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How Startups Can Integrate Culture Into Their Content-Marketing Strategies, and Scale It Fast

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The internet is a global high-density slum. The Kowloon Walled City of our times, it is packed to brim with useless promotional content. Trying to sell a product in this environment is no easy feat.

No matter how original and well thought-out it is, it has to provide cultural value to succeed. Otherwise you become the knockoff brand. Below are three ways to quickly integrate brand’s culture into your content-marketing strategy, and what’s even more important — scale it with little to no additional resources.

Pic by Dmitry Kabanov

Remain the center of your own campaign

Sending review units of your product to bloggers might seem like a good way to get exposure. And while it works for some established brands, there are plenty of opportunities for it to backfire.

Think about this: bloggers’ main priority is keeping their audience entertained. To them, maintaining an online persona of their own is more important than accurately conveying what your brand actually stands for.

At best, some of your reviewers’ positive aspects will rub off on you. At worst, you will be trashed for the sake of entertainment. Either way, you will let someone else define your culture instead of affirming it yourself.

Brands undervalue the importance of their own platforms. Today, every brand can create their own media space and use it to propagate their culture the way they want it.

A great example of this is Red Bull. They are clearly more than just another energy drink. Their youthful yet sophisticated public image was formed by a wide variety of branded content. They release feature films and host a phenomenal talk show about music. And they aren’t just slapping their logo onto something unrelated to improve brand awareness. It’s about declaring your values and becoming a part of a larger community.

How-to: A great way to incorporate this into your marketing campaign would be to launch a podcast featuring the people who represent your corporate values. Podcasts are a great medium because they can be as formal or informal as you like. No matter how ‘serious’ your brand image is, you can still find a format that works for you. Many people listen to podcasts during their daily commute so it doesn’t require a big time commitment.

Pic by Dmitry Kabanov

Listening to a podcast is a lot like having a friendly conversation. It creates an illusion of intimacy, making it hard to stop listening once you get to know the hosts. It’s a great way for your brand to befriend your target audience. Which is what you ultimately want to achieve — become something more than just another product.

Spend time on content, not short-term analysis

Brands waste too much time comparing different media platforms. Let’s say you are looking to publish a PR article, but you haven’t settled on a particular publication. So you gather your marketing team and start the never ending process of comparing different publishers’ metrics. You think you’re doing this to ensure the right decision is made, but you’re lying to yourself. If your TechCrunch piece doesn’t work out, you can still get a return on your investment because you used this opportunity to build a relationship with the publisher. If later on they ask you to a comment on some other issue, you won’t deny their request.

Same goes for social media / UGC platforms. One or two flops early on in your corporate blog’s life does not mean you should stop updating it. If the platform you’re using is still alive and your potential audience is still there, why abandon it? Good things come to those who wait… and work.

Of course, not all short-term analysis is useless, especially in determining relative value proposition of different marketing tools. But it doesn’t take a genius and a great deal of time to point out that you should have a good reason to pay for a TV ad, because the same amount of money can help you reach a wider audience online.

How-to: Your main focus should be on the long term value of utilising your content. Scaling your brand through a high number of tactical short-term marketing decisions is possible, but stressful and unreliable. Like the stock market, you get the best returns by investing and waiting. Viral exposure is good, but genuine cultural influence is much better. So instead of wasting time choosing your marketing channels, you should focus on creating content. You can try out all the available formats — podcasts, video blogs, etc — it doesn’t hurt!

Don’t be afraid to repackage

Branded content is expensive. Publishers charge anywhere from $1500 to $30000 for a single sponsored piece. And an article or two will not change a lot — if you want to scale your online presence you will have to pay up. These so-called native projects are typically made by the publications themselves, robbing you of image consistency and the sense of agency in relation to the end product. It’s pretty easy to spot disparities between different pieces of outsourced branded content. This will make you look like you lack a voice of your own. While it may provide short term return, this tactic is unlikely to have a lasting impact on your brand.

Pic by Dmitry Kabanov

How-to: The best way to cut the cost of producing branded content is to hire an editorial team of your own. It will allow for both efficient scaling and flexibility you can’t have when relying on publishers.

One of the best things an editorial team can do is repackage your content. The podcast we discussed earlier can easily be turned into a transcript and later into an article. It can also be streamed live to your Instagram followers, filmed, edited and uploaded to YouTube.

This rehashing allows you to produce a much larger amount of content at a significantly lower price. Not to mention that this team will let you maintain a consistent corporate image across all your platforms.

Aim for cultural influence

In the world of online marketing there are no shortcuts or get-rich-quick schemes. Brands with lots of cultural influence, like Rolex, Red Bull, or Moët, are only this prominent because they’ve been producing quality branded content for decades. Their culture has become more important than the product they are selling. And if you follow the three rules outlined above, you, too, can attempt to shape your own culture, and scale it fast.

About the author:

Dmitry works with tech brands to create all types of content and promote corporate culture at scale. He is acting as an advisor for both the SXSW Pitch & SXSW Release IT event (since 2017), and a Techstars Startup Digest curator (since 2013). Email: dmitry.kabanov [@] startupdigestmail.com

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