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Is Purpose-Led Marketing a Growth Killer? [Rose-Colored Glasses]

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Is Purpose-Led Marketing a Growth Killer? [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Are brands sacrificing company growth by trying too hard to do good in the world?

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble (P&G), raised that question at the recent VivaTech conference.

An article in the Drum last week reported some of Marc’s comments, including this: “Some companies are over-leveraging purpose marketing at the expense of brand growth.”

As evidence, the article points to an open letter from a Unilever investor who said the company had become “obsessed with publicly displaying sustainability credentials at the expense of focusing on the fundamentals of the business.”

But Marc’s full remarks contain more nuance (the entire 20-minute talk is worth a watch). He made clear that P&G sees growth (meaning business growth) and good (meaning doing good things in the world) as a “virtuous circle.” They balance each other.

I agree.

P&G sees “brands and business being a force for growth and a force for good,” Marc said. But, he added, “the order matters.”

That’s where I disagree.

@ProcterGamble sees “business being a force for growth and a force for good,” with growth coming first. @Robert_Rose (partly) disagrees. #VivaTech Click To Tweet

Good is not the opposite of growth

Saying that companies have “over-leveraged” purpose-driven content or that they must “course correct” to drive growth in challenging times sets the expectation that good and growth exist at opposite ends of the marketing strategy spectrum.

That’s not true.

You’ll find many companies that have done a bad job with purpose-led brand initiatives. But their lack of success doesn’t mean purpose-led marketing can’t lead to growth. It just means their initiatives were ill-conceived.

You also can find companies that have done a bad job of growth marketing. That doesn’t mean focusing on brand stories that highlight usefulness to the planet or other good causes won’t help them differentiate and grow.

Growth is a focus of a company’s strategy for success. The approach depends on the object of that growth. Profitability? Revenue? Market share? Each requires a different choice from the spectrum of brand and marketing plans.

Good, on the other hand, is both a business purpose/mission and a differentiator for the growth strategy. It’s a prime ingredient infused into a marketing and content strategy, no matter what part of the growth spectrum the business pursues.

Doing one thing poorly isn’t an argument for rebalancing to the other.

Some companies struggle with purpose-led brand initiatives, but that doesn’t mean purpose marketing can’t lead to growth, says @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

The why matters

Communicating a differentiated brand purpose and the practice of content marketing are distinct but intricately related. For instance, in many organizations, the same brand content team might work on sustainability content and on thought leadership and educational content.

And some tactical content marketing plans rely heavily on a clear “brand purpose” story that expresses itself as a content platform. Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials publication is a perfect example.

Health Essentials started as a platform for good – a way to show that the Cleveland Clinic brand stood for more than making money. It met that goal and became a trusted source for health information. In the past few years, it’s also become a revenue generator and a platform for growth.

Content marketing and growth marketing aren’t things to be balanced like weights on a barbell.

A marketing leader for a technology company recently told me they planned to cut back on thought leadership and educational content because of revenue growth challenges last quarter. Instead, they’ll focus more on paid media advertising for direct sales.

That may or may not be the right decision. But the thought leadership program performed flawlessly, generating subscribers and high-level leads.

I asked why the team had made that decision. The company looked at the data and found that leads generated through thought leadership take longer to close. So, they decided to move money and resources to the low-end of the funnel, hoping to accelerate growth.

But the tech company’s plan amounts to moving one weight from one side of the barbell to the other, thinking that will make it easier to lift.

That’s not a marketing strategy. That’s insanity.

A roadmap for balancing the virtuous circle

There are plenty of counterarguments to the idea that focusing on “good” over “growth” is the root cause of poor financial performance.

For example, sporting goods co-op REI, a brand that leads through content and brand purpose, posted a 36% increase in revenue according to the 2021 financials it released in April. Likewise, Monster Beverage earned record first quarter 2022 net sales of $1.5 billion while leaning heavily into content marketing and much less heavily into direct advertising.

Content marketing (or purpose-driven content) will also shift as an overall part of a marketer’s mix. My recommendations for staying in balance line up almost exactly with the things Marc Pritchard called the “enduring basics:”

  • Knowing what your customer needs
  • Giving customers a superior experience
  • Understanding what you need to do to win today, with an eye toward tomorrow

Let’s explore these ideas (and my slight tweaks to Marc’s advice):

Marc says: Know your consumer needs
Robert says: Know your customer
Sentiments change during any significant market shift (good or bad). In previous economic downturns, we’ve seen how quickly the priority for certain products and services can shift from essential to not necessary.

Understanding your marketing mix means understanding how those shifts in motivation affect your product or service and adjusting the way you deliver your core messages.

Marc says: Give them a superior experience
Robert says: Find efficiency in the process, not the experience

What’s the quickest way to strangle your marketing strategy? Perform a brute-force lift and shift of resources to optimize one part of the journey. You’re almost guaranteed to create a suboptimal experience in another part of the customer journey.

Instead, focus on how to get more out of what you’re doing across every experience. In other words, find the efficiency in your content process.

I’m not suggesting you ignore that big, gaping need at one part of the journey. I am suggesting you approach reallocating investments surgically. Examine everything, then make case-by-case recommendations about where to cut and where to increase spending to deliver those superior experiences.

Marc says: Understand what you need to do today, with an eye to tomorrow
Robert says: Double down on the current emotional engagement
You may be tempted to default to content that touts price or better value during a downturn.

But consider focusing on emotional engagement that’s tied to your brand value. You’ll need to have a finger on the pulse of what content you should produce – and mechanisms to act quickly.

So, yes, talk about discounts if that aligns with your brand purpose. More likely, you’ll need to focus on pivoting purpose-driven efforts to help develop trust in your offering.

For example, I love what Nike recently did with its NikeCraft General Purpose Shoe. The company didn’t position the shoe as cheaper or more expensive (and it’s neither). It positioned it as the “understated do-everything shoe created to work with every possible scenario.”

Growth can be good – and vice versa

It’s easy to misinterpret the lesson in Marc’s interview. In fact, the article I mentioned says this: “P&G’s mantra pre-Covid was that it wanted to be a ‘force for good and a force for growth.’ But in the face of increasing economic pressure, it recently flipped that.”

That framing suggests P&G made the wrong decision by putting good first, and (worse) they’re correcting that mistake now only because of financial pressure.

In his remarks, Marc said, “A force for growth leads to the capability of being more of a force for good.” But I would argue that the opposite is true, too.

You don’t have to choose which is more important or what should come first – both matter. You have to figure out how to do both effectively.

You don’t have to choose whether growth or good is more important. Figure out how to do both effectively, says @Robert_Rose. Click To Tweet

Marc said it perfectly at the end of his talk:

“Think about how you can be useful to others. It’ll make a big difference. And then you can truly be both a force for growth and a force for good.”

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just three minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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MARKETING

2022 YouTube and Video SERP Result Changes

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2022 YouTube and Video SERP Result Changes

When you think of video results on Google in 2022 (and video optimization), you might think of something that looks like this (from a search for “flag football”):

In mid-October, we noticed a drop in this type of video result, and that drop became dramatic by late-October. Did Google remove these video results or was our system broken? As it turns out, neither — video results have split into at least three distinct types (depending on how you count).

(1) Video packs (simple & complex)

The example above is pretty simple, with the exception of “Key Moments” (which debuted in 2019), but even the familiar video packs can get pretty complex. Here’s one from a search for the artist Gustav Klimt:

All three of the videos here have Key Moments, including a pre-expanded section for the top video with thumbnails for each of the moments. Some specific SERPs also have minor variations, such as the “Trailers & clips” feature on this search for “Lion King”:

Video packs are still often 3-packs, but can range from two to four results. While only the header really changes here, it’s likely that Google is using a modified algorithm to surface these trailer results.

(2) Branded video carousels

Some videos are displayed in a carousel format, which seems to be common for branded results within YouTube. Here’s an example for the search “Dave and Busters”:

While the majority of these “brand” (loosely defined) carousels are from YouTube, there are exceptions, such as this carousel from Disney Video for “Lightning McQueen”:

Like all carousel-based results, you can scroll horizontally to view more videos. Google’s mobile-first design philosophy has driven more of this format over time, as the combination of vertical and horizontal scrolling is more natural on mobile devices.

(3) Single/thumbnail video results

Prior to breaking out video into separate features, Google typically displayed video results as standard results with a screenshot thumbnail. In the past month, Google seems to have revived this format. Here’s an example for the search “longboarding”:

If you hover over the thumbnail, you’ll see a preview, like this (edited for size):

In some cases, we see multiple video results on a single page, and each of them seems to be counted as one of the “10 blue links” that we normally associate with standard organic results from the web.

There’s also a variant on the single-video format that seem specific to YouTube:

This variant also shows a preview when you hover over it, but it launches a simplified YouTube viewing experience that appears to be new (and will likely evolve over time).

(4) Bonus: Mega-videos

This format has been around for a while and is relatively rare, but certain niches, including hit songs, may return a large-scale video format, such as this one for Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero”:

A similar format sometimes appears for “how to” queries (and similar questions), such as the one below for “how to roundhouse kick.” Note the text excerpt below the video that Google has extracted from the audio …

While neither of these formats are new, and they don’t seem to have changed significantly in the past month, they are important variants of Google video results.

(5) Bonus: TikTok results

Finally, Google has started to display a special format for TikTok videos, that typically includes a selection of five videos that preview when you hover over them. Here’s an example from one of my favorite TikTok personalities:

Typically, these are triggered by searches that include “TikTok” in the query. While it’s not a standard video format and isn’t available outside of TikTok, it’s interesting to note how Google is experimenting with rich video results from other platforms.

Does YouTube still dominate?

Back in 2020, we did a study across 10,000 competitive Google searches that showed YouTube holding a whopping 94% of page-one video results. Has this changed with the recent format shuffling? In a word: no. Across the main three video formats discussed in this post, YouTube still accounts for 94% of results in this data set, with Facebook coming in at a distant second place with 0.8%. This does not count specialized results, such as the TikTo results above.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re tracking video results, and have seen major changes, be aware that they may not have disappeared – they more likely morphed into another format. This is a good time to go look at your SERPs in the wild (on desktop and mobile) and see what kind of video formats your target queries are showing. Google is not only experimenting with new formats, but with new video-specific markup and capabilities (such as extracting text directly from the soundtracks of videos and podcasts). You can expect all of this to continue to evolve into 2023.

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