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The Business Case for Building an Audience for Your Brand

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In the marketing automation space, there’s an interesting case study that puts into perspective the age-old dispute between marketers who prioritize reach and those who prioritize resonance.

Two of the biggest players in the lower and middle tiers of the marketing automation industry, HubSpot and Mailchimp, have been competing to win over as many small to medium-sized businesses as possible. HubSpot currently boasts four times as many social media followers and attracts almost double the amount of organic traffic than Mailchimp does, so one might assume HubSpot also generates more revenue and profit.

The reality, however, is that Mailchimp has overtaken HubSpot in both financial categories. In 2018, HubSpot saw $513 million in revenue while Mailchimp earned $600 million. Moreover, while HubSpot has yet to turn a profit, Mailchimp has been profitable for its entire existence. Now, that’s not to dismiss HubSpot’s huge success in any way — it just brings up an interesting question. Do more views and more leads actually result in more revenue? Not necessarily.

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If you dig a little deeper and think critically about Mailchimp’s relentless focus on audience building (which has resulted in the creation of Mailchimp Presents, a network of original content) and HubSpot’s concentration on reach, Mailchimp’s ability to generate more revenue and profit with significantly less reach than HubSpot starts to make sense.

In most marketing dashboards, reach and revenue tend to trend in the same direction. More often than not, marketing teams will notice this relationship and assume that revenue will increase when reaching as many people as possible.

However, research shows that your audience’s sentiment toward your brand is what ultimately leads to more revenue. So, contrary to popular belief, while an increase in reach can influence revenue growth, it’s not the sole driver of it — that driver is actually emotional resonance.

“Contrary to popular belief, while an increase in reach can influence revenue growth, it’s not the sole driver of it — that driver is actually emotional resonance.”

Unfortunately, most brands run with this flawed logic and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly. This misaligns their incentives, pressuring them to crank out a ton of content to generate views and leads rather than crafting content that their audience actually enjoys.

Solely focusing on reach can generate a huge amount of impressions, but the vast majority of these people won’t enter the brand’s funnel because the content is too self-serving. And most of the people who do enter their funnel will churn more rapidly because they’ll quickly lose interest in the content. As a result, these brands will generate a disproportionate amount of leads and opportunities for their sales team to close.

Creating content that is truly valuable and resonates with viewers’ core beliefs and identities gives businesses the opportunity to build loyal audiences and keep them coming back for more. Of course, we’re talking about creating binge-worthy content here — entertaining content that is so good consumers can’t help but want to watch, listen, or read a lot of it in one sitting.

Want to learn more about what binge-worthy content is all about and how your business can start creating it? Check out our new four-step Brand Affinity Marketing playbook.

As we mentioned before, Mailchimp has been investing in creating this type of content for some time now. They’ve been focusing on building resonance over reach by creating content that attracts specific types of viewers well before they may ever become a Mailchimp customer.

Our CEO and co-founder Chris Savage sat down with Mark DiCristina, their Head of Brand, on our talk show, Brandwagon, to get the inside scoop on how creating binge-worthy content has helped them build audiences, and ultimately, do more with their content by focusing less on reach.

“Mailchimp Presents is an entertainment platform entrepreneurs. Mailchimp’s mission has always been about empowering small businesses and helping them succeed and grow. We’ve always done that with software, but over the last couple of years, we began to feel like there are other ways that we can do that. We can make content that inspires them and motivates them and makes them feel like they’re not alone.”

Mark DiCristina

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DiCristina goes on to explain why they’ve made this switch from focusing on awareness by investing a ton in advertising to investing their budget more in creating original content instead. When referencing the shows they’ve been creating at Mailchimp Presents, he notes, “It’s more durable, lasts longer, doesn’t require people to be interrupted … it changes our relationship with our customers. So now instead of interrupting people all the time, they want to come and engage with us.”

By focusing on creating content that resonates with viewers, businesses encourage audiences to spend more time with their brand, and when that happens, it’s more likely that viewers will become a customer in the long run.

Resonating with your audience doesn’t just help generate more revenue for your business. It also costs less, and in turn, results in more profit for your company.

When your brand is just focused on reach, only a slim, static percentage of your audience will convert into customers, so growing revenue requires a regular increase in boosting awareness. And to boost awareness, you must continually invest in advertising on platforms like Facebook and Google. While digital advertising can help people become aware of your business, it’s expensive and has increasingly become ineffective thanks to oversaturation on these platforms. Plus, just because someone knows of your brand, that doesn’t mean they feel connected to it.

“When your brand is just focused on reach, only a slim, static percentage of your audience will convert into customers, so growing revenue requires a regular increase in boosting awareness.”

On the flip side, if you focus on retaining an audience, you can generate more revenue by growing resonance. With this approach, you don’t even have to necessarily increase reach. You just have to focus on creating a lower volume of content that offers a higher level of quality and engagement.

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When you’re focused on retaining an engaged audience rather than acquiring new, less-engaged members to replace the ones who have churned, each member of your audience’s lifetime value increases. In fact, since Mailchimp launched Mailchimp Presents, they’ve noticed that the people who have engaged with their shows buy their products faster and spend more money with them. And an added bonus? Since a loyal, passionate audience produces a ton of word-of-mouth marketing for your business, you don’t have to spend as much money acquiring new audience members, which decreases customer acquisition costs.

In our interview with Mark DiCristina, he goes on to share why making binge-worthy content for your audience is actually more cost-effective than running a traditional ad campaign. Here, he compares making a podcast to advertising on one:

“In many cases, it’s often less expensive to make the podcast, and you own it forever. The reason that you buy the ad instead of making the podcast, is because you’re buying the audience, so you can get in front of people who are listening to those shows. For Mailchimp, we already have an audience … we have access to lots of people and to our customers, and they trust us. So why should we always be spending money to be in front of them when we can just make the thing?”

Mark DiCristina

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Over the years, the race for brand awareness has plagued business’ marketing strategies. We’ve continued to sacrifice the quality of our content and customer experience for the pursuit of our own goals — and our audiences are sick and tired of it.

Nowadays, anyone can instantly identify content that lacks value, ads that are just there to interrupt, and businesses that are over-optimized and disingenuous. That’s exactly why focusing on resonance and audience-building generates better business results than investing in awareness and reach alone.

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Video Marketing

7 Fashion-Forward Video Series to Keep Your Eye On

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Who said videos about fashion were only made for the big screen? The Devil Wears Prada might be a pretty high standard to live up to, but in reality, tons of brands are already making innovative shows and video series to help move their businesses forward.

In fact, we recently stumbled upon four fashion-focused brands that are all creating entertaining, binge-worthy video series, that even Meryl Streep herself might be interested in watching. Businesses like Vans, Refinery29, Marc Jacobs, and Foot Locker stood out to us as top-dogs in the branded content space because their shows are so clearly focused on attracting a niche audience, which is a key part of executing an effective brand affinity marketing strategy. Plus, they’re just plain fun to watch!

Who doesn’t love a good surf video? Have you ever wondered what it really means to be a “sneakerhead”? Take a look at what these creative brands put out into the world and get some insights into what you can do at your business to make an awesome series yourself!

We bet you know someone in your life who owns a fresh pair of Vans. But if you’re not familiar with the brand, Vans is the original action sports footwear, apparel, and accessories brand promoting creative self-expression in youth culture across action sports, art, music and street culture.

Vans decided to showcase those company values with a video series called Weird Waves, which follows the gnarly journey of Dylan Graves as he introduces viewers to “the weirder side of surf culture and the characters who chomp weird waves.” In two seasons, he links up with people from the underground side of the surf scene to ride everything from waves in wintery Great Lakes to waves formed by falling ice in Alaska. This show is no joke — things get weird!

To successfully showcase what their brand stands for, Vans identified the perfect brand ambassador to be the host for an engaging binge-worthy series. While not everyone can relate to riding waves in unthinkable places like Dylan Graves and his friends, viewers can be entertained and identify with how Vans is a champion of creative self-expression.

In a more fashion-focused realm, Refinery29 is an online media and entertainment hub that appeals to young women who may be interested in style, health, careers, technology, and a whole lot more. To pique the interests of their target audience, they’ve created an award-winning video series called Style Out There exploring “the connections between clothing, community, and culture across the world.”

Style Out There features hosts Asha Leo and Connie Wang as they travel the world to learn more about “the ways clothing has given women a way to speak out, look within, and identify the forces that limit their potential.” In season one, watch Leo dig into Decora style in Tokyo and how it goes against the mainstream, or jump ahead to season three and learn about Afrofuturist fashion with Wang and why it’s more than just a costume for black women.

For someone interested in style, this series goes deeper than the outward appearance of an outfit or accessory. It shows the significance of fashion for people to express themselves around the world.

Now, if you’ve ever wondered what the inner workings of a high fashion label look like days before a runway show, check out Marc Jacobs’ The Making of RUNWAY.

This six-part series follows Marc himself, Joseph Carter, Creative Director of Runway, as well as many of the faces working to run the ship five days before Marc Jacobs’ February 13, 2019 show. From fittings and design meetings to set and music planning, they show you what it takes to make a fashion show a success.

Marc Jacobs is a world-renown brand, but the way they shot their behind-the-scenes footage could be pulled off by any company big or small. Whether you’re aspiring to work for Marc Jacobs or a fan of the brand, this simple series gives you an authentic look at the people, the work, and the creativity that makes Marc Jacobs what it is.

In the fashion industry, Patagonia is famous not only for leading the fight against climate change but also for spearheading the binge-worthy content movement with their visually stunning and thought-provoking documentary series.

To promote their signature line of work-friendly attire, they blended their passion for the environment with the art of storytelling to craft a video series called Workwear.

In this seven-part video series, you’ll meet farmers, eco-friendly automotive technicians, conservationists, fishermen, and more to learn what drives them to work so hard day in and day out and how they protect the environment while doing so.

Even though Workwear is meant to promote Patagonia’s line of work clothing, they don’t draw any direct attention to their products.

Instead, Patagonia focuses on the real reason each person in the video series chooses to make an honest living. And with over 2.5 million views on YouTube, they’ve reached and resonated with plenty of people who share the same “why” when it comes to their work.

Lululemon is an athletic apparel retailer with strong roots in yoga, running, and any other activity that makes you break a sweat and feel great. However, when they think about their marketing, they make sure not to just focus on the physical aspects of these activities. They also make sure to highlight the mental and emotional side of physical fitness.

To celebrate the International Day of Yoga, for example, Lululemon released a video series called Yoga Changed My Life to tell the stories of three people who used the power of yoga to overcome a traumatic experience.

From conquering teenage homelessness to a near-death experience due to a complication from Crohn’s disease, you’ll learn how powerful yoga can be for the mind, body, and soul.

Most athletic apparel retailers try to generate demand for their products by emphasizing the physical benefits of exercise, but Lululemon understands that truly resonating with an audience requires a message much more inspiring than that. You can’t just strive to look good — you also need to feel good.

Nike’s I Am Giannis tells the origin story of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks and one of the best basketball players in the NBA.

Giannis is known for having a strong work ethic and bulldog mentality that rivals the game’s most iconic players’. And after watching this five-part video series, you’ll quickly understand how his humble beginnings in Athens, Greece have fueled his fire to reach the upper echelon of the basketball world.

You can’t help but smile as you watch Giannis’s story unfold. From getting selected in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft to attracting thousands of Greek and Nigerian fans to each of his games to designing his own signature Nike shoe — the story is both uplifting and inspirational.

As marketers, we recognize that Nike knows how to tell a compelling story, especially with just a few words. But by venturing into long-form storytelling and spinning a narrative about one person’s life over 20 minutes of video content, they might have just told their best story yet.

After seeing the ideas these brands have come up with, we hope you’re feeling inspired to start creating a video series of your own! Start by figuring out what makes your brand unique and what your current audiences like about you. The next concept for the perfect video series could be right under your nose!

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Video Marketing

5 Food and Beverage Video Series That’ll Make You Hungry for More Content

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Do you remember the iconic “how many licks” Tootsie Pops commercials from the 70s? What about the heartwarming snowman that thawed after eating a satisfying bowl of Campbell’s soup?

Many food and beverage brands are famous for their clever and memorable advertisements.

However, only a handful have taken their creativity to the next level and crafted full-scale video series that rival the very TV shows they place their ads with.

We’ve rounded up five of the best video series in the food and beverage world so you can draw inspiration for your next project. Read on to cook up some delicious ideas for your next show!

As the most popular energy drink in the world, Red Bull naturally gears its brand toward pro athletes who participate in extreme sports. One of the ways the company connects with this cohort is by crafting thrilling video series about the world’s most extreme athletes. From a video series about wingsuit fliers to one about the top athletes in their respective extreme sport, you can get your daily dose of adrenaline from a single episode.

But out of all of Red Bull’s video series, the arguably most compelling one is about the athletes who have overcome near-impossible odds to ascend to the heights of their extreme sport. It’s called The Way of the Wildcard.

In this wild video series, you’ll hear from a two-time cancer survivor who holds two world records in cycling, a former prisoner turned Iron Man triathlete, working-class brothers who won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in rowing, and many more impressive athletes.

All of the stories in The Way of the Wildcard are naturally chock-full of conflict, which grips audiences from start to finish. And by showing audiences how these athletes achieved their dreams with the odds stacked against them, it inspires viewers to do the same.

Growing up, a day out with your friends during the summer usually included a swim at the pool, a bonfire, and a can of soda. Was there anything more carefree?

Coca-Cola wanted to tap into this nostalgia to forge a closer bond with their audience. Their bold idea? A video series called One Last Summer, which follows a group of incoming college freshmen as they enjoy their last summer together.

Throughout the four-part series, you’ll learn all about this friend group’s future plans, watch them cross off their summer bucket list, and navigate the complexities of their high school romances.

Each episode of One Last Summer focuses on a single character. This approach allows you to get to know them personally, understand the dynamic of their friend group, and understand why it’ll be bittersweet for them to split up when it’s time to go off to college.

One Last Summer is sure to transport you back to your most carefree days as a teenager — and it might even persuade you to crack open a Coke while you’re at it.

When you think of Cadbury, you most likely think of rich, creamy chocolate. And when you think of chocolate, you might reminisce on the good old days when your mom or dad would slip you a piece of chocolate after dinner.

That’s why Cadbury decided to create Families Reunited, a video series that aims to reconnect parents with their teenage children by giving parents a crash course on their children’s passions.

In this two-part video series of 20-minute episodes, you’ll watch a dad learn how to pop a wheelie on a BMX bike just like his son. Then, you’ll watch a mom learn how to conquer the ice and figure skate with her son. At the end of each episode, the parent ultimately proves to their kid that they’re not as different as they think. Even better, they can also spend time bonding over a shared passion.

Almost every parent goes through a rough patch with their kids, especially when they’re teenagers. But Families Reunited lets parents who have drifted from their kids know that they’re not alone. It also inspires them to truly understand their kids before they try to rekindle their relationships with them.

Known for their fun, playful brand identity, Taco Bell stuck to their guns when they released The Taco Bell Show. It’s a game show that features celebrities — including Drake Bell and Spencer Pratt — known and loved by Taco Bell’s young target audience.

On the show, the host and the guest celebrity play Taco Bell-inspired games, like “Diablo Dare.” It’s Truth or Dare, but instead of doing a dare, participants have to drench a tortilla chip in diablo sauce and eat it. What a creative way to plug two of their products into one game — kudos, Taco Bell!

The Taco Bell Show draws you in from the beginning by immediately informing you what it’s all about — a game show with celebrities. It then keeps you glued to your screen by having the celebrities play fun, creative games. If you ask us, that’s definitely a recipe for binge-worthy content success.

Another brand that leans on humor and lightheartedness, Kentucky Fried Chicken released a series of satirical Shark Tank-esque pitches for outlandish business ideas called KFC Innovations Lab. These ideas include Colonel on Ice, a bow tie that also serves as a GPS locator, and a walking cane that doubles as a remote control for your TV.

All of these pitches relate to KFC’s founder Colonel Sanders in a creative way, which makes the video series one of the funniest in the food and beverage industry. After watching it, you’ll laugh so hard that you’ll work up an appetite, and KFC hopes it’ll be for some of their famous fried chicken.

Crafting a creative and compelling video series is just like cooking. It’ll be hard. It’ll get messy. And there’s a chance you might burn the dish to a crisp. But, hopefully, with these examples, you can put together a recipe for a video series that will please your audience’s palate.

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Video Marketing

Announcing “Built to Last”: An Audio Conference from Buffer and Wistia

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If you’ve watched an episode of Brandwagon or tuned into our Change the Channel event last year, then you know there’s nothing we love more than talking to people about what it takes to build a great brand. And now, we’re super excited to continue that conversation with Buffer, a social media management platform, throughout Built to Last — a free audio-conference for brand builders.

Taking place on August 19 and 20, this first-of-its-kind conference will feature guests (including our very own Chris Savage!) from companies that are invested in building stronger brands and creating compelling content in all forms. If you’re looking to learn how to foster organic growth, take marketing risks, or develop an audience of engaged advocates — this conference is for you.

Attending a marketing conference once meant spending an entire day in a windowless ballroom or glued to your computer screen for hours on end. By leveraging the power of podcasts, our conference sessions will be available for your listening pleasure no matter what you’re up to.

Wait a minute — what does an “audio-conference” really mean?

We’re taking the concept of an in-person conference and delivering it as a podcast. Built to Last attendees will receive access to a private podcast feed where we’ll release seven episodes over the two-day conference. Each episode will feature lessons and insights to help you craft memorable content and campaigns that create devoted audiences.

By signing up to attend this conference, you’ll get access to the content in real-time or on-demand (with show notes!). We encourage listening while making a meal, getting some fresh air, or moving your body. In other words — you do you!

Beyond the podcast episodes, we’re encouraging attendees to join our private community to network with each other, participate in facilitated discussions, and interact with select speakers live. Simply sign up to attend Build to Last and you’ll be invited to join — simple as pie.

We hope you’ll join us for this interactive podcast experience. If you’re as pumped as we are, then head on over to the Buffer site to register, see the full list of speakers, and get all the conference details. Oh, and be sure to charge those headphones so you’re ready to rock ’n roll!

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