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Wunderman - Bienalto


How did I get here? The rise of the subliminal consumer content journey

By Anna Karena

At least a dozen times a day I find myself somewhere and can’t recall why. Sometimes it’s the work kitchen, wondering if I had planned to make myself a cup of tea.

Mostly though, it’s online – halfway down a blog or article, or infographic, or sharepoint presentation. I find myself lost in some content and with no recollection of how I arrived there.

100% engagement, zero clue

Content Marketing is the business of creating pathways of the irresistibly interesting, that end eventually at our clients’ brands. No logo until the end.

As consumers, these pathways regularly and often subconsciously, pull us in. They transform us into internet Little Red Riding Hoods; we forget where we were supposed to be going, and follow our noses and interests instead.

Emotive appeal: old dog learns new tricks

In the traditional advertising era, a beautiful billboard could crash cars. But squeeze all that gorgeousness into an MREC or leaderboard? The goose-bumps didn’t come. That didn’t stop us spending a decade splattering millions of tiny poor cousins of the original ads around the internet. Until people started ignoring our advertising.

Content Marketing heralds a correction of the era of our banner sins. A return to our emotions pulling us in the direction of something, rather than an ad pushing it on us. Instead of splatter, we’re back to entertain, inform, educate. Instead of squeezing things in, fleshing them out. 

Self interest. Distraction. Escapism. These are the sorts of emotions Content Marketing plays on. Productivity? Logic? Self restraint? They all go out the window when a lipstick tutorial flits by. And then there we find ourselves wondering: how did I get here? And why am I surrounded by so many suspiciously relevant ads?

Context & retargeting: Content Marketing kryptonite

Content Marketing itself is not new. John Deere was publishing lawn tips for customers in early manifestations of Content Marketing back in the 1900s. Flick through the advertising annuals and you’ll find many more content-based marketing approaches from yesteryear.

The digitisation of online advertising gave Content Marketing its superpowers. Cookies, tags, programmatic media buying, image scraping…today, brands can afford to pay good money to show customers a bunch of logo-less things, because of the insight they collect from clicks along the way – and programmatic media’s ability to then fire out digital display ads, with audience relevance guaranteed.

The programmatic media machine

Programmatic media buying, marketing and advertising is the algorithmic purchase and sale of advertising space in real time. It’s like an automated bidding market where brands compete to flash their product in front of the right eyeballs, at the right time for maximum appeal.

And here’s where all that subconscious ‘drifting’ starts to earn its keep. While we as customers are finding ourselves in fashion blogs, reading about rock stars, clicking on shoes or cars or boobs or baby gear – we’re shovelling out insight GOLD to the the programmatic media buyers. Then they, like big bad wolves in the content forest, can happily commence insight-driven retargeting.

The importance of the email in-box

In exchange for all these incredible news feeds and lipstick tutorials, it’s the only thing the Content Marketer asks of us: ‘Just quickly, can I have your email address?’

An intrinsic part of a successful content journey is that your customer bounds happily across the email gateways that you plant between your best content and them. Chances are, if the content’s of genuine interest, they won’t uncheck that ‘opt in for updates’ box either. Then the inbox continuum can begin!

The inbox continuum

The reason why opt-in is so important is that it gives you permission to unleash an ongoing stream of content to your customer in a place they regularly and slavishly check into: their email inbox. Considering your Content becomes part of their daily routine.

And this is where the continuum starts. One click in an email sends your prospect on another spin around the internet, where clicks lead to insight gathering, retargeting – even potentially some more spreading around of that email address. Off they go.

Clinching the sale. Hooray!

Confusion about how and when all this leads to a sale can make marketing teams resistant to investing in full blown content eco systems. Isn’t it all a bit vague? Far from it.

Take the growing digital publisher Refinery 29. Sign up, and the selling technique is an easy example to follow which goes something like this:

  1. They fire a bombardment of interesting articles to my inbox daily.
    “The make-up Kim K ACTUALLY uses.”
    “29 money misunderstandings that are losing you $.”
    “Red lipstick is SO 2015.”

  2. The email sells nothing but the click.
    Only genuinely engaging story content comes to my inbox.
    Every click gives them further insight as to what I’m into.

  3. Programmatic display targets me a few clicks into their website.
    Refinery 29 has the good taste to keep the advertising off their home page. Once I click through a layer or two, however, I’m literally surrounded by advertising – some of it native (ads disguised as articles), most of it retargeted product advertising (shoes, chairs, lounges; it knows where I’ve been).

Kerching! Kerching!

Cool time to be lost

So as it turns out, as Content Marketers we’re still very much in the business that the media industry was founded on: placing ads around alluring articles.

It’s just that, thanks to today’s brilliant data technology, we’re doing it in cool new ways. Not just creating content, but collecting insight from who’s engaging with it. Using the inbox to top up on customer insight every day, on the fly.

Marketing to the individual, instead of advertising to the masses.

How did I get here? I still don’t know, but it’s an exciting place to be.

Anna Karena is Executive Creative Director, Creative & Content, Wunderman-Bienalto