Let’s face it: the years when Americans could be quoted a list of a product or service’s supposed benefits and a) believe them and b) remember them enough to influence their buying decisions are over. Americans have lost their marketing innocence since the days of family television hour and a limited number of commercials, or magazine print ads on the coffee table. Today, people are so bombarded with marketing messages from every direction, they have well and truly started to tune it all out.
Marketing seems to work two ways today more than ever before. Once upon a time it was a one-way process: companies marketed to consumers and consumers either ignored or acted on the information. Today, consumers seem to tune out most messages until they need them. If their refrigerator begins acting up, or they need hiking boots for a camping trip, consumers will begin seeking out relevant marketing messages themselves. While companies shouldn’t give up trying to reach target audiences with their messages in the form of creative content marketing, it’s equally important that they be sure they’re there when the customer wants them.
But how do you stand out with a message in such a crowded arena? The average consumer has dozens of content marketing messages waved in their face each day. What makes some of it stick and some not? In a recent article for Hospitality.net, Bärbel Pfeiffer wrote that marketers should start telling stories, because stories resonate with customers.
“In the age of information overload and an ever-shrinking attention span (it's now reached a stage where a human's attention span is supposedly less than that of a goldfish), storytelling still stops people in their tracks,” she wrote. “Think about it. You hear a great tale or anecdote and suddenly, you get pulled in. Your imagination starts to engage your feelings and emotions and you are literally living the experience. And if it's a really good story, it'll not only linger in your mind, but you'll be eager to share it with others.”
While Pfeiffer is writing particularly for the hotel industry – which has a lot of anecdotes to tell – the idea can apply to anyone crafting creative content marketing. Find customers and find their stories (in the age of social media, they won’t be hard to find). Tell your other customers their stories as well as your own.
“Stories matter, and experiencing dozens of them each day first hand provides you with a huge advantage,” wrote Pfeiffer. “Most brands have to carefully craft their stories – a hotel generates some of the most unusual and creative ones on a daily basis – a goldmine for marketers!”
Consumers like to connect emotionally with brands, and providing them with fellow human beings to connect with can resonate far better than a list of supposed benefits or a generic collection of photos. So begin collecting customer stories, and encourage your own employees to tell stories they have. You can use them in a variety of ways, whether in print ads, social media channels or on your Web site. Marketing, after all, is about human experience. Leverage it to tell your target audience a good story.