — when they interrupt your favorite TV show, you probably look straight down at your phone. And when you’re cruising through your social media feed, chances are you won’t spare a passing glance at the countless ads screaming for your attention.
As of this past year, more than 25% of internet users in the United States used ad-blocking apps on their devices to help put an end to the noise. People have even started to develop banner blindness, which causes them to not only ignore ads but also any content resembling ads or content located in the places usually dedicated to ads. It’s pretty impressive what our brains can do!
“As of this past year, more than 25% of internet users in the United States used ad-blocking apps on their devices to help put an end to the noise.”
For most brands, their digital advertising return on investment also decreases with each year. Since digital advertising spend has been compounding by 20% each year over the past decade, the only way you can generate the same return on investment is by increasing your ad budget by the same rate. If you can’t (which is the case for the majority of brands) digital advertising will generate less of a return on investment over time.
When it comes to inbound marketing tactics used to gain brand awareness, the same issues run rampant. With over 500 million blogs and 23 million YouTube channels with at least 10+ subscribers, brands struggle to cut through the noise. And with the cost of consumer attention increasing seven to nine times over the past decade, inbound marketing’s return on investment is also dwindling each year. So, what’s a marketer to do?
Any marketer will tell you that making people aware of your brand is a crucial step in building a successful business. But, that’s only one piece of a much bigger puzzle, and focusing too much on that component alone can send you down a dark, fruitless path. Getting people to like your brand and actually recommend your products or services to their friends — or in other words, creating brand affinity — is a much more worthy investment in 2020.
Curious about how to get started building brand affinity? Sit back, relax, and dive into the world of Brand Affinity Marketing with us. Read our four-step playbook and learn how to connect with your audience on a more personal level, how to build loyal audiences, and ultimately, how to grow a stronger business in the long run.
How to Ensure Your Marketing is Consistently Creative in 2020
Jay Acunzo was angry. As a seasoned marketing professional who had spent most of his career deep in the trenches of the content marketing space, Acunzo couldn’t stand the commodity content and conventional wisdom that started flooding the industry. So, in 2016, he decided to wage a war against it with his own creative agency, Unthinkable Media. He crafted a podcast series called Unthinkable that tells compelling stories about the rare few who buck their industry’s best practices and hone their intuition to do exceptionally creative work.
In two and a half years, Jay shipped over 70 episodes of Unthinkable, attracting over 100 five-star reviews on Apple Podcasts and tens of thousands of social media followers. He even wrote a book called Break the Wheel about ignoring best practices, focusing on what actually works best for you, and prioritizing resonance over reach.
However, despite convincing many in his industry to subscribe to his philosophy and transcend the creation of cookie-cutter content, Acunzo is still frustrated. “Right now, because I’m running a media company for marketers who make shows (Marketing Showrunners), I’m mad at why so much ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ in marketing feels like random, one-off stunts,” Acunzo says. “Why can’t we be more consistent?”
As marketers, chances are you’ve asked yourself that question at least once. How can we turn creativity from a swing for the fences to a defining trait? To find the answer to this pressing question, we asked Acunzo and four other creative thinkers in content marketing — Ann Handley, Joe Lazauskus, Jimmy Daly, and Eddie Shleyner — how they hone their creativity to build loyal, passionate audiences. Let’s dig in!
Contrary to popular belief, the information that will help you create the most compelling content isn’t stored in a Google Analytics dashboard — it’s in your audience’s minds. After all, they’re the ones you’re creating content for in the first place.
In the content marketing industry, there isn’t a more passionate supporter of this notion than Joe Lazauskus, the author of the #1 Amazon New Release, The Storytelling Edge, and the Head of Marketing at Contently.
Over the past few months, he’s conducted dozens of what he calls “empathy interviews” with clients and prospects to test his team’s assumptions and develop new solutions for their clients. The goal? To fully empathize with his target market. And it’s paid huge dividends for his team.
“For the first time, I spoke to my clients without an agenda. I wasn’t trying to subtly influence a purchase decision or create their content strategy. I was just listening in an open and empathetic way,” he wrote in a blog post about empathy mapping. “These interviews were the greatest gift I could have gotten. I had two dozen spreadsheets on my computer that told me who our clients were. But these conversations told me how they feel. And suddenly everything — our messaging, positioning, content strategy — became so much clearer.”
Getting constant feedback from your audience not only supplies you with a laundry list of new ideas, but it also helps you truly serve your audience. So if you really want to be consistently creative and get your audience hooked on your content, take a page out of Lazauskus’ book and interact with those who consume what you make, learn about their challenges, and, most importantly, understand them on a deep level.
“Getting constant feedback from your audience not only supplies you with a laundry list of new ideas, but it also helps you truly serve your audience.”
Ask anyone what the most important stage of the creative process is, and they’ll likely say ideation. The best ideas stem from long brainstorming sessions, right? As counterintuitive as it seems, sparking your creative process by creating, rather than ideating, can actually lead to the breakthrough moments needed to make something worthwhile.
“When we want to create great work, it’s tempting to try and gather up all the answers we think we need to justify creating something, but it’s far more effective to create to find your answers,” Jay Acunzo says. “I call this the quest, which is a term I learned from marketing author and speaker Andrew Davis, who helped me see the importance of focusing the creative process on investigation rather than pontification. Think of it as the relentless pursuit of curiosity through research and creation, which I find leads to better breakthroughs than leaning back in a chair and trying to concoct ’the idea.’”
Placing a heavier emphasis on creation during the creative process also helps Eddie Shleyner, founder of one of the best copywriting blogs around, VeryGoodCopy, find the answers that steer his articles in the right direction. “Once I have the topic, I try to write my article as quickly as possible. I just want to get the story and the ideas on paper,” he says. “This usually takes a few hours and gives me the full picture I need to evaluate where I need more words and where I need fewer words. It also helps visualize where I can weave in a story to hook the reader.”
Acunzo’s and Shleyner’s laser-focus on the act of creation speaks to the fact that creativity is a skill. Just like dancing, the best way to sharpen your creative chops and consistently channel your creativity is through practice — not by obsessing over every little move you’ll make.
When asked how she decides the topics for her wildly popular newsletter, Total ANNARCHY, Ann Handley, the Wall Street Journal best-selling author and Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs answered, “What delights me that week. I can’t write about things I don’t care about.”
Passion fuels creativity, generating your best ideas and enabling you to do your best work. And while creating content that specifically appeals to you might not cast the widest net, it’ll resonate with people who have similar interests and help you build a loyal audience.
Just like Handley, Jimmy Daly, a Director of Marketing at Animalz, has relied on his own palate to create a thriving newsletter called Swipe File, which boasts over 4,000 subscribers. “The only real theme in Swipe File are things that I find interesting. I have a bias towards stuff that is really evergreen. If I find something interesting from 2005, it’s going in the newsletter,” he says. “I’m also biased towards marketing, writing, productivity, creativity, etc. Swipe File definitely mirrors my personal tastes.”
With their newsletters, Handley and Daly have the creative freedom to write about whatever interests them — liberties most people won’t have when working for a company (though some of us are luckier than others on that front!). Fortunately, you can still fuse your passion into your work and fuel your creativity even while working on the dullest of projects. For example, by bringing your unique self and personal creativity to work, you can invigorate a bland blog post with a story about one of your passions or enliven a dry how-to video with your graphic design or musical skills.
“You can still fuse your passion into your work and fuel your creativity even while working on the dullest of projects.”
After waging his war on random acts of creativity, Acunzo told the marketing world, “Today, the mandate of marketers is to hold attention, not ‘grab’ it. As a result, all of marketing needs to be consistently great work instead of one-off spikes in the numbers.”
In other words, consistent creativity isn’t a nice-to-have anymore — it’s a must-have. And if we can absorb the lessons that some of the best creatives in content marketing have detailed above, we’ll never stop delighting our audience.
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