Commodity-Based Marketing and Content Creation: Why It's Time to Move On
It’s time for the print and promo industry to level up. Since the beginning of 2020, utilizing multiple forms of media creation, social selling, digital marketing and strategic collaboration has never been more relevant. This industry has so much to offer. The creative minds that steward this industry are vast. Unfortunately, the sector remains commodity-centric and content-averse.
The last two years have taught us that marketing and advertising budgets are the first things to be cut in a complex economy or world event that sparks difficult economic conditions. Did you feel the pain of extended sales cycles? Was it exhausting to make three times the phone calls for half the results? We know we couldn’t touch door handles! (Thank goodness for that, in some ways.) Suddenly, the noise was deafening, but no one was listening.
The industry lost its traditional methods of interaction. “Lunch and Learns” were never tremendously inspiring in the first place, but at least it gave suppliers face time with distributor partners’ sales teams. Trade shows were impossible. So many marketing teams felt the pain of creating brand awareness and attention, while sales teams battled to sell what end-users no longer had the budget to purchase. Remember those brilliant minds I referred to earlier? Those leaders shifted their machinery and channels to PPE, which stopped the bleeding and created a relevant and required solution for buyers. Unfortunately, the style of commodity-based marketing and content creation remained.
What do I mean by “commodity-based marketing and content creation”? Branding is about creating a feeling. Our customers aren’t buying the product for the product.
There is always a plan, initiative, messaging or emotional want behind the product purchase. Yet the marketing, presentation and collaboration method remains the same. Commodity-based marketing and content creation speak to the design of the product, the pricing options and the decoration technique. How does this influence decision-making? It doesn’t.
I’ve spent the last two years diving into a cadence for marketing and content creation, focusing on building a community of followers that understand my “why.” The mission was to get an audience of strangers to feel like they knew me without ever meeting me. The idea was to discuss problems in business solved by utilizing promotional products and apparel as the support to the more significant “business of the business” want, through video content, podcast hosting and collaboration with influencers to capture the attention of their following.
I see a small number of rainmakers in the industry getting involved in social selling and media creation. However, compared to the recruiting sector, business coaching sector and software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry, the promotional products sector is lagging far behind. Why? Buyers will treat us like a catalog if we promote our products and services with no feeling. We need more industry leaders to get vulnerable and discuss their journey.
Let me lay this out in straightforward steps:
- Establish evident core values, principles of brand culture and how products support more prominent business solutions.
- Create a content calendar, commit and stick to it.
- Create a villain (the problem) and how your organization destroys that villain on behalf of your clients.
- Encourage staff members to build personal brands within the corporate brand (set guidelines and boundaries).
- Get emotional and vulnerable. Write about failure, resilience and the journey to success. Humanize the brand and the people leading it.
- Create video content to document your culture in action, showcase thought-leadership and allow for a deeper connection.
- Start a podcast, guest on podcasts or sponsor one that has a following already. The best part about a podcast is the continued brand impressions from one release to the next. Remember, it’s not about selling to your prospective clients. It’s about creating brand attention, awareness and influence. Podcast listeners are loyal and committed, like Netflix binge-watchers. When a new episode is released, all the previous episodes also gain downloads. Social media has a 72-hour life. Podcasts live forever.
- Highlight people and culture over products and services. Content creation with heart and feeling will always capture more attention. Be compelling enough to drive curiosity to check out your products and services.
Status quo is a bad thing in life and in business. As an industry, our mission is to drive brands. We support the decision-makers who want to influence positive behavior, create brand attention and drive culture. In the end, it all funnels to revenue and profit growth. We can’t drive our revenue and profit as a commodity of throw-away trinkets and trash. We must show we are more than that.
I say it’s time to step into the light! The industry has brilliant stories to tell. We are the wizards behind the curtain for the brands we support. See you on camera.
John Morris is executive director of brand for Club Colors and host of the “In the Club” podcast. He has 20-plus years in sales, marketing, branding and communications, and is currently focused on building the Club Colors brand, media presence, communications style, messaging and culture to drive internal success and external awareness. Reach him at email@example.com.