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In the modern world of Paid Advertising, the stimulus is usually the brand while the desired response is the experience. In the emerging world of Content Marketing, the stimulus must always be the experience while the desired response is the brand. Understanding this fundamental difference can help us craft inspiring Content as well as effective Advertising, working beautifully in tandem to further the cause of the brand they serve.

Most interestingly, great advertising campaigns over the years as well as theories of communication vouch for the efficacy of the experience as stimulus as opposed to an overt demonstration of the brand, which is the practice in current times. The Theory of Closure is best demonstrated by the incomplete exhibition of the Marlboro logo or the first three letters of Schweppes, the renowned onomatopoeia, leading to the customer actively closing the loop of recognition suitably, enhancing lovable recall.

Advertising that makes us act voluntarily is invariably an inspiring exposition of the desired experience, whether factual or exaggerated, the engaged state of mind more amenable to branded transaction in the presence of 70mm elements. It is, however, far more difficult to build the literal bridge between experience and brand, which is exactly why mediocre agencies and less-courageous clients prefer the wishful obviousness of driving home the logo, pack branding and features. In Content Marketing, however, this escape route is non-existent, so imagination, intelligence and creativity must collaborate to help form the brand connect through an experience narrative.

Thus, the first step for effective content strategy is to do an exhaustive Experience Audit of the category and then define the ‘Unique Experience Quotient’ (UEQ) of the brand. If our brand is in the business of hospitality in Goa, we must start with the former, understanding the specific strengths of Goa as a tourist destination vis-à-vis competition, obviously for a chosen target group which must be the Brand Target Group. Once that task is completed, we must then define our UEQ, which makes our candidate more desirable than any others.

So, if proximity to the beach is our special strength then the Content must uniquely dramatise the wonderful on-beach activities or if the casino is the selling point then we must talk about the world-class experiences that go simply beyond sun and sand. This approach holds true for liquor to automobiles to banking to airlines and any other category we can think of, the development of the UEQ as the key strategic step through various effective tools.

Next and most importantly is the Inspiring Brand Connect (IBC), a smart yet definite way for the customer to consider the brand as the desired response, not too overt as that may irritate the prospect and fall flat. Back to the Goa example, if the Content Brand were to invest in sensational photography of the beach-side attractions endorsed by credible folks, in the guise of verbatims, that may be a valuable connect.

In the casino route, an interesting approach would be the comparative costs of enjoying a similar attraction, in Europe or South-east Asia, versus the presence of this global attraction just an hour’s nonstop flight away. Whatever be the category or the context, it is critical to build in a deliberate sense of Discovery for the customer as that leads to greater stickiness. Here, the technique of a branded activation programme, online or offline, can be hugely effective when it is truly provocative and inspiring for the audience. A cross-cultural context is the Ikea Effect, the much-enhanced affinity between customer and brand due to the latter having to physically assemble the purchased furniture.

The third aspect to consider is the CAS, Content Advertising Synergy, much ignored in the structural divide between Mainline and Content teams both at client and agency side. Most brands would certainly be indulging in a mix of both, proportions varying dramatically, but usually without a cohesive response strategy, in terms of timing, placement and sequence. The 1.0 version of this is the obvious placement of a hotel advertisement with a suitable offer in the same edition when the Content covers Goa, but many more sophisticated exciting techniques are possible, the subject of a dedicated piece. For this we need to integrate classical techniques of Media Planning with specific category consumer insights, to ensure customisation in every dimension.

Finally, no organised activity is worthwhile without the element of measurability, in this case the focus must be the response effectiveness as opposed to simply the quality of the stimulus. Which cannot be purely quantitative and must be blended with a qualitative dimension, as quite often Content will act in tandem with pricing and advertising to ensure conversions. Current techniques are grossly inadequate as they fail to combine present results with future outcomes, a key objective of such research must to craft strategies for the decipherable future. What we must seek is a combination of Intent and Action and thus the chosen nomenclature must be the ‘IAV’, Intent Action Valuation, which will be amplified in a later article.

It is deeply challenging to convert the stimulus of experience to the desired response of brand consumption, which is why we must combine the techniques of ‘Unique Experience Quotient’ (UEQ), Inspiring Brand Connect (IBC), Content Advertising Synergy (CAS) and Intent Action Valuation (IAV). While at most times our strategies will be proactive there will be occasions when our brand becomes the context for topical content, both positive and negative, which must be managed by the same principles. Content Marketing is an immense source of wealth for every possible brand when managed within the simple construct as defined above.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)