We finally reach the end of another eventful year.
It’s been a whirlwind for everyone to say the least. If you’re reading this and you’re in brand management or marketing, it’s likely you’ve experienced some of the most challenging moments of your career this year.
Communication has always been important for brands, but never has the world watched with such scrutiny as they have this year. Brands have had to adapt quickly. Some have done the right thing. Others have said the wrong things. And paid for it. A lot.
Everyone has had to navigate previously unchartered territory, and while sadly we’ve witnessed some sink, others have sailed further in these conditions than they’d ever thought possible.
Content was already being heavily invested into pre-pandemic. But those who had hesitance in its value quickly found themselves running before they could walk, as they struggled with the sudden onset of demand for social, video, email, digital and print communications.
The sheer volume of information that was needed to be communicated, both internally and externally, left brands – both prepared and unprepared – in a position unlike any other.
Having spoken to many customers, our own team and having analysed what’s been reported in publications over the past year and a bit, I’ve come to five solid conclusions. Here, I share what they mean for the present and future of content creation and the teams that make it all possible.
“Purpose fatigue has set in”
It’s always going to be important for a brand’s values to shine through. But laying it on too thick in communications and losing sight of other areas of a brand’s personality can leave your audience feeling a little confused about your identity.
Your purpose is either wholeheartedly woven into everything you do, or it’s tastefully acknowledged as and when it’s needed. If you tread either route, then your actions should always reflect what you preach to your audience.
When I talk about purpose fatigue, I’m not saying that consumers don’t care that your brand cares. They absolutely do. But they’re tired of hearing the buzzwords, seeing adverts delivered in the same way, everyone claiming they’re changing the world when they’re not.
Actions will always speak louder than words, and if purpose is truly the foundation of your brand, you won’t need to shout about it from the rooftops. It will be apparent and known by the things you do and what you put out into the world.
Consumers are suffocating with the promises brands are setting out in front of them. If every brand really is as amazing as they’re claiming to be, then there’s still differentiation work to be done. Content can serve to build that brand and personality outside of the bigger campaign work.
“Content is now one of the biggest trust factors”
The role of content throughout the pandemic has been of great importance. Whether it was service availability, updates on staffing and opening times, product shortages or anything in-between, there were a lot of messaging strands to keep up with.
Brands that made their voices heard, their actions felt and their opinions count managed to do so with both carefully planned and reactive content. They weren’t afraid to comment on topical events without waiting several days to see what public perception dictated. They responded to requests for information with educational pieces. They served videos that simplified the complex.
Those who left their customers and employees in the dark or didn’t communicate consistently were met with negative social media comments and criticism from the press.
Though it feels like the end of the tunnel is near, the pandemic isn’t over. And even if it was, brands can’t take their foot off the gas when it comes to quick turnaround, valuable content pieces.
The precedent has been set. Consumers are actively engaged. They’re informed and loving it. Brands have shown real people, real emotion and real responses to real-world situations. If audiences are abandoned now, all the hard work was for nothing.
The key to great content is to have long-term and reactive strategies, the ability to be agile and to never lose sight of what people want to know about.
“Authenticity can’t be falsified”
Some brands have come under fire for dishing out false promises, or for not living up to what they say they are in campaigns. I always liken it to content creators (or influencers) – if they have been promoting a product on their feed that’s environmentally friendly but are then papped out in their fuel-guzzling 4×4, it would be very difficult to accept their word as the truth.
The same can be said for brands. And as rudimentary as it sounds, the only way to appear authentic is to be authentic. Be transparent and open.
With so much exposure to misinformation this year, customers need to have absolute faith and confidence that your brand is speaking its truth. They will appreciate and respect it more than you know.
Talk about the challenges customers have faced or the complaints you’ve received. As long as you’ve outlined what your brand’s done about it.
Put your hands up if the brand has made a mistake or said something out of line. Providing a ‘no comment’ from your comms team won’t do you any favours. Learn from it, own it and move on.
Show real people doing real things. Even some of the more throwaway content on TikTok has been painstakingly crafted for hours. And while polished production is always a great way to ensure brand consistency, don’t be afraid to introduce off-the-cuff pieces with employees.
“Automation isn’t the enemy”
Remember when robots were going to take your job? That’s not what’s going to happen. Ever.
Human emotion, empathy and decision-making in marketing are what makes it so powerful. It’s the role of technology and automation (or ahem, robots) to make your life easier. To improve the great work you’re already doing. To make your brand the best it can be!
When Per Oldeide helped to found Papirfly, it was always his mission to support the work of marketing and brand professionals. This was over 20 years ago now. We’ve all seen the automation of accounting with Xero, HubSpot take sales to a whole new level – every industry has been digitised in some way.
For some reason, though, there’s still a great deal of scepticism when it comes to content creation. I believe that to be for two reasons.
- People don’t believe that automation can be implemented without compromising on creativity and quality
- People are scared about the amount of time they need to invest in order to make it worth their while – they’re snowed under as it is and it’s too much of a commitment right now
I completely get both of these worries. But – and forgive me for being so blunt – they are moot points in the grand scheme of things.
- Tools such as BAM by Papirfly™ (shameless but relevant plug) have been designed and refined over decades. Brand Activation Management isn’t something that’s appeared out of nowhere. It’s taken the real challenges of global brands and given them a solution to deliver a more automated approach to content and campaign asset creation, without ever compromising on quality or creativity.
- There is a time investment, like with most things. But if the pandemic has proved anything it’s that the world is changing. Expectations are higher. Content is more important than ever before. Without a central way to automate (or streamline) content creation, teams will be left overburdened, under pressure and eventually completely burnt out.
Automation isn’t going anywhere. Pressure isn’t going anywhere. Teams must adapt their approach to content creation and management without having to rely endlessly on agencies.
The more teams can deliver in-house, the less budget is wasted, the more empowered they are and the quicker they can go to market.
It really is that simple.
“It’s ok to want to save money”
Brands have felt the squeeze during the pandemic. And whether budget cuts were a precautionary measure or an absolute necessity, I’m sure there were mixed reviews from employees when they felt the additional pressures and burden.
Reduced staff. Reduced spend. Reduced almost everything. It’s not an easy mountain to climb.
That’s why teams need to focus on how to make their content creation more effective and each individual more productive. When time is saved, money is saved. When teams are empowered, agencies aren’t needed for every little thing.
It’s ok to need/want/have to save money and cull things from your marketing budget. But only if it’s been done with considered thought, and avenues for improvement have been explored to support this gaping budget and the employees whose workloads will triple as a result.
Looking to 2022…
Everything I’ve covered in this article – purpose, trust, authenticity, automation, budgets – are all wider conversations that extend beyond just content creation. But content creation is a solid foundation and critical way to communicate. The pandemic may have left you forced to find an approach that works well ‘for now’, and maybe you’re doing ok. But ask yourself and your team if it’s sustainable.
If it’s not, or there are areas to be improved, take a look at everything BAM has to offer here.