Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. (contentmarketinginstitute.com)
In other words, content marketing is all about finding the right message to deliver to the right customer, at the right time, for purposes of driving profitable revenue for brands
In order to develop successful content for marketing, the precise nature of that content must be discovered. There is no better place to find this content than from the actual words of consumers or customers about your brand. Social media provides a rich source of these unobtrusive and totally honest comments for finding the most relevant content insights.
In this paper, we are going to review a case for a company we will call Alpha. Alpha is a masked name and some of the data have been altered to preserve confidentiality. Alpha is a Mexican restaurant that competes in a very crowded field of national and regional chains.
In order to determine the critical content Alpha needs to incorporate in its marketing communications, we embark on an exercise to build a special kind of media-mix model. The architecture of this model is shown below and consists of all digital and traditional mass media, plus external factors, store penetration and pricing.
In addition, we have included 6 content-theme drivers in the model. These were derived from our proprietary method for converting text-based brand-experience comments from social media into a highly predictive metric we call the Semantic Engagement Index or SEITM.
Alpha is in a rather precarious situation. Its retail sales are down -5.2% for the year. The chain’s strategy has been focused on efficiency through its drive-up and online ordering system and to keep costs and prices low. Its’ product line and menu, however, have remained basically the same for the past 10 years. Management has a sense that the company is losing its relevance with its customers, but are not clear on the specifics of why this is the case. Alpha also competes in a category with a large array of national, regional and local units. The company is seeking answers to understand what its strengths are and what particular areas they need to improve
Once we pull hundreds of thousands of these “customer-brand experience” comments, we use advanced analytics to segment them into critical content themes. When we put these into a predictive model, we have essentially monetized how and in what way customers value a brand based on their actual words. Doing so thus forms the essential raw material for effective content marketing. These statements form the essence of what a brand means to its customers.
After running and validating the predictive media-mix model, we are able to visually see the impact and relative importance of these customer-derived content drivers. In the chart below, we see that the six content drivers for Alpha are Service, Delivery, Value, Food Quality, Convenience and the Menu. Alpha’s strength lies in its ability to deliver value and convenience. While these have been growing, however, declines in the remaining four drivers overwhelm the gains from value and convenience. Overall, the SEITM also shows a high statistical correlation to sales, making it an effective predictor.
When decomposing the impact of the content-drivers, you will see the large and significant role it plays in driving sales or revenue, even when compared with all marketing combined. This is because the SEItm content drivers really represent the complete “customer-brand experience” for Alpha.
Consistent with their strategy to drive efficiencies through low-cost fast and efficient drive-thru’s and online ordering, value and convenience drives more than 2/3rds of the 18% of revenue driven by these content drivers.
Nevertheless, when we assess the year-over-year impact on Alpha’s growth, a more alarming story emerges. While gaining just 1.1% in sales from its core strengths, convenience and value, there is a -6.3% annual growth impact due to the declines from delivery, service, food quality and the menu. Directionally, Alpha needs to embark on a transformational change in both its operations and the content of its marketing messages.
While value and convenience seem like viable platforms to build its position in the market, these do not necessarily represent the values which will attract and retain new customers.
On the chart below, we see how Alpha compares to competitors with regards to how customers words define each brand. Alpha shows its strongest proximity to convenience and also toward value. Chains 3 and 4, but contrast are more positioned towards food quality and secondarily closer to service & delivery. While Alpha experienced a -5.3% sales decline over the year, both Chains 3 and 4 experienced high single-digit growth. A closer proximity towards service, delivery and food quality apparently forms the equation for growth in the Mexican segment.
For Alpha brand, analysis underscores that traditional strategies of focusing only on improving efficiencies in their drive-thru and online ordering was not sufficient to drive growth. By ignoring menu diversity and improving food quality, they were driving customers to competition and generating a serious decline in sales.
The task ahead for Alpha is clear, if not daunting. The company has to focus on improving its menu and the quality of its product and let the world know about it. This is both an operational and communicative transformation. This will require broadening the content of its marketing messages to communicate to consumers the journey and destination that Alpha is pursuing to this end.
Going forward, Alpha needs to embark on a journey and, in process, direct the content of its marketing message to telling the world about this journey. In so doing, Alpha will tell its customers that they are on a program for improving their menu and product quality. This will make the company appear vulnerable but customers will understand if Alpha comes across as both serious & sincere, and most of all, delivers on its promises. As shown, Content Marketing is all about marrying the right content with the media message.