June 28th, 2012
The old approach to creating content for brands definitely wasn’t working. For some reason, everyone hated the corporate blog. But no one hated the blog more than the poor marketing associate who had to write it. She knew, somehow, that no one really read it. And even when she tried to spice it up, the blog wound up tepid and dull.
The problem, she supposed, was that her boss in the marketing department spent most of her time thinking about their brand. And so they came to the logical and reasonable conclusion that content created for the brand should represent and support the values of the product and the brand.
Unfortunately the values of her brand (we are extremely reliable at getting your laundry clean without irritating your skin) just didn’t translate into anything anyone might want to read. Like our detergent, (the content seemed to say) this content isn’t going to agitate you, the reader, in any way.
So back in the present day, smart content gurus like Joe Pulizzi invented the concept of audience personas to change the focus of the content: ”Try putting the reader first. Then build an audience persona – a real world idea of what your ideal reader might look like, and write to that.”
So here is an appealing example of a Content Persona from Managing Content Marketing, Pulizzi’s book.
Content Persona: JEREMY – Our IT Director
Jeremy is young (mid 30’s) and he works at a bank. He comes in every day and supports the organization’s networks and he is the typical geeky IT guy. He responds well to email, but he’s not really a phone guy. He is frustrated because he can’t tie all the office computers together and their status on one dashboard….(it goes on like this)
Now it seems we really know Jeremy. We will tell our writers to imagine Jeremy in their minds’ eye, and try to write for him. This approach is a considerable improvement over the earlier one because now we are thinking about the audience and not our brand.
Unfortunately, when this approach is tried with a client in the real world, one tends to find that marketer feels this customer persona is far too narrow. “But what about the CTO?” they say. It turns out there are actually 10 personas the client wants to reach, each with his own entertaining backstory.
So you’re gonna need a bigger persona boat.
As a necessary short-cut one winds up creating audience personas that are broader. And the final result becomes something like this:
We are trying to target IT directors, CTO and technical decision makers in small to medium sized companies with budgets of $1,000,000+
Whoa. What happened there? That thing we wrote up there is a target market. We got back to thinking like marketers.
What would Gaga do?
So back to Gaga, ICP, and Walt Disney—did you figure out what they all did, brilliantly and effectively?
They managed to brand their audience. Little Monsters. Juggalos. Mouseketeers.
Instead of thinking of your audience as a collection of people, instead, think of them as a brand. What do they stand for? Could you give them a name? Would they self-identify with it?
This approach might feel a bit grandiose, reserved for mega pop-stars, cult rap bands, and cryogenically frozen entertainment moguls.
But consider Momastery, a parenting blog I just ran across by a don’t-call-her-a-mommy-blogger named Glennon Melton. Glennon has identified that her readers are women frustrated by the challenges of parenting. This happens to be pretty much the same demographic as the readers of every other parenting blog.
But Melton’s audience is different—they are “Monkees.” Melton has named them. She has branded them. She has even commissioned an artist to create an adorable picture of what a Monkee looks like.
Imagine how much easier it is to write for a Monkee than it is for Jeremy and his 10 friends. And consider how much more valuable her audience is to a marketer.
Somehow, we know what a Monkee is, just as we know Little Monsters and Mouseketeers. The audience for the content is a brand itself. In other words, it is a more a collection of attributes and emotions than a collection of individuals and personas.
This is a very different approach than a collection of personas, but we think it might work better for marketers.
Marketers are pretty much experts at creating and understanding brands—they just never considered branding their own audience.
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