At the Northside Festival, Shutterstock, the stock photography company, sponsored master classes by experts in the technology, design and production industries addressing different facets of content. The sessions we attended were taught by Lauren Reddy, Director of Audience & Development of T Studio (of The New York Times), Theo Ernstsson, CEO of Alpha, and Jason Schickle and Jesekeena Hahn of Shutterstock. The main takeaway from the sessions was the importance of creating content that would truly add value to a user’s lives. While each speaker represented different vantage points, courtesy of the industry they were speaking on behalf of, it was unanimously agreed upon that content is the future of marketing.
1. Be useful
Nowadays, as a consumer, we have our pick of options. Any product or service, no matter its obscurity or location, is within arm’s reach due to the advances in technology. As technology continues to impact and shape a consumer perception and loyalties, how is a brand supposed to stand out in its value proposition? By being consistently useful. Theo Ernstsson’s session, ‘How to Cut Through Bullshit to Create Great Products,’ proposes that experimentation and execution was the path to usefulness. He believes that by rapid iteration and rollout, brands would be able to determine if they are indeed being useful to their consumer by “solving” a problem. In looking at content through the same lens, this would mean brands must aim to create content that not just entertains, but be useful in some way- educating, informing and inspiring- but most importantly improving their consumer’s lives.
2. Be unique
Lauren Reddy’s session, ‘Transforming Branded Content Topics Into Stories That Will Engage Your Audience,’ began with an unsurprising statistic, “70% of Internet users prefer engaging with branded content rather than traditional advertising.” As creators of one of the most widely-praised pieces of branded content in recent years with their ‘Women Inmates’ article for Netflix, The New York Times clearly understands that while readers don’t necessarily mind marketing messaging, they just want the messaging to be more interestingly packaged. Developing unique, curated and fresh content that can strike an emotional chord will have a better chance of resonating. Additionally, in our Instagram and Twitter-trigger ready society, creating content primed for sharing that is also unique to each platform is important. It’s not a one-size-fits all if you’re priming your content to be scaled on social media so be weary of how it will look on Facebook versus Pinterest.
3. Be mindful of trends
A trend is defined as something current. But current isn’t forever. However, a trend occurs because there is a mass preference towards it, in some shape or form. While we err on caution when approaching something that feels trendy, it is important to be mindful of trends especially in the cultural and technology space. Shutterstock’s speakers point out a few key observations:
Cultural trends: Nostalgia is at a high of 213% and brands across the board especially in the entertainment and fashion industries. Health and wellness – in the form of self-care and supplements and holistic and healing experiences and gatherings -see no loss in momentum with even more brands in disparate spaces such as the hotel and co-working industries entering the sphere. Design continues to become a mass-audience explored subject as consumers are more design-savvy than ever; specific design trends identified stated the inclination towards more color, textures and patterns as Shutterstock cited the footwear company, Havaianas as a brand reflecting colors erring towards brighter hues.
Technology trends: Apple’s revealing at WWDC 2017 their concerted push into VR is another example of brands eagerly exploring emerging technology. Immersive technology, specifically AR and VR will continue to thrive specifically as brands try to solve for how it will exist on mobile. More sophisticated immersive technology will allow for more exciting content which continues to become more visually impressive.
Nowadays, effective marketing messaging must incorporate content in some form. With so many points of access to a brand, whether it be physical or digital, consumers want information and imagery that will serve an additional purpose beyond just selling them something. In an era where competition is so stiff (especially against those with Amazon-ian reach and scale), brands must master content creation in order to resonate with consumers in the short-run and sustain their businesses in the long-run.
With contributions by:
Damien Moore-Evans, Engagement Director
Photo courtesy of Northside Festival