A robust content marketing strategy typically comes after a brand has established its identity. That identity is the rudder that steers the brand in everything it says and does.
However, sometimes an established brand needs an image refresh or rebrand. With all the digital tools available today, content can help lead that change.
UK branding firm Fabrik explains the difference between a refresh and rebrand this way: “While a brand refresh is like giving your company a fresh lick of paint, a new look, and a fancy new logo, ‘rebranding’ is all about tearing down everything you’ve built, and starting again from scratch.”
We would add that these changes are not aesthetic only — they also speak to the focus of your content.
Marketing agency Rattleback offers questions to ask when considering whether you need a refresh or a comprehensive rebrand. You might consider a refresh or rebrand if:
- Your brand identity has changed. Perhaps you have new service offerings and new business objectives, or you’ve outgrown an outdated positioning and need to remain relevant.
- Your audience is evolving. Perhaps you are targeting a new audience, or your existing audience has changed.
- External factors have impacted your brand or business. Perhaps you had a PR crisis, or technology has created new competition.
No matter why or how your brand changes, make sure you don’t alienate loyal customers by changing so much that you become unrecognizable. Lindsay Kolowich at Hubspot has a great post about developing an identity and translating it into marketing. “A brand is one of the most valuable assets of a business, and it needs to be carefully crafted to ensure it properly and authentically represents the business,” she says.
Fresh brand identities also call for new campaigns. With these examples, we want to demonstrate the benefits of leading with your content strategy.
Personalize Complex Industries
Content is the No. 1 way to assert your brand’s relevance to any audience. The following companies demonstrate how content can personalize even the most complex industries.
Example: General Electric
Electricity, lighting, energy and transportation are not the easiest industries to relate to, but the 125-year-old engineering company is challenging that. By focusing on the power of science, technology and innovation, General Electric has set the standard for content marketing.
“We’re a company that does things that are complex and difficult, so finding ways to describe them in a way that’s simple and engaging is quite important,” says CMO Linda Boff.
One memorable way GE did that was through the Owen campaign. Owen was a fictitious industrial internet developer hired at GE. As the content showed the new college grad trying to explain his job to friends and family, the campaign was able to humanize the industry.
GE recruitment increased by 800 percent the following year.
The company leverages its unique content on nearly every channel possible. That includes Facebook Live coverage of drones visiting GE factories, a content hub that explores topics like ending power outages, and even science-fiction comic books.
Takeaway: Good content can make seemingly complicated topics relevant and interesting to just about anyone.
Technology writer Liz Alton notes that B2B companies in industries like IT have to establish authority and take on big issues. However, it’s also important to remember that IT teams are made up of real people.
With their digital publication Tektonika, Hewlett-Packard demonstrates that you can be human even when talking about serious, technical topics. Just look at how they describe Tektonika: “Whether you’re looking for a fresh take on the hottest tech or searching for ways to lock down your IT environment from hackers, Tektonika is sure to provide a sharp perspective — with a smirk.”
Tektonika covers serious topics like security breaches while being appropriately playful, with headlines like “Business solutions + data backup = RIP Google Drive desktop.”
Takeaway: It is possible to be entertaining and human when talking about technical topics.
Reach New Audiences
Content is also a great way to reach specific audiences and people who might not know (or care about) your brand otherwise.
Example: Urban Outfitters
While London Fashion Week is usually exclusive to high-fashion brands, retailer Urban Outfitters decided to take part in the conversation using content. They collaborated with Centrefold, a limited-edition magazine that showcases well-known and emerging artists in the fashion and design industries.
Urban Outfitters commissioned a special issue of the magazine to celebrate Fashion Week and showcase the brand’s support of art and fashion. The brand’s Multimedia Creative Director Nabil Aliffi told Dscoop.com: “This creative concept, eye-opening content and outstanding digital print capabilities enabled Urban Outfitters to leave a mark and express its promise of youth and beauty.”
Takeaway: This demonstrates how a brand can connect with a new, relevant audience using one piece of content.
German mobile phone company Telekom (which does business in the US under the brand T-Mobile) has been creating quality content for years. The company’s digital magazine Electronic Beats explores the world’s electronic music scene and is a respected brand in its own right. Its digital presence has expanded to include a podcast series, social media channels and ElectronicBeats.TV.
The Content Marketing Association makes an important point in its review of Electronic Beats: The brand only promotes Telekom subtly, by using the logo and colors in the design. “Given that Electronic Beats has been around for so long…it is clearly working for the telecoms brand in engaging a young, tech savvy, music-loving audience.”
Takeaway: Telekom exemplifies how cool content can impact an audience that likely would not think about the company otherwise.
Join Competitors on the Map
Content has the power to pull your brand out of a downturn — or even put you on the map for the first time.
It would be remiss not to mention the LEGO movies. While LEGO is one of the top toy companies in the world today, Jonathan Ringen reminds us that the company was near bankruptcy just a few years ago.
With the 2014 release of The LEGO Movie, the company surged past Mattel to become the world’s biggest toy manufacturer. Combined with The LEGO Batman Movie, the films have made nearly $800 million in the box office alone. The movies have not only put the company back on top — with more on the way, the LEGO franchise is just getting started.
The Mission writes a detailed assessment of why The LEGO Movie’s content did so well. The movie understands LEGO stakeholders and other brands’ successes, is open-ended and leverages a timeless narrative without preaching to viewers.
Takeaway: While creating full-length films for the big screen is a pretty lofty task, LEGO has proved that the sky’s the limit when it comes to branded content.
Iceland has not always been the tourism destination it is today. That changed seven years ago when the country’s tourism sites launched an integrated campaign, which included some very thoughtful content marketing.
The “Inspired by Iceland” video series really put Iceland on many travelers’ maps. That series features more than 100 videos of dignitaries explaining why Iceland inspires them. They showcase the country’s beautiful scenery and unique culture, and explain exactly how to navigate barriers to visiting.
They also include clear invitations to explore the country guided by Icelanders.
The content was fun and even humorous, but most importantly it showed viewers exactly why they should visit Iceland — and how to do so. More than 2.2 million visitors passed through Iceland in 2017 as a result. That’s more than four times the number of visitors who passed through in 2010.
Takeaway: Skyword sums up why the Iceland campaign was so successful. “It wasn’t enough to simply suggest that Iceland was unique, adventurous and interesting — but rather, it was by suggesting that visitors themselves could become a bit more unique, adventurous and interesting that Iceland was able to successfully bring in a huge wave of tourism.”
Respond to an Evolving Landscape
Changing a logo or using new colors will not make industry issues disappear. However, content can play an important role in guiding your company through them.
In late 2012, the Coca-Cola Company replaced its corporate website with Coca-Cola Journey, a digital magazine with original and curated content. This came as global health concerns around topics like obesity and sugar were beginning to impact consumers’ perception of the company.
The new site offered feel-good stories and branded content, but it also addressed issues head-on in areas like health and the environment.
By doubling down on content, Coca-Cola reaped several additional benefits. For example, around the same time Journey launched, the company set a moonshot goal to grow its social channels by 50 percent per year. They did much better than that, though: Coca-Cola’s social channels grew by 100 percent every year for three subsequent years.
Ashley Brown was the director of digital communications and social media when the platform launched. “I realized moonshot goals matter, because — as the saying goes — even if you miss, you land among the stars.”
Takeaway: Content platforms are key to communicate your company’s point of view during difficult times.
Around the same time, health concerns were also impacting McDonald’s. In response, the team in Canada decided to address myths and misconceptions surrounding the company’s food. “Our food. Your questions” began with a YouTube video and dedicated website where consumers could submit questions about topics such as ingredient quality and sourcing.
The company answered thousands of them.
The transparency campaign spread beyond Canada to Australia and eventually the US, and is still online today. At one point, McDonald’s even created digital content by sending mythbuster Grant Imahara to visit suppliers and restaurants around the country. The campaign was covered by reporters like Maureen Morrison at Ad Age, and many praised it for redefining transparency.
Takeaway: With new options and calorie counts on menus, McDonald’s has started responding to health concerns in the United States and abroad. Content cannot replace core changes like these, but it can demonstrate that your company is serious about an issue.
Always Gather Data and Feedback
We will leave you with two important principles to remember when refreshing your image or rebranding:
- Check your audience data. With the amount of information available today, there is no reason to make strategy changes without first consulting data. Doug Randall, the founder of narrative analytics agency Protagonist, emphasizes this point by showing how data could help Harley-Davidson with a brand refresh.
- Whatever you plan to do, test it first. No one wants to end up like Airbnb when they launched a new logo that closely imitated another brand and was compared to human body parts. If you missed it a few years ago, brand marketer Dave Vinjamuri recaps that debacle and what to do if something similar happens to you.