Using history in content marketing

Every company has a history. And that history can be put to good use in content marketing. But as always you need to create content that’s relevant to your target audience.

The advice you will get here is just as valid for small companies as for big ones, for companies that have been around for a long time and for new ones. What you need to do is to adapt it to your own needs and your own budget. And if you work for a start-up you can find some additional advice here.

History in the Buyer’s journey

Here’s a model I use to describe the purchase process, valid for both B2B and B2C companies. It’s general, and should always be adapted to the circumstances of your company and your customers. But it provides an overview of the different stages of a purchase process:

History works best in three stages of the Buyer’s journey.

1. Early on, when you want to create interest in and draw attention to your brand or products. You can use both social media and paid media (like native advertising) to achieve this.

2. During the phase that preceeds the decision to buy. At this stage trusting the vendor is a key factor, and history can be used to strenghten that trust.

3. After the purchase, when you are trying to turn the one-off buyer into a loyal customers. Sharing stories from your company’s past can be one way to strenghten the relationship.

What to keep in mind when using history

Here are some key advice on how to use history in content marketing:

1. Connect history with the brand or product

Remember that you’re doing content marketing, i.e creating content that will provide increased knowledge about your brand or products. Make sure your stories support the insights and messages you want to get across.

2. Make it relevant to your target group

Your content should always be relevant to your target audience. So when you’re sharing your company’s stories they have to strike a chord with the people you want to connect with. One way of doing this is to use nostalgia, a very powerful force within us. Coca-Cola are great at doing this, using a lot of stories and memorabilia to remind us of the past. Here’s a collection of Halloween ads on Coke Journey.

3. Focus on people

It’s stories about people that trigger the strongest emotions, so make sure you populate you stories with people from your company’s past. One of the best examples of this is AirBnB’s film Wall and Chain:

4. Showcase the people that made a difference

Commercials often use models and actors, but if you’re telling a true story you can’t do that. You need to find the real heroes of your company and tell their stories. Ericsson did this very well a few years ago with a film called Hold the line. It tells the story of how mobile telephony came about through the memories of the people that made it happen:

5. Good times, bad times

No one believes you if the stories you share are just about being successful. On the contrary, people will trust you more if you’re open about the darker times as well. When LEGO celebrated 80 years they made a film about the company’s history that tells of how close they came to shutting down more than once:

6. Build your expertise and create trust

We often talk about thought leadership in content marketing. One of the best ways of proving that your company is a thought leader is to have a long track-record in certain fields. Your history is very valuable here. F-Secure, the Finnish anti-virus company, have had a leading experts in computer viruses with them since the beginning. Some years ago they told the story of how Mikko Hyppänen went in search of the very first virus he worked with, back in the 1980s. That’s having a track-record:

7. Measure the efficiency

Everything we do in content marketing should have a clear purpose, that can be turned in to specific KPIs. If you’re using your company’s history in content marketing, make sure you measure how effective it is just as you would do with content in general. Everything from how well the content helps customers advance through the purchase process to what types of formats and channels provides the best results.

8. What formats to use

Images and short videos make the best content for creating interest and attention. Make use of historical images you have via the hashtag #tbt (Throwback Thursday) on Twitter and Instagram. You can also use this type of content on Facebook and LinkedIn. But remember to tie it to a purpose, not just throwing it out there. Later in the Buyer’s journey, when trying to build trust or creating loyalty, you can use any format – text, sound, images, film and graphics.

Here’s one example of Ericsson Research making use of #tbt to talk about innovation:

9. Build a team

When I have worked with history in marketing and communications, the best results have been achieved when a team was involved. You need people with different skills, someone to keep track of messaging,  copywriters and visual creators. Since we’re talking about history you also need someone from the company with a deep knowledge about that. But letting them help doesn’t mean they get to decide on how the actual content is created or used. It’s still content marketing you’re doing.

Other areas where you can use history

Of course content marketing isn’t the only area where you can use your company’s history. It’s also useful in Employer branding or Corporate Social Responsibility. One area in particular that history can play a very important part is showing how long a company has had a presence in a region or country. That can provide a lot of value when working with Public Affairs or PR.

Over to you

Have you used history in your content marketing? Was it successful? Leave a comment and share your insights.

If you want to learn more about how your company can use history in content marketing or other activities, send me an email. Or find me on Twitter as @PStaunstrup

And if you’ve read this far, thanks!


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