Brand sustainability isn’t reserved for elite businesses. Across all industries, brands are realising the importance of the materials they use, their processes, and their output – and that has had a huge impact on the way they market themselves and the content they produce.
How can you ensure that your content communicates your brand sustainability and attracts the right audience through your ethics and beliefs? Content marketing is the answer.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is described as “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
The term content marketing has come to cover many things relating to online marketing, but the important thing to remember is that it isn’t meant for promotion or selling.
Since the internet has become such a massive part of our everyday lives, the way consumers buy has changed a lot. People no longer respond to traditional advertising in the same way that they did 20 years ago. Instead, people tend to do a lot more research before they decide to buy, and the ease of internet access makes that simple for them to do through the use of online content.
We see this kind of content every day via our social media feeds – you’ll probably have noticed that you’re seeing many more promotional posts peppered throughout your social feeds. But if you read them, they’re not all going to be adverts in the traditional sense, but instead, give you some kind of insight or piece of information based on your needs or desires. And that’s not by accident – you’re being cleverly targeted by social algorithms, which is why you’ll often see loads more sponsored posts about cars if you’ve recently been looking for a new car online.
The key word with content marketing is NURTURE – your content needs to get under the skin of your target audience by giving them information that speaks to them on a personal level. Rather than telling your audience about the product or service you’re selling, let them know why it’s relevant to them, how it will benefit them, and how it can solve a problem or make their lives easier.
Content marketing builds trust in your brand so that when your audience is ready to buy, they will come to you rather than your competitors because they feel they have a relationship with you already. People don’t care what you’re selling – they need to know why they should buy it. What’s in it for them? This is what you should try to answer through your content messaging.
Find out more about content marketing with my article, Content marketing, everything you need to know in one post.
Does content marketing differ from traditional marketing?
If content is the art of trust building, then traditional marketing is the art of selling.
Traditional marketing strategies include things like print ads, TV and radio, brochures/flyers etc – all of these methods rely on blanketing a large audience and hoping the message sticks. While it can be very effective, it tends to be an expensive exercise and relies on being able to get the most exposure you can.
Traditional marketing is helpful in that it can get results pretty quickly. For smaller businesses, the ROI can be much lower using this method as the outlay eats into any profits gained from it.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is more cost effective. Most businesses have a social media presence, which is great for targeting large audiences if you can put the time into it. Methods like blogging, emails/newsletters, and online articles all work well.
The types of content used in each are very different, too. As I mentioned, content marketing is never about selling – it’s about building trust with your audience. You’ll often hear content marketing referred to as ‘inbound marketing’ – this means that instead of pushing advertising in front of people’s faces, you’re placing content on online platforms where your audience will see it, and are giving them something of value rather than forcing them to buy from you there and then.
Each piece of content you produce needs to include some sort of call to action (CTA). This could be inviting them to follow you on social media, sign up for your newsletter, or subscribe to your blog. The purpose should be to grab their attention and make them want to know more about you.
Does content marketing work?
Let me ask you something: when you have a question about…well, anything, are you most likely to:
- Call a friend
- Go to the Library
- Type it into Google
I’m guessing the vast majority of us chose option 3, right? Google has the ability to answer every question we could ever wish to ask – and for most people, all it takes is to pick up our phone and start typing, and the answer is quite literally at our fingertips.
A quick internet search tells me that 77% of internet users regularly read blog posts, and a large number of those will inevitably influence decision making when purchasing products and services.
Content marketing absolutely works – as long as there are people reading stuff on the internet, there will be a need for fresh online content for them to read.
It’s not a fast process. The results will not be immediate – content creation is a long-term strategy that requires consistency and a lot of patience. Remember that ‘know, like, trust’ thing we spoke about earlier? People need to be able to see your content ALL. THE. TIME. They need to get to recognise you through your content, so that they feel like they have that connection with your brand.
My article ‘What ROI can you get from Content Marketing‘ discusses what returns you may be able to enjoy from your content marketing campaigns.
Why sustainable brands should use content marketing
Sustainability is big news right now. Google has reported a 75% increase in searches for ‘sustainability’ over the last two years.
People are waking up to the fact that our resources are not infinite, and in continuing to waste what we have, we are damaging vital parts of our ecosystem. This realisation has spurred consumers to look at how they can live a more sustainable life – and that doesn’t stop with mere energy consumption – they have an expectation that the brands they choose to invest in are playing their part, too.
Because of this, we’re seeing a huge trend for sustainable brands. As consumers want to support those smaller businesses who can guarantee that their processes and their products are as sustainable as possible – something that some of the big brands can’t offer.
People are searching for answers on how they can best reduce their impact on the environment, and sustainable brands are perfectly placed to answer those questions. From clothing and cosmetics, right through to the appliances we use and the cars we drive, we’re all seeking products that we can trust to help us be kinder to the planet.
How much of your existing content shows your audience that your business and your products are sustainable? Make this your biggest selling point – show it through your social media, blogs, and your web content that you can provide what they crave. Be open about your processes, your materials and ingredients, and share with them how you are easing the huge burden on the planet.
By thinking about the reasons why your customers choose to buy from you, the questions they ask, and their values, you can create the kind of content that will attract the right people to you.
Ways to tell your story through content marketing
When it comes to content marketing, there are many different options, depending on who your audience is, what you have to offer, and which outlets you feel most comfortable using. No matter which of the following you opt for, the basic rules are 80% valuable information to 20% selling.
Writing content gives you a fabulous opportunity to be creative – so tell your story. There are many ways to do that – here are some of them:
People tend to feel like they have to be serious and professional-sounding all the time on social media. And yes, while you do want to give a good impression of your business and what you stand for, you still want to sound human.
The thing is, social media is filled with a constant stream of content, and let’s be honest, much of it can be pretty dull and repetitive. So make your posts stand out – be interesting, be entertaining, and let people see who you are beyond the corporate shield.
Use real, conversational language. Tell people what’s happening in your business or industry, share collaborations you’re part of, run competitions etc. Yes, you may be talking about a serious subject, but by using humour to highlight your point, your audience will remember you. A sustainable brand who is particularly good at this is, Who Gives A Crap, a sustainable brand selling recycled toilet paper and toilet paper made from bamboo.
Here’s an examples of an Instagram post celebrating Earth Day:
For further inspiration, check out my post ‘Sustainable brands with great social media.’
Newsletters are fabulous as a content marketing strategy for several reasons, the main one being that your email list doesn’t contain cold leads. You’re already ahead of the game because your audience is already aware of who you are, what you do, and have given you their permission to email them.
Like with all content marketing, consistency is key: think of it like a magazine subscription where people know when they can expect to receive the next edition, and will anticipate its arrival into their inbox.
Your newsletter could be a simple extension of your blog – but ideally, it should offer additional value and have at least one strong call to action. It’s useful to have some kind of format or template in mind so that each edition follows a similar structure.
For the content, you could opt for a ‘letter’ style or a more formal article – some businesses send pure text, whereas some prefer to break things up with images and links. How you do it is up to you, but once you’ve settled on a style, try to stick to it.
Unlike other types of content we’ve spoken about so far, your product descriptions do need to sell! Luckily, if your audience has made it this far, they already know what they want and are ready to buy.
There’s no reason you can’t be creative with your product descriptions – anything you can do to make your products stand out is always worth the effort. But there are a few elements that you need to include.
Firstly, think about the main features of the product. Don’t be tempted to list them all, it’s better to highlight the top three or four. From there, include a couple of points that highlight the products unique selling points. What problem will it solve? What makes it so great? What are the main advantages of buying this product?
Web pages are a vital part of your overall content marketing, as your website is your ‘shop window’, and everything on it is your property. Ultimately, your web pages are where your customers will come and expect to learn everything about you, your products, and your ethics, to make the decision to purchase from you.
Your web pages are a chance for you to tell your story and let people know what you can offer. However, try not to overdo it – loads of waffle will turn people away. Use short, concise sentences, use conversational language, and tailor it to your specific audience.
A website that I often refer to for inspiration is Smol, a sustainable brand selling eco-friendly cleaning products. Here’s a section of text taken from their homepage. It perfectly describes the product and it’s benefits in a couple of sentences:
A landing page is separate from your web pages and is often used to attract customers through a specific offer or product. They’re commonly used as a way to grab email addresses to use in your email marketing and give away some sort of freebie to ‘tempt’ people in,
The key with a landing page is to focus on one offer. Pick one idea, and present it creatively in a way that makes people want to know more. It should entice people to want to click through or input their email.
The use of video has exploded over the past couple of years. It’s easy to record and upload video content across loads of different platforms – social media, YouTube, and even email.
People respond well to visual content, and using video is a brilliant way to let your personality shine through and build that know, like and trust factor.
You can record short ‘talking head’ type content to upload to your social channels, perhaps telling people about something exciting that’s happening in your business, or informing them of a new product launch. You could even remind them to sign up for your newsletter or join you on other social channels.
I think that blogging is something that many businesses tend to feel anxious about – it can feel very overwhelming to post regular blog posts. Where do you start? What on earth do you write about? Where do you find the time??!
Relax. Blogging doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. It can be anything you want it to be. Tell your story, educate your audience about what you do, entertain them, and bring something of value. If you write well, people will follow you – and be willing to share your content.
You thought all content had to be written or visual, right? Not so – podcasts are becoming extremely popular but they’re underrated by businesses. Yet they offer so much scope for ethical and sustainable brands because they are seen as an educational tool, but also for entertainment.
People listen to podcasts today in a similar way to how we used to listen to radio – they can be played around the house while we’re doing the housework or cooking, in the car while we travel, on our morning run, in the background while we work…. pretty much anywhere.
If you’ve got the knowledge to share, or a story to tell, podcasting could be the ideal option for you. You could even repurpose content between your blog, video, and podcast – 3 in 1!
Over to you
Perhaps this article has sparked your imagination. Maybe you’ve realised that although you’re sort of known for your sustainability or ethical practices, you could be doing so much more to highlight the actions you take every day to ensure that you’re doing your part. Or it could be that you’re an established brand that’s moving towards becoming more sustainable, through your products or your production.
How can you bring that into focus through your content? What is your audience searching for?
If you’d like to talk through some ideas for your own content, get in touch!
About me: I’m Emma a copywriter and content manager based in Harrow, London. I have a passion for writing and for creating amazing content for brands that have a strong sustainable, social and ethical mindset.