As Adblock usage grew 30% globally in 2016, brands need much smarter ways to communicate than unsolicited, interruptive advertising barging in on the content people are really interested in. To make a real connection and build trust with people, brands need to communicate in more relatable and meaningful ways.

The intense competition for attention online is influencing a marketing trend where brands produce content as a way to cut through the noise. Instead of obstructing, ransoming or coat-tailing  content, brands are finding ways in which to tailor and craft content that people would want to consume. With a little awareness of their audience, this content provides something of real value and relevance to consumers while promoting the brand message. Brands that understand their customers and make meaningful content? How refreshing!

Getting Personal

These days, people are engaging with brands in much more open and social environments where there’s opportunity to interact and bond. In these more relaxed channels, even respectable corporate brands can afford to be more informal and relatable, reaching and connecting with audiences on more personal or individual levels. On the flipside, people are free to pick and choose the brands they identify with and voice their opinions, making the relationship more harmonious and balanced.

This shifting dynamic provides great opportunities to brands wanting to remain relevant and harness the ‘power of the people’ to market themselves, without abusing their relationship with customers.

Guide the Narrative

Creating content as a strategic marketing approach aims to earn loyal brand advocates with valuable, relevant, and consistent narrative that appeals to your clearly-defined audience. While the ultimate goal is to improve your bottom line, carefully chosen content is a great way to build a reputable brand presence online, reach a wider audience through personal connections, and influence how your brand is perceived.

Considered choice of topics, presentation, tone of language, and key terms and phrases you want aligned with your brand all help to steer the conversation in your favour. The advantage for your SEO ranking is not to be underestimated, either.

Video, blog articles, interviews, live streams, still photos—there is no shortage of formats or channels for publishing content. If you’re short on time or resources (who isn’t?), forget about long-form editorials and keep it simple with regular, brief posts and snaps. But always be appropriate and relevant for your message and audience.

Case Study: Fabric of Onehunga

The Fabric of Onehunga campaign promotes a light, comfortable apartment lifestyle, with contemporary urban architecture and interior design in a vibrant, friendly community. Interviewing local residents that prospective buyers can identify with is a clever way to celebrate the people of Onehunga while maintaining a positive public opinion about the growing density of their neighbourhood. Hearing from third parties in their own words creates an honest, relatable tone; producing a series of interviews provides the campaign with a wealth of content to use across multiple channels and formats.

The developers behind Fabric clearly recognise the value of design so getting the editor of Homestyle magazine, Alice Lines on board with the interior styling is a smart and harmonious alliance. Exposure for the development in the magazine and on Lines’ social media boosts the campaign’s credibility— while reaching mutual audiences—through her established reputation. Buddying up with collaborators and influencers is another rising trend in content marketing.

Know Your Audience

It always pays to really know your audience so you can be sure the content you produce gets the attention and the reaction you’re after. Doing some market research can be very helpful in revealing how your audience feels about your brand, what it is they value most about what you do, and what else is important to them. Failing to appreciate your audience’s point of view is likely to result in alienating them and coming across as out of touch. Being relevant and appropriate, on the other hand, reaffirms common values and promotes a sense of belonging with your audience.

Case Study: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand clearly recognises that they do not simply get you from A to B; they remove the distance separating loved ones. Sharing a heartwarming story cleverly timed with Valentine’s Day shows they’re all about #GoingTheDistance with their dedication to customer service while feeding the emotional appetite of their social followers with a feel-good video perfect for sharing with friends and family.

The Backstage Pass

People are influenced more by referrals from relatable people (like fellow customers or people they know) than what brands say about themselves. In short, people trust people, not brands, and trust is key in building sustainable relationships with customers who buy regularly and refer friends.

There’s nothing like a sneak peek behind the scenes to make people feel part of the team. Inviting your audience to participate in your processes and production journey provides a real sense of connection and a deeper engagement. Dropping your guard and embracing transparency can be a scary prospect for some but showing a little vulnerability is a sure way to build trust. There’s no need to over-share, though. You won’t win any fans with a security, privacy or IP leak.

Case Study: My Food Bag

🎄 It’s looking and smelling a lot like Christmas today 🎅🏼 Watch this space 🎥

A post shared by My Food Bag NZ (@myfoodbagnz) on

Nadia Lim and the My Food Bag team do a nice job of making their audience feel part of the crew with the occasional behind-the-scenes shot—building the impression that there’s nothing to hide—which fits well with the “keep it simple” brand ethos. They also produce great customer-focused content on their blog and social media channels, from recipes and healthy eating tips to customer interviews and sponsor promotions.

If sinking your marketing budget into advertising campaigns isn’t generating the reach or engagement you hoped for, consider adopting a new strategy to win brand fans by creating content your customers can connect with, and see real value in.