Content marketing is key to brand loyalty, and customer advocacy – but it’s much more nuanced than merely writing blog articles or recording podcast episodes.
Content marketing provides relevant, useful content to prospects and current customers. It aims to solve pain points without directly pitching products or services; focus on providing customers with value without directly selling to them. This builds feelings of goodwill and allows customers to see a brand as authentic and helpful rather than merely as a selfish corporation.
One of the strongest tools in content marketing is something that we’ve been exposed to since childhood: stories. Our brains are hardwired for stories, increasing neural activity five-fold and releasing oxytocin when we hear an especially good one (Contently).
Relatability or familiarity This allows the audience to relate to the story, which helps them to understand the content piece on a more personal level. This also helps the audience feel comfortable with being transported into the new world that the story inhabits.
Novelty This element ties back to our “fight or flight” instinct; when we see something new, we are predisposed to pay attention to it, just in case it’s a threat. As a result, there’s a balance to be made between “new enough to capture interest” and “too new,” as the latter can be confusing and result in disinterest or fear.
Tension The most exciting elements of stories result from conflict, specifically when there’s a gap between “what should be” and “what is.” The story ends when this gap is closed.
Fluency Your story must be accessible and have a low barrier to entry. It’s recommended that content pieces are written at an elementary school level so that anyone can easily become immersed in it.
Worried about using too much industry-specific jargon? There’s a great tool called the Up-Goer Five text editor, which limits you to using only the top 1,000 most frequently used words in the English language. If that sounds too restrictive, Microsoft Word also offers a reading level check for your documents.
Put the person first, and the persona second. Personalization is key, and this touch can make the difference between a customer or prospect viewing you as someone that cares vs. a cold, distant corporate entity.
Tell a compelling story (using the above 4 elements). This piques curiosity and interest in the audience, which will lead them to want to learn more about your brand.
Humanize your brand. Communicate your brand values in a relatable way so that consumers can easily understand, such as through analogies.
Empathize with the audience, and show them how to get results. Detail how something happens, even if it’s unglamourous; recognize the struggle, instead of merely glorifying the job.
Keeping these ten points in mind will help you to optimize your content marketing efforts and deliver the highest possible value to your customers. Doing this consistently will keep these customers coming back, and will pay significant dividends to your brand sentiment.
Want to keep this advice with you in a more digestible format? Feel free to save the following infographic:
As part of my post-graduate certificate in Digital Media Marketing at George Brown College, I have been able to create a number of integrated digital marketing campaigns for brands that I love. The most recent campaign was for Spotify, the world’s largest audio streaming service, and was developed as a capstone project for a Strategic Marketing Project course.
Spotify’s Discover Weekly, customized Release Radar and Daily Mixes, and curated Fresh Finds playlists have been key cornerstones that have shaped my music taste and I can guarantee that I wouldn’t go to nearly as many concerts if it weren’t for them. As a result, I jumped at the opportunity to create content for one of my most frequently used applications.
What is Spotify?
Spotify is a music streaming service that transformed music listening forever when it launched in 2008. Discover, manage and share over 50 million tracks for free, or upgrade to Spotify Premium to access exclusive features including offline mode, improved sound quality, Spotify Connect, and ad-free listening.
Spotify offers a student subscription, Spotify Premium for Students, which provides post-secondary students with all of the benefits of Spotify Premium at 50% of the cost ($4.99 CAD). These benefits include improved sound quality, ad-free listening experience, the ability to skip songs in playlists, and the ability to download music for offline listening.
Why Use Spotify?
The music streaming landscape is huge and has a number of key players, however, Apple Music is easily Spotify’s main competitor: it has a similar price point to Spotify, its music catalogue is of a similar size, and it comes pre-loaded on Apple devices which contributes to its large market share. Both companies offer a student package, the ability to download music for offline listening, and high sound quality in their tracks.
Where Spotify excels, however, is in its customer base: it boasts 217 million monthly active listeners, which is approximately five times the users that Apple Music has. This is a result of Spotify’s extremely high Net Promoter Score (NPS), a customer loyalty metric that gauges how likely an individual is to recommend a product or service to their friends.
Word-of-mouth marketing goes a long way in increasing a company’s market share, and Spotify heavily leveraged this in their initial US launch plan: by providing users with 5 “beta” access codes to share with friends, they created an illusion of scarcity while ensuring that their brand would be shared with potential users. Spotify has continued to cultivate this brand loyalty by offering highly personalized user experiences, which has resulted in a high NPS for customers under the age of 30.
There were two primary objectives that Spotify wanted to achieve with this campaign: awareness and conversion.
An integrated digital marketing campaign was developed to increase awareness of Spotify Premium for Students and converts free Spotify users to this paid subscription. The campaign parameters were such that only English-speaking post-secondary students within Canada would be targeted, on a fairly nominal budget ($10,000 CAD).
This campaign targeted post-secondary students between the ages of 17 and 30 that live in the Greater Toronto Area. These students have some disposable income (under $10,000/year) and are very price-conscious as a result; they are always looking for the best discounts and deals. These students are digital natives, spending 6-8 hours per day looking at their screens and 1-2 hours per day on social media.
Within the larger student population, there are a number of “niches” that students fit into, from the “gym-rat” to the grade-focused academics. As someone who has always been part of the latter camp, I chose to narrow the campaign’s focus and primarily target these “library dwellers”. They spend a lot of time studying, to the point where the library is effectively their second home. These students place a high value on grades and strive for a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They rely upon a continuous stream of music to keep them focused while studying and hate unwanted interruptions.
The key consumer insight that guided the creation of the campaign was as follows:
“If I hear one more ad while I’m focused and studying, I’m going to lose it.”
The larger campaign centred around the theme of “Don’t Kill the Mood.” The student life is filled with distractions, and students want to be in control of what interrupts them. Ads just don’t make the cut.
This campaign theme emphasizes Spotify Premium for Students’ benefit of no ads or network interruptions with downloadable music and it is designed to resonate specifically with the Canadian student.
I designed all of the included creative elements using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. These mockups were created by using historical Spotify campaigns as reference: these campaigns relied upon a humourous brand voice, punchy headlines, and time-relevant references to resonate with the broader public. The majority of the graphics are two-toned with pastel accent colours, which is in line with how Spotify has traditionally designed their advertisements.
As a result, mobile-optimized social media advertisements were designed for the Facebook newsfeed and Instagram Stories. These ads are intended to be viewed while scrolling – a time point when users’ attention spans are very short. They emphasize the product benefit (in this case, of the ability to skip songs in a playlist) using short, to-the-point sentences which can be easily skimmed.
These ads would be targeted specifically to post-secondary students between the ages of 18 and 29 and would feature a direct call-to-action: Facebook would leverage the “learn more” button and Instagram Stories would leverage the “swipe up” functionality to bring interested prospects to a landing page where they could directly sign up for Spotify Premium for Students.
This distribution channel would meet the objectives listed for both awareness and conversion. Success would be measured by the number of video views, click-through rates, and conversion rates from each platform.
To further emphasize the idea of frictionless study music, a number of Out Of Home advertisements were designed to be placed in campus libraries, study halls, and residences.
These posters contained Spotify Codes, a unique QR-like code which could be scanned within the Spotify Mobile App. When users scan these codes, they are taken directly to the pictured playlist which can be downloaded for offline listening by Spotify Premium users.
As a student, myself, I often struggle with picking a playlist for when I’m studying or completing assignments. I can easily waste hours trying to find the perfect music selection; being informed of a seamless way to listen to curated study playlists would have saved me so much time during the highly-stressful exam season.
Success would be measured by the number of Spotify Codes scans received. By leveraging existing Spotify technology, the $10,000 budget that was allocated for this campaign could be stretched further than if a separate technology was used.
Targeted emails would be sent out to existing free Spotify users between the ages of 17 and 25, as these users are likely to be enrolled in a post-secondary institution. Many students aren’t aware of the plethora of student-focused discounts that exist, so this email marketing campaign would serve as primarily to generate awareness. These emails would contain short hooks that directly link Spotify’s benefits to the student lifestyle, such as “Premium study beats.”
Both the body of the email and the header image would contain a call-to-action for the student to upgrade to Premium, and upon clicking on those links, the user would be taken to a landing page where they can directly sign up for Spotify Premium for Students. Success would be measured using open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates for these emails.
The last marketing channel that would be used is display advertising. These ads would be placed on websites that the library dweller would frequent during their studies, such as Quora, Spark Notes, bibliography websites, and news sites. These ads use humour as a primary appeal technique while also showing how Spotify Premium for Students fits into a student’s lifestyle. All students are aware of how expensive school can be, and these ads playfully make reference to that “starving student” struggle.
These ads are optimized for conversions, making specific reference to the $4.99 CAD price and including a “Get Premium” call to action. When clicked, the user would be taken to a landing page where they could directly sign up for the Spotify Premium for Students service. Success would be measured using click-through rates and conversion rates.
The campaign theme of “Don’t Kill the Mood” and its associated marketing channels and tactics were specifically chosen to raise awareness of Spotify Premium for Students and appeal to current free users to become paid customers.
Students want to be in control of what they listen to, without being bombarded by ads or unwanted music. This campaign shows how Spotify Premium for Students solves this problem at a price that a student can afford, while also remaining true to Spotify’s historic branding and brand voice.