Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Content marketing = contented customers

Published:Sunday | October 12, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Peter Lloyd,  GUEST COLUMNIST

We keep hearing about content marketing, but what does it actually mean?

Probably at its simplest, the definition of content is the creation of stories that are to be expressed through every possible connection. But for me, its key differentiator is that customers are at the centre of this communication.

What content marketing tells us is that the days of preaching to customers, rather than exciting and informing them, are rapidly coming to an end. What was once a message is now a conversation.

About five years ago, Jamaica witnessed a significant increase in smartphone usage across the island. With mobile broadband accessible to everyone, and best-value smartphone prices, so began the social media frenzy and on-demand culture that we know today. Today, we are proud to serve more than one million mobile data customers on our 4G network (just under 50 per cent of our total customer base in Jamaica), and boast a social media following of more than 750,000 people.

What's unique about Digicel is that our relationship with customers is twofold - we are not only engaging customers, but we are also the enabler for them to access content instantaneously through all sorts of digital platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, Instagram, apps ... the list goes on. The goal now is to capitalise on this, to leverage this behaviour (that in part, we have created) by creating stories based on our conversations with our customers.

While content marketing is the buzzword now, we've been producing content that has gone viral for years. Back in 2009, our Jus Buss campaign had DJs playing the tune in clubs across Jamaica - and, more important, fans dancing to it. The popularity and how fans brought this ad campaign to life in their own lives just blew us away. We had created a movement - the kind of stuff that marketers dream of.

Today, our objective is content excellence - underpinned by our brand promise, Be Extraordinary - which, at its very heart, is all about storytelling that celebrates everyday people doing extraordinary things. For us, it's key that the stories are linked to demonstrating our commitment to celebrating all that is Jamaican - the people, the place and the endless possibility.

With content marketing, we have an opportunity for our brand to create unique and relevant material that attracts, sparks and even hijacks a conversation.

#JamaicaHappy

When we filmed '#JamaicaHappy', we weren't promoting our products or services. In fact, we didn't even associate Digicel with it until long after it had spread virally across Jamaica, the wider Caribbean and across the world. We were simply creating content that celebrates happiness and extraordinary Jamaicans. With almost one million views to date on YouTube, this is a perfect example of content that started a conversation, told a story, and engaged customers - without any direct advertising or brand push.

And, we're not only about sparking the conversation, but also listening. You will find out so much from listening to customers, allowing you to react and contribute to what's going on around you. The #ALS challenge is a more recent example. When our CEO, Barry O'Brien, was nominated to accept the #ALS challenge and have a bucket of water poured over his head, he chose not to accept. Realising that it was a difficult time in Jamaica with drought and water shortages being experienced all over the island - and schools not able to reopen for the new year - we decided to turn the ALS challenge on its head and, instead, donate water tanks to schools all over the island. The initiative has gathered so much support that it now has its own challenge in the form of the #wtschallenge (water tanks for schools) through which individuals and entire companies are doing push-ups to raise money for the fund. Now, other companies such as ATL are making and sharing their own content via the footage and stills on social media.

Brands must always be setting the bar higher in order to remind themselves that no matter how established the brand is, it must stay relevant among its customers who are becoming increasingly more demanding and educated. For Digicel - and for me as a marketer - this genuine, two-way collaboration and engagement is so exciting because our customers are always telling us what to do next and we are always listening. It's what strengthens and builds our brand.

With that, we try to seek out everyday Jamaicans and share what is extraordinary about them in order to develop a deeper emotional connection with our audiences. An example is our recent blog post on Kimani Francis, a 16-year-old who survived cancer twice while in high school. Despite this, Kimani completed his CXCs with seven grade ones. This received so much positive feedback on all our social media channels and is still trending because people love to celebrate the success of people like them, making a hero of someone they can relate to.

We've also just launched our own #SavedByData YouTube channel. The idea behind this is to give our customers useful tips and information about all things - data, apps and smartphones - but it will also feature testimonials from customers on how they've been 'Saved by Data'.

Ultimately, what we're trying to do is draw from the everyday what the Digicel brand, products, and services stand for and how we might relate that interestingly to our customers' experiences.

Effective placement

But there's a risk involved; we can't just create noise. Rather than publishing content for content's sake, we select what media will tell the Digicel brand story best, by creating relevant content to specific audiences and placing it on relevant channels. Examples include putting Digicel Business updates on our LinkedIn page or smartphone software upgrades on the 4G tech page.

The list is growing, but there are a number of accepted types of content that can make up any content marketing plan, including video, images, motion graphics (gifs are increasingly popular), infographics, apps, tools, reviews and curated content (Pinterest for example). And the great thing is, it doesn't have to cost a fortune.

So, why should businesses engage in content marketing? Well, as customer behaviours evolve, so must we change the ways in which we engage them. In today's world, marketeers who can effectively connect with customers will win, and, with research showing that 61 per cent of customers are more likely to buy from companies that create custom content, businesses will need to increase their investment in doing just that.

Peter Lloyd is Digicel Jamaica's marketing director. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.