Wondering how you can connect with your target audience on a deeper level? Casey Petersen, Photofy’s Vice President of Marketing, has a few tips.

Nobody cares about your amazing content marketing campaign.

No-one is paying attention to your cutting edge, beautiful ad.  

These are two universal truths. As marketers, however, we tend to believe it applies to all those other crappy marketers out there – not us. We’re smart and creative. Our ads are the perfect balance of edgy, intersectional, and non-offensive to anyone. My God… we are perfect.

Alas. It doesn’t change the cold, hard truth – nobody cares about our content, promotion, or ad either.  

It turns out, if we’re honest, none of us have ever shared a piece of content because it was keyword rich and had beautifully executed SEO keyword strategies. How hard you work on doing everything “right” doesn’t actually matter to anyone except you. Good communication is not a slogan, a search-optimized blog post, or a super funny ad or video. 

As marketers, we often apply a different standard to the content we create for our brands than that which we apply as consumers. For instance, we create beautifully photoshopped images for our brand channels, but we consume grainy videos of a dog running into a glass door. We value meaningful communication with both people and companies that we interact with, but we also over-produce our content and prefer to avoid interacting as a human with humans as much as possible with our brands.

“As marketers, we often apply a different standard to the content we create for our brands than that which we apply as consumers. The cognitive disconnect is obvious.”

The cognitive disconnect is obvious. Think about the brands that have really made a splash with online content. They’ve found a place to connect on a real and meaningful level with their followers. It could be Wendy’s roasting haters, or REI’s Opt Outside movement. These brands stepped out of tired marketing tropes (seriously, if you’re reading this, do NOT do “New Year, New You” as a marketing campaign in January) and found a way to communicate with their followers. You can too. It’s simple.

  1. Listen. We assume we know our customers. Maybe we even have a ton of data that tells us who our customers are. But knowing the demographic info of an audience and drawing conclusions based on stereotypes is not listening. Surveys are not listening (although they’re helpful). Personally picking up a phone or computer and logging into Facebook or Twitter and talking to customers, customers with problems, happy customers, new customers, long-time customers, and hearing them – that is listening. You have to be human to honor the human experiences of your customers.
  2. Communicate. This is a tricky one – because this doesn’t mean produce content. It means create content that your customers want to connect with, based on listening to them. Wendy’s, for instance, knows that high-end, health-conscious people who only eat organic, grass-fed, locally sourced lean beef are not their target customer. They also realized along the way that their target customer thinks those people are dumb hipsters. Roasting “haters” on Twitter is content that their customers love and connect with on an emotional level. It makes Wendy’s feel human, by honoring their human experiences and thoughts.
  3. Build a community. REI also knows their target customer. They’re people who are drawn to adventure, nature, and connecting with friends and family outdoors. They’re also people who are stuck in the rat race and aspire to do those things, but don’t know how. They built a brand around content that gives those aspirational customers the knowledge and confidence to take a step toward the life they want. 

At the risk of sounding overly emotional about a corporation, in many ways REI helps people achieve their dreams – and they produce content that pushes them toward that realization. In keeping with the theme of honoring the humanity in your customers – REI created a campaign called ‘Opt Outside’ that actually encouraged their customers to NOT shop on Black Friday, but go outside instead. Since then, they’ve created a vibrant community around opting outside instead of doing indoor or consumer-driven activities.  No marketer would ever come up with this idea unless he or she had first listened to their audience.

It’s not difficult to communicate effectively as a brand. However, it does take the courage to be human, when your instincts tell you it’s safer to just be corporate. You may never offend anyone by creating safe messaging. You’ll also never stand out. Find your audience. Explore their human experience with your brand. Honor that humanity by being human yourself.F

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