Don Draper is dead. Welcome to the age of content

The TV series Mad Men is set during advertising’s creative revolution. Its hero Don Draper is a symbol of an industry whose sole job was to interrupt our lives with messages about the things we had to have. But the days of Don Draper are long gone and his revolutionary ideas have lost their sparkle. Today we’re always connected, active on social networks and Google is our best friend. We don’t need slogans, we need substance. Welcome to the age of relevant content!

055ae29 Did you know that 94% of all B2C (business-to-consumer) purchases start with an online search? Or that 80% of all B2B (business-to-business) deals are made after the buyer contacts the seller, not the other way around. Your customers have gone through 75% of the decision-making process before you even hear from them. The game changer is the internet, and the fact that we can search for information wherever and whenever we want. The web is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In this brave new world, traditional, interruptive advertising Don Draper-style doesn’t work. Partly because we have the option of ignoring it – we can skip the TV ads, turn the page, not click on the banners (in fact, you’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner). Partly because ad space is shrinking. We don’t watch television shows on television anymore, or read newspapers made of paper, or listen to radio on the radio. Instead we do these things on our smartphones and tablets.

So if traditional advertising doesn’t cut it, and our customers have begun making their minds up long before they contact us, how can we connect with them and get a conversation going? The answer is in the combination of Content + Search + Social.

The first part means creating content that is useful, valuable and inspiring to your customers. The second part involves making sure it is easy to find via search engines. And the third part means making it as shareable as possible using social channels.

The product of this equation is content marketing, one of the hottest ideas around right now for one simple reason: it works. It works for major players like Coca -Cola and IBM; it works for start-ups and small businesses as well, like this great story shows. All companies and organizations can use great content to engage with their customers early on in the purchase process. Why? Because useful, relevant and inspiring content is always welcome.

So let’s start cranking out content, you’re probably thinking now. No! Stop right there! Before you put pen to paper, or start filming that great story, you need a plan. Who is your content intended for (target group)? What are their problems or opportunities? Where are they (channels)? What type of content will work? What are your goals and how will you measure performance?

The key to successful content marketing is a clear content strategy. It will tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it. It will make sure you create relevant, useful content that offers true value to your customers. It will even help you fulfill the promise of the greatest participant in the real creative revolution, David Ogilvy, who said: “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.”

If Ogilvy had been alive today, he would have been a content strategist. And so would Don Draper. Because in the age of relevant content the real revolution is having a real plan, a content strategy.

What do you think?

This post originally appeared on the Nordic Morning blog #801 in October, 2013

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