This article was published on February 21, 2020

Why your startup should market content, instead of your product

Brand affinity marketing could be a way for you to stand out

Why your startup should market content, instead of your product
Chris Savage
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Chris Savage

CEO and co-founder, Wistia

Chris Savage is the CEO and co-founder of Wistia, a video software company which helps businesses create, manage distribute and measure crea Chris Savage is the CEO and co-founder of Wistia, a video software company which helps businesses create, manage distribute and measure creative content. Chris started Wistia in co-founder Brendan Schwartz’s living room in 2006, after graduating from Brown University with a BA in Arts-Semiotics. He has since grown it into a multi-million dollar business with 80 employees and 350,000 customers. Having been based in Cambridge, Massachusetts for 12 years, Chris is a passionate public advocate of the Boston start-up scene and gets amped up when talking about entrepreneurship, marketing, creativity, video, company building, and behavioral economics. Before Wistia, Chris helped produce an Emmy award winning feature length documentary and was named a Top Young Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek in 2009.

With millions of people subscribing to streaming services today, it’s no surprise that platforms like Netflix and Amazon are doubling down on their efforts to create original content to keep their audiences engaged. With the ability to binge-watch an entire season of a show at any time — on any device — it seems there’s no shortage of content to fulfill every niche interest.

And while the media world is busy creating unique, binge-able content to earn brand loyalty, the business world continues to invest in tactics they’ve leaned on since the ‘50s — short video ads that do more to interrupt their audiences than engage them. The problem with this traditional advertising tactic is that it requires a huge amount of spend (and an enormous amount of luck) to make any sort of impression on your audience, let alone a lasting one.

When businesses focus on reach, they assume an impression equals a person impressed. But, that’s simply not the case. When your ad interrupts your audience, you’re paying for a relationship with your audience that only lasts as long as the 15 seconds it takes until they get the opportunity to “skip ad.” It’s possible to funnel millions of dollars into an ad strategy and never make a true, genuine connection. And when it comes to budgets, small to medium-sized businesses compete with the giants in the same ad space — putting them at a huge disadvantage. 

[Read: What I learned about PR pitching from the reporters I keep spamming]

On top of that, there’s really no reason to change the status quo. Platforms like Google and Facebook have advertising models that continue to make money while offering little in return, making it harder than ever to reach your own audience. In order to break out of this outdated model, businesses need to take a more creative approach and create binge-worthy content that truly captures the imaginations of their consumers. Why pay to be the advertisement during a show, when you could own the show (and the audience) itself? 

As technology and consumer behavior evolves at a rapid pace, brands need to shift their focus away from buying reach and impressions, to building brand affinity through investing in their own, original video content. Brand affinity marketing is the way to do that, and luckily, it’s not too hard to get started. Here’s how: 

Find a brand message that’s not tied to your product offering

People know when they’re being marketed to, and if you create a show around your product, it’s going to feel just like another ad. Instead of trying to have broad appeal, brands should focus on creating content that appeals to the interests of a specific subculture to maximize word-of-mouth.

As an example, if you’re a retailer that specializes in outdoor sports, rather than make a show about fishing rods, you might create a documentary or mini-series about people who are passionate about fishing. This concept not only narrows in on a niche but is relevant to the brand, without being too broad. 

Invest in longer-form, binge-worthy content

The 15 seconds you might have to capture your audience’s attention in an ad is simply not enough time spent with your brand to generate any sort of lasting connection. That’s why you want to make content that’s not only entertaining, but can keep a niche audience engaged for longer stretches of time. No one wants to watch a 30-minute ad, but they will settle in and watch 30-minutes worth of entertainment that speaks directly to them and their interests.

Now, that’s not to say you have to make a documentary or a feature-length film (more power to you if you can), but aiming to create episodes that last longer than 10 minutes is a great place to start when trying to increase the time spent with your brand.

Promote your content like a product

Just like your audience doesn’t want to watch a 30-minute ad, they don’t want to watch a sales pitch inside an episode of your show, either. Brand Affinity Marketing only works when brand affinity is seen as the end goal, rather than a point in your conversion funnel.

So, instead of marketing your product within your content, you’ll need to start marketing your content like it’s a product — because it is! It has value and can be sold and marketed with many of the same best practices you’re already using today. Instead of spending money on ads for your product, use ads to drive your audience to watch your content. 

Change the way you measure the impact on brand 

Brand affinity isn’t built through the number of touchpoints with your business, but time spent with your brand. If you want to measure your brand affinity, you’ll need to care less about awareness or conversion and more about how people feel about your brand through time spent.

To test this, my team and I put our money where our mouth is and invested more than $250K on our own docuseries about the link between creativity and money, called “One, Ten, One Hundred” and saw an 11% increase in Brand Search, which has remained steady ever since.

But, we’re not the only ones invested in brand affinity marketing; other innovative companies such as MailChimp, Profitwell, and Hubspot are seeing the value here and investing in their own binge-worthy content. 

If you’re interested in adopting brand affinity marketing and grow your audience — and your brand loyalty — you can check out our free playbook to help you get started

Like what you’ve read? On Growth Quarters, we strive to go beyond generic ‘fortune cookie advice’ and learn directly from the people who have walked the walk. And this summer, at TNW Conference 2020 in Amsterdam, we’ll take Growth Quarters offline again with a vibrant program dedicated exclusively to sustainable business growth. Listen to keynotes from leaders from the world’s most successful companies and get actionable guidance to help you grow professionally. Get early bird tickets now and learn more about the Growth Quarters track.

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