Five essential guidelines to determine the best content for your business

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By Mark Schaefer

What’s the best content for your business?

That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked by students, entrepreneurs, and business owners. And, it’s an important question! Creating content with consistency takes time and resources so this is a weighty decision.

Of course, I can’t tell you the best kind of content for your business without studying your unique situation, but if I did look at your business, these are the five questions I would ask to help you find your answer:

1. Is content marketing the best strategy in the first place?

The first decision point is to determine if you should be creating content at all. Is this the wisest way to spend your marketing dollars?

For example, I was helping a company that made step ladders. A better use of marketing dollars might be an end of aisle display at a store like Lowes or Home Depot. Don’t create random acts of content just because this seems like the thing to do.

There is a role for content marketing in most businesses but don’t prioritize resources without a thoughtful assessment first. Place your marketing bet where you will get the biggest return.

2. Where is there room to maneuver?

This is the single most important question to ask before starting any sort of content production. You need to determine:

  1. What is the competitive situation? Is there an un-contested content niche you can occupy? Here’s a blog post I wrote that provides a simple technique for doing a content density assessment. If you read one other post on content marketing, make it this one because if you don’t understand this concept you’ll waste a lot of time and money creating content that will never work.
  2. Once you find that niche, what are your opportunities to maneuver? Many people become overwhelmed by all the content options out there, but in fact, your strategy is usually pre-determined for you! Here’s a post about the importance of marketing maneuverability. And if your niche is depressingly crowded, you still have options.

Finally, here is a very important article on 12 possible content marketing strategies once you determine a viable niche. In content marketing, you can’t just copy what everybody else is doing. You have to occupy a distinct space on the web.

3. Where are your customers? What are their needs?

This is such an obvious question but often overlooked. Where do your customers prefer to receive their content?

If you’ve done a competitive assessment and found a few options, the next step is to survey your customers and ask them what they prefer. Or better yet, get out there and talk to them.

Another option is to filter your options by looking at your customer’s greatest needs. I wrote a comprehensive post about this idea that can help you called the content marketing hierarchy of needs.

4. What is your source of rich content?

If you have limited resources, you might be overwhelmed by the dizzying array of social media options. Should you be on Facebook? Twitter? Should you blog or create a podcast?

Actually, you have very limited choices. You need to pick one source of what I call “rich content” to fuel your social media presence:

  • Writing (like a blog)
  • Audio (like a podcast)
  • Video (like you post on YouTube)
  • Visual (for Instagram or Pinterest)

If you have limited resources, pick ONE of these, master it, and stick with it. Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube are distribution channels, not necessarily content sources. The rich content you produce powers your social media presence. I wrote an entire blog post on the importance of rich content that will help you sort through this decision for your business.

5. What brings you joy?

If you’re an entrepreneur or own a small business, chances are you’ll be creating a lot of content yourself, so you better have some fun while doing it!

If you’re bored while developing your content, it’s going to show through in your final product. If you love to write, then write. If you want to try video or a podcast, then do that.1

Creating content needs to bring you joy. Bottom line, the other factors in this post don’t really matter if you’re not having fun, so make that a priority.

Best content for your business — but then lift-off!

I need to end with one final — but crucial — piece of advice.

You must remember that the economic value of whatever content you produce is zero unless is is seen and shared. Yes, you need to create exceptional content. Yes, you need to build your audience. But if your content isn’t being shared through your audience and beyond, you are literally getting nowhere with your content marketing.

This is an essential concept being overlooked by most marketers today. Social sharing represents organic advocacy. People trust content shared by friends and it impacts buying behavior. In terms of metrics for your business, social sharing is second only to conversions in importance.

So, you absolutely, positively need to focus on this imperative of content ignition and build a competency in getting your content to move.

I’m not here to be “salesy” but I did spend two years studying this crucial idea and determining every way to get your content to move. I put all of this essential wisdom into a book called The Content Code. Sincerely, if you’re responsible for content marketing, please read this eye-opening book if you want to drive business benefits from your content. It is ten thousand dollars of consulting advice for less than $20! Don’t create content without a plan to make it move!

I hope these guidelines have been helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comment box below. Thanks for reading my post today!

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5 Ways Ecommerce Brands Should Approach Content Marketing

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Manish Dudharejia

As more brick-and-mortar conglomerates bite the dust and online sales continue to climb, the ability of a smaller ecommerce brand to stand above the crowd will determine its life or death.

As many businesses know at this point, content marketing is the crucial ingredient for this task.

The landscape of content marketing is changing like crazy.

As the standards of SEO, web design, writing, etc. continue to evolve, businesses from all industries are continuously forced to refine their approaches.

The harsh reality is that some strategies can work like magic one day, then be completely obsolete the next.

Nowadays, the scope of what defines “good content” for ecommerce businesses is a layered concept that involves many elements.

Let’s discuss five ways ecommerce brands can establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

1. Prioritize E-A-T Score

One the most important recent changes to Google’s search quality ratings guidelines involved E-A-T score (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness).

There is now a strong focus on applying this score to individual content creators, rather than brands themselves. The idea is to refine the way content is ranked based on the source.

For example, if someone is producing content and weight supplements, they should have a strong E-A-T score in the medical field.

So how does this factor in for ecommerce brands?

Google’s algorithms are designed to mimic hypothetical human quality raters.

That being said, if you want your product pages to rank highly on the SERPs, you need to find ways to improve your E-A-T score.

Expertise

You need to prove to the search engines (and the users) that you have a proven knowledge of the goods you sell.

As an ecommerce retailer, start by making sure that you work with highly reputable manufacturers.

If you make it a point to showcase that your suppliers/manufacturers have recognized expertise in your field, this is going to reflect on you.

Additionally, you can reach out to renowned figures with proven industry expertise to give you recommendations.

The functionality, aesthetics, and integrity of your website play a huge role in how experts will decide to recommend you and your products.

Authority

This is all about verifying Expertise.

In the ecommerce world, it’s easy for bigger companies that manufacture their own products (like L.L Bean and Nike) to be seen as highly authoritative.

Third-party sellers, on the other hand, need to have evidence that they are a verified merchant for certain products.

For example, if you have the Better Business Bureau logo linked to your website with verified affiliation, the page would likely rank higher.

Trustworthiness

Getting your product pages to rank well comes down to the concept of customer success. For instance:

  • Do your product pages answer potential questions or concerns a buyer might have?
  • Is it easy to get in contact with you?
  • Is the return process clearly explained?
  • Are there any unpleasant surprises in the checkout?
  • Are there verified user ratings?
  • Do the pages deploy HTTPS?

These are just a few pieces of the puzzle when it comes to building trust. Essentially, the more descriptive, intuitive, and secure your product pages are, the better they will rank.

E-A-T score has been building up in importance for some time now, and will continue to in the future. In order to get product pages ranked, these guidelines will need to play a key role in your content marketing strategy.

2. Integrate Video into Product Pages & Beyond

The biggest drawback of buying online has always been the inability to look at products in person. For the most part, you never really know what you are getting until it shows up on your doorstep.

Now, AR has been doing amazing things to remedy this problem.

However, most online brands aren’t IKEA – they don’t have the budget to spend on this flashy feature.

That being said, incorporating video into your product pages and content marketing plan should be a must. It’s no secret that the internet loves video content. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of all online traffic is video.

Starting with product pages, video does wonders to give buyers a visual understanding of what they are buying.

Seeing a real human handling the product is about as close as they can get to seeing it in person.

Take a look at this one from Saddleback Leather:

This video does a fantastic job of giving viewers everything they need to know about the product, along with some personal insight.

Simply put, images and descriptions of products can only get you so far.

Now, outside of the product page, you can use video to discuss the latest trends in your industry, compare items, bring in guests, etc.

Keep in mind, the search engines and social media (Facebook especially) favors video in their ranking algorithms.

Using video across the entire scope of your ecommerce content marketing plan does a lot to solidify your brand voice and values, as well as gives potential buyers all the information they need.

3. Focus on Qualified Reviews from Google Partners

Nearly everyone who has ever bought something online knows how much customer reviews can influence purchasing decisions.

Reviews are validation from a third-party source with no ulterior motives. That’s why reviews are extremely powerful in convincing people to buy.

Unfortunately, many companies and review services took advantage of this and would produce phony reviews in an attempt to increase customer confidence.

Over time, both consumers and the search engines wised up to this shady practice.

Reviews have been a ranking signal for a while, but Google has made it a point to favor those that are left via a verified Google Review Partner.

Spy on Any Website’s Analytics Account
See their sales and how they get them, in real time. Insights you were never meant to see.

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Partner platforms like Trustpilot and Yotpo do a lot to ensure all reviews are authentic and timely, and for that, Google sees them as credible resources. These verified reviews can do a lot to improve your Google Seller Ratings.

Moreover, review snippets help you stand out in organic search:

Sample review ratings in the serps

So, as an ecommerce brand, you are very wise to choose a verified Google Review Platform to collect and manage customer sentiment.

Many of these programs give you the ability to turn your reviews into visually appealing pieces of content that can be displayed on your website, social media, and more.

Sample reviews

Reviews, testimonials, and all other forms of user-generated content are extremely powerful content marketing weapons, especially for ecommerce.

The rising importance of collecting and promoting positive sentiment is certainly a trend that will continue to grow.

4. Team Up with Micro-Influencers

A huge misconception exists about influencer marketing.

Many brands think that only the influencers with the largest followings are worth going after for a campaign.

In other words, when they are conducting their research for potential partners, they tend to put the number of followers as the top deciding factor.

This is not a smart move for smaller brands because it:

  • Can be very expensive.
  • Might not yield a good ROI.

That being said, smaller ecommerce businesses should make it a point to look into micro-influencers. In contrast to the megastars, the typical following of a micro-influencer is under 100,000.

Engagement levels tend to fall as an influencer gains more followers.

Accounts with 1,000 followers or less normally see an 8 percent like rate, whereas this number drops to about 4 percent in followings of 1,001-9,999.

The takeaway is that smaller followers tend to be more focused on the message. When it comes to influencer marketing, engagement will always be more important than the number of followers.

A couple of years ago, Banana Republic did a great job choosing micro-influencers to promote their products on Instagram.

Banana Republic - Influencer Marketing

By using a diverse set of industry influencers for different styles and hashtags, they were able to reach a plethora of different audience segments for relatively cheap!

So, instead of dumping all your budget on a single big name, you are wise to choose several different micro-influencers. Your engagement rates will likely be much higher and give you a better ROI.

5. Do It for a Cause

Cause marketing has been a huge buzzword in recent years. In the realm of content marketing, it can do wonders to create a more loyal and devoted customer base.

According to Edelman, 64 percent of consumers buy on belief, and will choose, switch, boycott, or avoid brands based on their standing in relation to a social issue.

Now, cause marketing can be a small as a monthly or annual contribution to a cause.

Or, the cause can define the brand itself.

Patagonia has been doing this successfully since day one.

As an ecommerce brand looking to get the ball rolling in cause marketing, several key factors come into play.

First and foremost, you need to choose a cause that has parallels with your business goals. If there are no congruencies, it will look like a cheap PR stunt.

KFC’s “Buckets for a Cure” campaign is a prime example of this type of failure. A few years back, KFC paired with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and donated $0.50 for every bucket of chicken sold.

In terms of money raised, it was a great success. However, from a PR standpoint, it missed the mark horribly. This is because fried chicken simply has nothing to do with breast cancer.

Many would argue that greasy fast food can actually increase the risk of cancer! The lesson here is to choose a cause wisely and prove that you have a strong business devotion.

Next, once you’ve chosen a fitting cause, you need to figure out the details of how you will contribute.

  • Will a portion of a purchase go toward the cause?
  • Will it be a “buy one give one” deal?
  • Will it be action-driven where customers can get involved themselves?

There are several types of cause marketing to consider. Be critical in your choice and understand how it will benefit both parties.

In a nutshell, cause marketing shows customers that their money is going to something greater than both themselves and the seller.

One of my favorite examples is TOMS’ One-for-One campaign.

Toms website

When a customer purchases a pair of shoes from TOMS, the company donates a pair to children in developing countries. The campaign has given more than 35 million pairs of shoes to children in need.

Now, something like this might not be feasible for a small ecommerce operation. The most important thing is that you prove you are devoted and promote the fact that buying your product is making the world a better place.

Summary

There’s no denying that ecommerce businesses have it tough these days.

After all, they are going up against one of the biggest business giants to ever grace the world: Amazon.

If you look at all the successful ecommerce brands out there (aside from Amazon and eBay), the biggest common thread is that they produce and distribute stellar content.

If you are looking to gain traction for your ecommerce store, keep these five strategies in mind.

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5 Incredibly Simple Strategies to Help You Win With Video Marketing

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By Toby Nwazor

This study by Cisco, meanwhile, predicted that 82 percent of internet traffic would be going to video content by 2021.

Such revelations just go to show that if you haven’t started making videos, now is a good time to start. And if you’re already into video marketing, then it’s time to step up your game. The good news is that it’s actually super easy to make the move. Here are five simple strategies you can start with.

1. Map out the results you want to achieve with video marketing

When content creators or brands delve into video marketing, they often do so without a clear-cut outline of what they want to achieve. Learning about video may seem like a lot to master, but just like every journey, it’s wise to create a road map of where you are going to. Many people get lost and frustrated with their video-marketing efforts because they just put out videos without a plan.

Grab your pen and paper, then take a step back and think about what exactly you want to achieve. Do you want to increase the number of your email subscribers? Do you want to convert your viewers to buyers? Do you want to sell videos on YouTube? Do you want to get more subscribers and grow your YouTube channel? Or do you just want to boost your sales? In each case, the road map will be different, so plan accordingly.

2. Focus on creating videos your audience will find valuable

No matter the niche you’re in, there’s an audience ready to watch your videos. But to win in video marketing, you don’t need just people who will watch your videos, but people who will keep watching your videos.

To make that happen, start creating videos your audience find valuable. Giving value consistently is what will get them to come back to watch more. A good example is the Home Depot. Home Depot’s YouTube channel is full of DIY videos. The company knows it’s  catering to a community that loves crafts, so it consistently makes videos that meet that need.

Related: Why Videos Are the Next Lucrative Step in Your Marketing Strategy

3. Use your video content to tell a story.

Every good video must do two things. First, it must capture the attention of your viewers. Second, it must sustain your viewers’ attention to the end of the video. Nothing does that better than a video that tells a compelling story.

You may be trying to sell a product, promote a brand or simply educate your audience. Storytelling develops an emotional connection with your audience, and that encourages engagement.

4. Create video content that’s perfect for mobile devices. 

There are more people on their smartphones than any other device. Videos are the most shared content on mobile phones. According to Invodo, 92 percent of mobile video consumers share videos with others. Considering the vast number of eyeballs that are on mobile devices, it’s only wise that marketers make videos suitable for mobile viewing.

Given the popularity of Instagram and Snapchat, shorter videos are especially appreciated. So, instead of creating long videos to increase watch time, switch to shorter ones.

5. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

Content creators have recorded a lot of success collaborating with influencers. Collaborations help to raise the number of viewers and increase the rate at which the video is shared. That may sound great, but it doesn’t mean you should collaborate with every influencer you meet.

Let your audience’s need influence your choice of influencers to work with. Collaborate with those who have the same audience you do. Their content should be something your audience is already interested in.

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Is Your Corporate Culture Conducive to Content Success?

One of the most pervasive themes at this year’s Content Marketing World was the need for big changes in our industry. Digital marketing is always evolving, so it’s no surprise the 3,700 marketers in attendance would want to focus on the latest adjustments they should be making to their content strategies and tactics.

But one change featured prominently had little to do with upgrading to new techniques, sophisticated tools and technologies, or measuring and monetizing content’s impact. Rather, the dominant through line was the need to shift the marketing mindset to create a culture that promotes more innovative, responsive, and meaningful consumer connections.

We need to shift the #marketing mindset to create responsive & meaningful consumer connections. @joderama Click To Tweet

Meet the new cultural imperative

Why is it critical for companies to rethink – and, perhaps, reconstruct – their cultural identities at this stage of the content marketing game? Well, for one thing, customers demand it.

For example, as consumers grow more empowered to discuss and support the causes that matter to them, they’re holding brands accountable for doing the same. Consider the passionate response to Nike’s latest Just Do It ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. No matter which side of the #TakeAKnee debate you take, chances are the campaign affected your perception of the Nike brand – and, perhaps, your willingness to purchase its products.

Consumers are holding brands accountable for supporting causes that matter, says @joderama. Click To TweetWas it a risky move? Sure. There are risks every time a brand takes a stance on a highly politicized cultural issue. But, for the record, the company’s decision to “walk the walk” by aligning its marketing message with its brand purpose seems to have paid off so far: Sales are up, and Nike’s stock valuation is, too.

What makes a company’s culture conducive to creating the passion-driven and participative content experiences today’s consumers crave? And what should content marketing leaders do to enable their teams to serve as agents of necessary change and creative innovation? I’ve compiled a few recent news stories that may offer some helpful insights.

Structure content teams for agility and collaboration

In her Content Marketing World presentation, Kathy Klotz-Guest asserted that every culture (and team) can foster greater content creativity by thinking like an agile, collaborative startup. What might that entail?

For U.K. retail brand Marks & Spencer it meant restructuring its marketing team to take a specialist rather than a generalist approach to all functional areas of the business. In a conversation with Marketing Week, M&S Marketing Director Nathan Ansell said the shift to an expertise-driven service model has made the brand better able to collaborate across teams, respond to customer needs on the fly, and ensure contextual relevance across its marketing channels. “There’s lots of test-and-learn activity, responding to what’s going on in and outside of the environment and how things change. So, it’s a much more agile and dynamic way of running marketing than we have done in the past,” Nathan explained.

Read: M&S is Transforming its Marketing Team into Specialists Rather Than Generalists

Keep team members empowered and focused

A recent Forbes article explores the potential benefits of replacing the standard, top-down managerial structure most organizations have with an experimental, holacracy-like alternative called corporate liberation. Under this model, employees are given the autonomy to take the actions they – not their managers – think will work best to fulfill the company’s vision and achieve its goals.

Theoretically, the approach works like this: When a new content project request comes in, team members are tasked with creating the execution plan – including setting schedules, dividing tactical responsibilities, and deciding how to collaborate efficiently – rather than a manager dictating the workflow. The process liberates individuals to act on their own initiative, giving them ownership of every project and a greater sense of accomplishment when they achieve success.

What if your team, not a manager, creates a #content execution plan, asks @joderama. #holacracy Click To TweetRead: Give Your Team the Freedom to Do the Work They Think Matters Most

Strengthen your marketing team’s growth potential

Incorporating ongoing career education and training into your corporate culture can also help your teams improve the content experiences they create.

A recent Adweek article points out that when learning and growth become part and parcel to an organization’s culture, teams are better equipped to adapt and respond to shifting consumer needs. They’re also better equipped to reflect emerging interests and evolving preferences in the content experiences they produce. And providing more personalized opportunities for career development, such as individual coaching and mentoring programs, can increase team engagement and reduce turnover.

Read: How Instilling a Culture of Continuous Learning Will Improve Customer Experience

Enable diversity and neutralize toxicity

Any decisions a business makes about its culture in the modern era should include thoughtful consideration of diversity. Including a wide range of cultural voices and ideas can add value to any aspect of an organization’s operations – including enriching its understanding of audience needs and interests and enhancing its overall creativity. But there’s also the potential for conflicting norms and assumptions to disrupt the creative process and impact the productivity and effectiveness of content teams.

An experimental study discussed in Harvard Business Review suggests that “cultural brokerage” may be the key to managing the communication conflicts and ethnocentric misassumptions that often occur when cultural perspectives collide. Cultural brokerage leverages multicultural agencies to facilitate interactions across parties from different backgrounds. The research found that the approach leads to greater understanding, increased comfort with asking questions and sharing knowledge, and a boost in creativity at the team level.

However, the HBR article also cautions that management can’t simply assign someone to act as a cultural broker and expect the issues to be resolved overnight. Rather, organizations should actively encourage their teams to view diversity as a valuable resource and a source of learning – conditions that would allow cultural brokerage to emerge more organically and foster increased acceptance and participation.

View diversity as a valuable resource & source of learning for #contentmarketing teams, says @joderama. Click To TweetRead: The Most Creative Teams Have a Specific Type of Cultural Diversity

Unfortunately, openly encouraging inclusivity and enabling diversity to flourish won’t address other negative workplace conditions that may exist – like harassment, intimidation, or lack of career growth – which can inhibit effective collaboration, reduce employee satisfaction and retention, and poison team performance across an enterprise.

Members of the Forbes Coaches Council recently outlined some less obvious signs that an organization has underlying cultural baggage that needs to be identified and addressed head on ­– including employee apathy, aversion to experimentation, and cross-team projects that commonly stall before getting off the ground. As serious cultural problems like these aren’t likely to fix themselves, the council members urge leaders to acknowledge any signs of toxicity they observe and swiftly demonstrate their commitment to improving conditions.

Content conclusion

These critical discussions should serve as a reminder to content marketers that we all play a part in cultivating spaces that are inviting, participative, and conducive to fostering trust as we pursue our business goals. Whether it’s how you communicate with your managers and co-workers, how you approach team challenges, or how you craft conversations for your audience, if you aren’t thinking beyond your point of view to consider how your messages might be perceived – it might be time to search your cultural inventory for opportunities to improve.

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The Ultimate Guide to Google Search Console in 2018

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Read More…

Brands Often Overlook This Superhero of Storytelling

Comics aren’t just SMASH, WHAM, KAPOW! One of the oldest mediums is also one of the most powerful — and one of the most overlooked in content marketing. Yet some brands are working with top comics creators and publishers such as Marvel Comics.

OK, maybe writing this article as a comic script isn’t such a great idea, even if prose is at a disadvantage when discussing such a visual medium. Buddy, you can come back now.

“The thing about comics is that it’s a different medium and has different sticking power,” he says.

Darren Sanchez, editor and project manager for Marvel Custom Solutions, agrees. “Comics are great because you can tell any kind of story to deliver a message or theme, and I believe content is best absorbed through story. In comics, you’re limited only by your imagination. An effects-heavy space opera costs the same to produce as a comic based on two people talking in a life raft. You can tell the story of a kid bitten by a radioactive spider or educate the public on what it’s like to have inflammatory bowel disorder. The uses are endless and we enjoy the challenge of coming up with new ideas.”

Comics are great b/c you can tell any kind of story to deliver a message or theme. @DarrenSanch #storytelling Click To TweetYet the medium has become almost inextricably associated with a tiny handful of genres, perpetuating the idea that comics are merely escapist entertainment and definitely not something to be taken seriously, never mind professionally.

“Letting go of this idea that comics are the genre of superheroes is really important. Comics are a medium independent of the genre,” Buddy says. “It’s the people who are not familiar with comics who try to push them into a corner and say, ‘Well, that’s for kids,’ or ‘That’s only superheroes.’ But they’re missing the point, which is: There is a richness to this type of visual storytelling that transcends cultures and time and can really get that call to action that you’re looking for.”

Comics transcends cultures & time & can really get that CTA you’re looking for. @BuddyScalera Click To TweetWhile these genres can help brands and marketers reach specific audiences or convey certain messages (read about pharmaceutical company Takeda’s partnership with Marvel Custom down below), comics are far more powerful and flexible than many people suspect.

But just because someone can write or draw reasonably well doesn’t necessarily mean they can create a comic. “You don’t want to leave a project like this to a person in the art department who has never produced a comic,” Buddy says. “Why risk the reputation of your brand with poor quality work for some marginal savings? You wouldn’t do that with any of your other content.”

As Darren says, “Most of our clients encounter a learning curve of how comics are made. We work with them to get them up to speed pretty quickly.

“That being said, it is possible for smaller publishers to approach storytelling for a client in this way. It’s a fantastic method to reach new consumers that wouldn’t otherwise be susceptible to your message – if you can hit all the right beats!”

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 4 Secrets of Great Storytellers

Comics can work for all audiences

In one of the few books to analyze comics as a medium and not as a genre, comics legend Will Eisner defined it as “sequential art.” As Scott McCloud writes in his book Understanding Comics, probably the only other major work on the medium, single panel cartoons are “no more comics than (a) still of Humphrey Bogart is a film.”

Comics aren’t defined by a particular art style either, cartoony or otherwise. There are many examples of comics that use photographs, fully painted artwork, digital imaging or even collage. It’s the sequence that matters – how one image follows the other to form a narrative in the mind of the reader.

Even text is optional, meaning comics can transcend language as well as literacy levels – which is why IKEA assembly instructions can guide anyone, anywhere through the process of putting together a bedside cabinet. “We are visual learners,” Buddy says. “A picture can help somebody to understand what you want them to do, whereas prose requires an abstract to concrete translation that not everybody’s going to be able to do. A prose novel will sometimes go on for pages and pages on setup that would take us a single splash page.”

Instead of dismissing comics as not worthy or challenging enough for an adult readership, we marketers should embrace their ease and speed of comprehension as a strength. When we’re tasked with getting our information, our message, our stories into someone else’s imagination, surely the easiest route shouldn’t be overlooked?

Comics can transcend language as well as literacy levels, says @BuddyScalera. #storytelling Click To Tweet

Brands use comics for diverse purposes

The Google Chrome Comic (2008)

Rather than publicize the launch of Chrome with a traditional press release, Google opted to send a printed comic book to journalists and bloggers. Written and illustrated by Scott McCloud, based on interviews conducted with 20 Google engineers, the comic demystified the browser by explaining the technological concepts and features in a more digestible and engaging format.

(Because of its limited print run, the comic immediately became highly collectable and still commands high prices. In April 2018, a copy sold on eBay for $1,100.)

Google opted for a comic book, not a press release when it released Chrome. A copy sold for $1,100. @kimota Click To Tweet

Arrow (1963-66)

In 1923, U.K. soap and toothpaste manufacturer D & W Gibbs Ltd. set up The Ivory Castle League to “encourage children from the earliest possible age to take an interest in their teeth and mouths.” Between 1963 and 1966, Gibbs Ivory Castle – with its advertising agency, Lintas – published 11 issues of Arrow, a high-quality, eight-page photogravure comic book of adventure and comedy strips, articles, and competitions – with some subtle oral hygiene messaging thrown in. Available free from dentists across the U.K., the comic was a hit among children, becoming an incentive to attend regular checkups to grab the latest issue.

TAM Airlines – Social Baggage (2014-16)

Until its merger with Chilean LAN Airlines in 2016, Brazil’s TAM Airlines published an in-flight magazine – TAM Nas Nuvens (In the Clouds). In 2014, TAM wanted to highlight some of the ways it gave back to the community with a regular feature. Content agency New Content decided big blocks of text about the brand could look boring or preachy in an otherwise highly visual magazine, so instead it used comics to tell the stories in a more engaging format. The two-page comic Bagagem Social (Social Baggage) ran in 21 issues of TAM Nas Nuvens, with tales such as how the airline once transported a heart to save a life or carried an athlete to the Paralympics. In 2015, the comic won the CMI Content Marketing Award for best regular feature column or section.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals – The Unbeatables

A superhero comic on the topic of inflammatory bowel disorder or IBD might seem an odd pairing, but The Unbeatables graphic novel and comic book series sprang naturally from in-depth interviews and focus groups with people living with and caring for those with IBD. “In these conversations, we noticed patterns emerging,” explains Elissa Johnsen, head of global product and pipeline communications for Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc.

“Patients saw the disease as a villain but didn’t consider themselves victims. They admitted to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability but often didn’t know where to turn. They wanted to connect with others going through similar experiences but didn’t know them. They wanted an escape that could make them invincible.”

Takeda partnered with Marvel Custom Solutions to create a graphic novel that reimagined the experiences of people living with IBD as a tale of heroism and empowerment. “The literature around this topic is not very interesting and the subject is difficult to talk about,” says Marvel’s Darren. “We created a superhero team for them, all of whom either have the disease or are a part of the IBD community in some way. We featured characters that faced the same problems that real-life patients face every day and did it in a way that made them feel normalized and empowered.”

Buddy, who scripted the first graphic novel, says, “They really wanted a character who was early 20s and just starting a career because, for a lot of people, this is when the flareups really become particularly noticeable.”

Of course, The Unbeatables had to do more than simply entertain the right audience. “What (Takeda) wanted to do is communicate a few key messages,” Buddy says. “Stay on treatment, communicate with your health care professional, participate in a community. Because, like a lot of health conditions, if you don’t treat IBD, it will get progressively worse. People take drug holidays all the time.”

Elissa agrees. “Using superheroes and the world of graphic illustration allowed Takeda to help empower people living with IBD to overcome the unpredictability, anxiety and stigma around the disease and, in the process, raise disease awareness within the large audience interested in comics.

“We want to help patients believe that they can accomplish what they set their mind to – related to their care and in their daily lives – through differentiated, creative content and conversation.”

The comics attracted a hugely positive response from people living with IBD as well as significant attention from broadcast, consumer and medical media. Elissa realized the campaign was reaching the right audience and having the desired effect when she saw a tweet from a patient: “Finally my mutation makes me an acknowledged superhero. I love this.”

As Elissa says, “We realized that our goal of touching those living with IBD – a debilitating, painful, scary disease – with engaging content and motivational messages, had hit its mark.”

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