Interactive Content Marketing: New Research

Are you interesting?

In March 2016, Dos Equis, the beer brand, retired its “Most Interesting Man in the World” by sending him on a mission to Mars. The campaign was resurrected in September with a new actor, and a renewed and refreshed approach.

What happened between March and September was even more interesting. The brand launched what it called the “Interesting Index,” an interactive content marketing tool on the Dos Equis website. This tool let you discover how interesting you really are, by looking at your social media data. It provided you with a score based on the number of times you “checked in to interesting places,” “events you attended,” and your “thirst for adventure.”

The score you received was then compared to all the other people who had taken the quiz, and returned with a ranking. The brand even created a television campaign promoting the tool—featuring sportscaster Erin Andrews and actor Luis Guzman (they ranked 5,008 and 8,507, respectively).

The awareness alone brought a needed boost and a bridge for the brand, as it readied the relaunch of The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign. But, even more interesting (forgive the pun) were the vast amounts of data the interactive tool provided, which gave the brand insights as it prepared for the rollout of the campaign. In short, the team connected what could have been a simple, temporary PR stunt into a data driven initiative to help them optimize all of their new marketing efforts.

The best part of this interactive content marketing experience: this data was given, not gathered. People willingly, happily, and trustingly gave Dos Equis the data. Data that is given voluntarily has more value because it has more emotion built into it. As John Mellor, vice president of strategy and business development for the Digital Marketing Business at Adobe Systems, said during his keynote at the Adobe Summit 2017: “When we deal with experiences, we’re dealing with people’s emotions. Emotion is the currency of experience.”

“When we deal with experiences, we’re dealing with people’s emotions. Emotion is the currency of experience.”
—John Mellor, vice president of strategy and business development for the Digital Marketing Business at Adobe Systems

EMOTIONAL DATA: GIVEN VS. GATHERED

As content marketing, and the delivery of content-driven experiences, evolve into some of the more powerful ways we can reach and retain consumers’ attention, the asset we are building for the organization is the audience itself. The richer and more detailed the information we have on the audience, the more valuable the asset.

Data, and how quickly it can be acquired, has become the “gold standard” as well as a buzzword, for many businesses. Data can be what tips the scale to what actions we are compelled to take. It has grown so much in popularity that its very mention can make us dizzy. Every day, it seems new technology solutions promise to help us make sense of how we can intelligently use all the data we have at our disposal. We can be data-focused about our data-driven strategy. We can achieve real-time data acquisition of structured and unstructured data. We have dark data, dirty data, and both slow and fast data. And, because it’s big data, we have to store it all in our data warehouse.

However, there is another attribute that may be the strongest determinant of value for data. It lies in how and why the data was gathered—and this is the tune that interactive content was built to play.

The key power of interactive content marketing is that it provides valuable experiences where our audience wants to willingly provide us with insightful information. In exchange for entertainment, engagement, or true utility, consumers are trustingly giving over accurate data in order to receive something they perceive as valuable. When you compare this to gating an asset behind a registration screen, or tossing up some demand for information prior to granting access to a piece of content, you begin to see where the value starts to increase.

Emotional data is simply more valuable than data gathered through some surveillance or restrictive-based approach.

So, what is the state of interactive content marketing, and the marketer’s ability to gather these highly valuable insights?

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INTERACTIVE CONTENT MARKETING

At Content Marketing Institute – we did a research study to explore the current state of Interactive Content Marketing.

What we found from the research were some very interesting results.  But, the overall headline is that we expect to see a lot more interactive content in the coming year. That said—and this is something that applies to content marketing more broadly—experiments need to find their way into more deeply connected sets of investments.

Rather than focusing on producing one more piece, or some tactical quantity of interactive content, businesses would be wise to concentrate on getting more deeply connected and developing a more interconnected platform of interactive content experiences.

The difference is not whether a marketing team is a chamber orchestra, a symphony, or a philharmonic— the difference is making a distinct choice to ensure that the repertoire is well connected to a broader audience’s needs.

Whether an organization is small, medium, or large, it is much more important to have an interconnected platform of data acquisition throughout the buyer’s journey than to simply throw more content pieces into the Web.

CONNECTING AUDIENCES, NOT CAMPAIGNS

At CMI, we have experience with businesses that are navigating the challenges of paid, owned, and earned media. As mentioned at the beginning of this research, we see successful companies working toward connecting their owned media properties to provide multiple lines of value to the business. Acquiring trusted data from audiences that willingly provide it is something that can help every part of a business strategy. But it means that you have to assemble connected data-collection platforms that add this value to the business in an incremental way.

These successful businesses are creating a connected network of highly specific, interactive content marketing platforms that deliver value to audiences across their brand experience journey. For example, it may be an interactive experience on the company’s blog, where the audience can take a poll or quiz. That experience may be different if the person is a blog subscriber, a unique visitor, or an existing customer. And certainly the data the person provides is connected to other things that he or she may do now, or in the future.

Let’s also consider how connecting interactive experiences between owned media platforms helps to create more engaged customers by providing them with a more holistically and dynamically relevant experience. A retail pet company did just this, by creating an integrated series of interactive content experiences between their educational blog, their sales-focused e-commerce site, and their customer community. They used data collected on the blog’s interactive content experience to optimize the e-commerce channel in order to dynamically display products that would be most applicable to the customer. All this data was then

aggregated and used to dynamically provide automated recommendations to the customer, in specific communities that might be most appropriate for them. And, finally, the interactive content in the community was then used to suggest cross-sell and up-sell opportunities for the e-commerce channel.

The key to the success of all these approaches is that, despite the segment of the customer’s journey or their existence in a separated CRM system, marketers understand that at the heart of a successful interactive content strategy is an active, connected, and participatory audience. The value that this audience provides is trusted, emotional data that drives multiple lines of value for the business.

PLAYING THE FIRST FEW NOTES

Whether just getting started, or expanding and connecting their interactive content marketing usage, marketers can benefit by taking a few steps:

Take A Pause and Get Strategic. Finding reusable content is the only way to scale. Most content marketers are struggling to keep up with content demands. As our research shows, 77% of interactive content users agree that it can have reusable value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures.

Take time to determine what the strategic initiatives of owned media need to be. There may be a few—or just one. Regardless, these strategic initiatives should be your audience-building platforms. Out of these, come smaller pieces of content that can be reused, merchandised, and used to drive results. It is much easier to scale content if you are pulling smaller pieces out of strategic pieces, rather than trying to combine smaller pieces to make something bigger.

Find One Area To Optimize First—But Connect It. If you are searching for where to start with an interactive content approach, look to optimize one area of the buyer’s journey first. Regardless of whether you decide to build something big or small there, spend the time and budget to make sure that despite its size you’ll be able to connect the second, third, and subsequent experiences with the data you collect. Plan to create an interactive platform, not just random acts of interactive content.

Experiment With Multiple Types—But Find Your Story. It’s only going to get more crowded with interactive content marketing out there. If you’re a large business, know that smaller businesses can and will start to provide these experiences, too. If you’re a small business, know that you can compete with some of your larger competitors. However, the only way you will succeed is by creating an interesting experience that could only come from you—not by copying someone else.

Get Help. As our research shows, many marketers who don’t use interactive content lack the experience and education to actually make interactive content happen. This knowledge and experience isn’t unique to those who use interactive content. There are numerous providers who can help you jump start great content—and help you make it interactive and connected with other parts of your audience development process.

CODA: CONNECTING INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES IS THE MUSIC OF MARKETING

Music is one of the most emotional art forms. Most of us love music. We are moved by it. We are persuaded by it. We often feel more connected to it than to our material possessions. Music can even influence how we behave in the world.

As marketers, our ability to deliver more emotional interactive experiences will be the key to receiving insightful data from our customers. As we said at the beginning of this paper, the true value of that data is the emotion in which it was given. When consumers happily, willingly, and trustingly give us data, it is simply a more meaningful and valuable asset for our business.

Delivery of relevant interactive content early and often in the customer’s experience is a key piece of the evolving learning process of a broader content strategy; it also can help optimize every shopping experience that comes later.

Connecting these experiences, harmonically, only adds to that value—and provides the strategic long-term value that we’re looking for. It is, truly, the music of marketing.

For those who are just starting to play, we hope this research provides you with some of the tools you need to start. For those who are well on their way to conducting symphonies, we hope this information provides you with a few extra instruments for your orchestra. And, for all of you who are maestros of the music of interactive content marketing, congratulations on providing beautiful music to your audience.

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Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.