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I’ve heard it all before....“My product is bought seasonally.” “It’s an impulse decision.” “Reach is the most important metric.”

These are the cries of CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) companies. Whilst there is an element of truth, it doesn’t mean that these brands can simply ignore digital.

Keeping consumers engaged with your brand ensures that it remains front of mind when those consumers are in a store, about to make an 'impulse' purchase. But how can we do this? It’s no longer good enough to tell people your product is better than the others, instead, you need to demonstrate how it adds value to their lives. One of the best ways to do that is by creating relatable and engaging content.

To say content marketing is important for all brands right now is a massive understatement. To put this into perspective, in a single day there are 3.5 billion searches on Google and 5 billion videos streamed on YouTube. It is estimated that more than 380 million people using adblockers worldwide, so reaching consumers with engaging content is more important than ever before.

The obvious leader in this space is Red Bull, but to compare yourself to a brand who has spent more than a decade positioning themselves as a media provider more than a producer of energy drinks is to ignore the opportunity. What I’m suggesting here is careful consideration about how to use social listening, meticulous planning and clever curation opportunities to engage with your consumers in new, trustworthy and relevant ways.

Here are four fundamental principles for an FMCG brands wanting to move to a content-led strategy

1. Give them what they want

Let’s not create content for the sake of creating content. Consider the 300+ hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute. How do you ensure your content is well thought-out and based on what your consumers care about? The answer to his question is Data!

A brilliant FMCG example is Unilever with All Things Hair. By tracking, in real-time, what consumers are searching for in regards to haircare, Unilever have immediate insights to the types of content they know will resonate with their audience. With the average video receiving upwards of a quarter of a million views, it’s a great example of developing content that is tailored to the audience, and it’s far less complicated than you might imagine.

all things hair

All Things Hair YouTube channel 

Free tools such as Google Trends, Facebook Audience Insights and Social Mention are super useful and let you explore what consumers are saying about your brand or your category. 

If it’s your first time using tools like this for insights, then a good place to start is by asking the following questions:

  • What are my consumers searching for?
  • What platform are they searching on?
  • What are they talking about?
  • Is the sentiment positive or negative?
  • Which platform is the conversation happening on?
  • Are there clear spikes in search volume around specific times of the year?

Another brilliant example is Nestle Toll House, who specialise in baking products. Realising that bakers were slowly being aged out of the category, they needed to find a new way to engage them whilst retaining their core values. By partnering with Ashley Adams, an established food blogger, they created the ‘Bake My Day’ series, sharing tips and tricks for the modern cook.

By carefully using paid media to promote the channel, they amassed over 17 million views in less than a year. Pretty sweet results!

2. Get the role of the platform right

It goes without saying but understanding how each platform works is fundamental to success. Remember that advertising on social is considered much more of an intrusion than other digital channels. The first step here is to understand whether your primary reason for using social is for content distribution, CRM, PR or something else altogether.

Furthermore, if you are using more than one platform, adapt your creative appropriately. Don’t repurpose content needlessly from Pinterest to Facebook without any consideration of whether it matches the environment. Remember why people are visiting the platform in the first place, then ensure your content is complementary to the experience. 

Every day in this digital age seems to bring about a new suite of innovative, yet arguably risky channels for marketers to experiment with. For example, Cadbury has recently been a trailblazer by commissioning Snapchat filters. This has allowed them to achieve an otherwise unimaginable 30+ second engagement with their consumers, and in an age where we have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, that must be worth something, right?

These new platforms are brilliant fun for creatives, but demonstrable ROI is difficult to ascertain. At the end of the day, it’s like having a high-risk product portfolio. If you have the budget and creative capability, then experiment away. Otherwise, I’d strongly advise keeping to the path well-travelled.

(Related read: Marriott uses Snapchat influencer campaign to target millennials)

3. Order, not chaos

Once you have gathered these insights, and you know the type of content that you should produce, it’s important to employ a framework to underpin your publishing plan. Content should only be created with a clear roadmap and measurable KPI’s. Whilst there are several highly valid approaches to this, the 'Hero, Help and Hub' framework developed by YouTube is my preference, even for content that is not specifically video. 

  • Hero – This is the content that should inspire and catch people’s attention. 
  • Help – This is content that helps provide answers. It could be cooking tips, life hacks or advice on how to get the most out of the product
  • Hub – This is often the most overlooked, but this is the content you want your customers to subscribe to. This encourages repeat engagement with your brand

Let’s look at an FMCG brand, Ben & Jerry’s. Recently launching their new ‘Cherry Chocolate Garcia’ flavour, this approach is evident. 

Firstly, they did what any self-respecting FMCG brand would do, they created a 20-second advert, with drool-worthy creative. Designed for digital, it does little more than to introduce the product and make you want it now. This is their Hero content.

Secondly, they set out to create several food-porn video recipes that involve the new product. One of which even suggests you need three tubs of the ice cream to achieve! They call it Ice Cream Hacks. I call it Help content.

Lastly, and what is effectively a content play for the 'long tail', their Climate Justice series is an episodic, well produced, socially responsible series of videos that correlates climate change with melting ice cream. It’s a stretch creatively, but effective none the less. This is their Hub content that keeps their audience coming back.

There are plenty of other examples of FMCG brands using the Hero, Help, Hub framework, as it is a simple yet highly effective way to segment and organise your content strategy.  

4. Always-on isn’t always on

Let’s get some hard facts straight, always-on marketing is not necessarily going to be the miracle solution for every brand. As much as I champion digital, content marketing, with the odd viral exception, is rarely useful in the awareness phase. By its very nature, content is about creating meaningful moments with your customers when they are the most receptive to your message.

Let’s look at the confectionary sector, or more specifically, luxury chocolates. The product cycle is largely seasonal and there are clear seasonal peaks e.g. Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s day. It makes sense for marketers to capitalise on these events, and invest heavily in big, glorious, top of the funnel campaigns that saturate every consumer touchpoint, from TV to shopfront. The desire is to capitalise on the trend and saturate the market with your message.

But, this is not about re-allocating your entire TV budget to start a YouTube channel. It’s more important to consider where your consumers are, what they are doing, and fundamentally, your metrics for success.

It’s true to say that traditional mediums can be more effective than digital if your KPIs are purely reach-oriented. Arguably, digital is about moving your consumers down the funnel and engaging them in the moments that matter. Let the two work hand-in-hand. Allocate your budget appropriately and understand the role of each channel. It’s also highly unlikely your content is going to go viral, so make sure you are investing properly to promote it through paid media.

Most importantly, in the world of social, likes, shares and comments may attribute to positive brand sentiment, but they are not necessarily a proxy for sales.

To quote Tamara Schenk "content may be king, but context is queen". 

Nicholas Villani

Published 10 April, 2017 by Nicholas Villani

Nick is a digital consultant at Discursive Labs and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with him via LinkedIn.

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