The modern world is full of content in every shape and form and in every corner you look at. Everything from written text and pictures to videos and illustrations can be categorized as content. The overabundance of all these formats emphasizes the importance of things like brand affinity, brand awareness, and brand loyalty.
Since it has become easier to launch a business, or more specifically, an online business, the number of SMEs has drastically increased over the years. Consequently, the framework around a unique selling point is slowly losing its relevance.
A better alternative is creating a framework that revolves around building healthy relationships with your customers, aligning your marketing efforts with the wants and needs of your target audience, and creatively positioning your brand for the right attention. The idea is to drive emotional purchases rather than needful or impulsive ones. However, doing so requires a deep understanding of your target audience and a well-crafted user experience.
From there, we can create a content marketing framework that helps boost and solidify brand affinity.
Let’s jump right in and discuss it all in detail.
Table of Contents
What Exactly is Content Marketing?
In simple terms, content marketing is the art of ‘talking’ to your customers through strategically created and published content.
For a full definition, “Content marketing is the strategic planning and creation of content such as blogs, videos, graphics, and presentations, among other things, which is then published and promoted on online forums, blogs, and social media sites to generate interest, provide value, and optimize websites for search engines.”
While content creation is an age-old concept, content marketing is more of an online-based approach. That is why initial content marketing efforts mainly focused on making websites rank. However, as search engine algorithms have become more complex and value-driven, so has content marketing.
Today, content marketing is all about providing value to consumers and optimizing the user experience through well-defined brand experiences. That is why 78% of consumers tend to give preference to brands that create custom content rather than generic content.
If you want to look at your brand from a consumer point of view, you can segment it into two aspects, awareness and affinity.
Awareness of a brand has to do with how many people know about your brand and what exactly they know about it. Affinity, on the other hand, refers to how much people care about your brand. The current market shift has seen marketers and consumers alike care more about the latter than the former.
To define brand affinity, it is the love or positive feelings customers have towards your brand. It may be considered the culmination of all the interactions between your brand and your consumer. This is through user experience, sales, your website, and content (among other things) and how each of them makes them feel.
Knowing how your consumer feels is easy if you know and monitor the aforementioned touch-points. If they’re positive, you are bound to gain organic word of mouth and better affinity.
However, getting your customers to the feeling stage requires effort, too. The best way to do that is through brand affinity marketing, which is another way of saying, amplify your brand affinity through content marketing.
Difference Between Brand Affinity, Brand Awareness, and Brand Loyalty
It is important to understand that all three of these factors tend to complement each other. However, to understand that, let’s break down each of them individually, but in the order that they normally occur.
- First, Brand Awareness has to do with how many people are aware of your brand, what you offer, and what you stand for.
- Then, Brand Affinity is how much people love your brand depending on your brand experience, brand offerings, and your values.
- And finally, Brand Loyalty is the act of continuously purchasing a brand’s product despite other (and sometimes better) options.
How Does It All Come Together?
In an ideal marketing world, the order you would want is brand awareness, affinity, and then, loyalty. However, it is much more complicated since affinity and loyalty are usually put against one another. They may be considered mutually exclusive.
This means that some people claim that if consumers love your brand (affinity), brand loyalty would automatically follow. However, others claim that one should focus their efforts on increasing brand loyalty by any means, which would ultimately boost your brand’s affinity.
The common factor among both schools of thought is that brand awareness always comes first. That is why the first step of brand affinity marketing is to generate awareness through content marketing efforts.
However, it’s important to understand that brand loyalty in itself doesn’t imply any personal connection to a brand. This means that loyalty may only be value-based. Therefore, as soon as some other brand swoops in to provide greater value, you may lose that loyalty.
That is why it’s imperative to create an emotional connection with the consumer. When consumers are personally vested in a brand, they have a sense of loyalty that goes beyond value. That is when you have the highest form of brand loyalty. This is why it’s best to work on brand affinity before you move on to brand loyalty.
The Concept of Brand Equity and Brand Personality
To further define brand affinity, you need to understand how brand equity and brand personality work in this process.
Brand equity is the value provided by the brand in its entirety.
This not only means the utility it provides but also any additional emotional value that comes with it. The difference between the product in its basic offering and the complete value it has to the customer gives you the overall brand equity.
The difference between brand equity and brand affinity is that brand equity is measured for the entire brand, justifies its value, and is observed based on the perceived quality, associations, loyalty, and awareness.
On the other hand, brand affinity focuses on the individual customer and only hints at the brand. It’s observed through past experiences, the ability to create word of mouth, and subsequent loyalty.
The process of humanizing a brand so consumers can connect to them more easily is its brand personality.
Developing a relationship with your consumers is hard, but it can be streamlined and catalyzed. You can try assigning a set of human characteristics to your brand so it’s easier to associate with it.
For example, a restaurant that prides itself on providing healthy food should have a brand personality that promotes healthy, happy-go-lucky behavior. It should associate itself with sports, exercises, fitness regiments, and gyms, etc.
When you have developed a brand personality by emphasizing specific traits, you will start to appeal to certain audiences. This means that building a brand personality can be considered one of the first steps towards working on your brand affinity and brand equity.
Your brand personality will revolve around your tangible offerings along with your value-added propositions. Thus, the more your consumers associate themselves with your brand, the more affinity they feel.
5 Types of Brand Personalities
There are five types of brand personalities that can then be sub-divided according to your niches.
- Sincerity – is all about being kind and thoughtful. While also being devoted to family values and keeping the people around you happy.
- Excitement – is about being youthful and positive-spirited. While also being carefree about your surroundings so you can live to the fullest.
- Ruggedness – refers to being athletic, sporty, and adventure-ready. While also being ready for the rough and tough challenges that come with it.
- Competence – is for influential and accomplished individuals who are successful and established leaders.
- Sophistication – is to do with the prestigious and elegant lifestyle which can even go over in the realms of ‘pretentious’.
Each brand knows what it stands for and who its target audience is. It isn’t rocket science figuring out what brand personality you need to go for. For example, Veblen goods tend to have the ‘sophistication’ personality such as Rolls Royce vehicles.
You have to understand your offering, the value you provide, and the experience you want to give to your customer. You can then decide on a brand personality and start to develop content based on that personality.
Measuring brand affinity is not a simple task because there are no tangible measures and no number-based data that can be tracked. Affinity is based on opinions and emotions which cannot be effectively quantified.
However, there are still methods that can help you quantify qualitative data through secondary impact measures. This can help you analyze the ROI (Return on Investment) so you can extrapolate the results of your brand affinity boosting efforts.
The following brand affinity metrics can be used to measure brand affinity, its impact, and the overall ROI.
Time Spent Consuming Content
Every one of your consumers consumes content in one way or another. It can be in the form of pictures, graphics, infographics, videos, audio, text, or a combination of several types. Hence, if you can track how much time a consumer is spending on your content, it can be a simple KPI (Key Performance Indicators) that can quantify your brand’s affinity.
To do so, you need tracking and monitoring tools that can tell you the exact time spent on any page. For that, you can use the following tools.
It provides you with a lot of data but it can be overwhelming. Hence, to calculate the ‘time spent’, you just need to check the number of sessions and multiply them by the average session duration which will give you the overall time spent.
Keep in mind that the objective is to increase the overall time spent over time which is why it’s best to at least calculate it once a month. Moreover, you should understand that other marketing efforts may bring in traffic that shouldn’t count in this case. You should use the ‘Engaged Regular Users’ to make sure the data only shows users who have visited your website three or more times for at least one minute each.
YT Analytics lets you check your ‘Watch Time’ on your dashboard. You can further segment the data so you can see the source of the traffic. There is no way to differentiate bouncing users from consistent ones.
However, you can remove traffic sources like ‘YouTube Advertising’ so only people who have deliberately come to your videos.
Provides a ‘Minutes Viewed’ option for your videos in the aggregate which is calculated based on every 5-10 second impression. It’s not very accurate because it also includes users casually strolling through their news feeds. The time spent doesn’t exactly tell you whether the content consumers are genuine or not.
You can, however, break it down to be more accurate by exporting all your data from Facebook Insights. It would then show you how many people have watched the video, how much of it, and for how long. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to multiply the video duration by 95% of the completed views. This is bound to portray affinity more accurately.
Number of Subscribers
Most people tend to ignore the ‘Subscribe’ option that pops up on your website. Other people tend to ignore it on other platforms like YouTube yet they continue to consume your content at times.
However, people true to your brand will always end up subscribing to you in one way or another. It’s another way of saying that these subscribers consider your brand important enough to want to receive updates on them.
For your website, you can use your marketing automation platform or CRM to sync your subscriber counts. This will help track them easily. You can then go ahead and check your subscriber count on websites like YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn among other platforms. Compare these subscribers with your website subscribers for a holistic view.
One way of finding out the true number of subscribers is to see which platform has the lowest subscriber count. You can then compare this number with your website’s subscribers. Ultimately, you’ll have the number of people subscribed to you for your brand only.
Brand Search Volume
You can check what people search for in search engines when they want to find your brand. The best way to do so is to utilize Google Search Console which shows you the entirety of the search results that lead to your website.
You can filter out the results through query segmentation which can help you narrow down the queries even more. The best course of action would be to narrow down the queries to just your brand name. It’s best to use your entire brand name because there’s a chance that it may not be unique.
The Brand Search Volume can then be extrapolated and it shows how many people specifically look for your brand. Hence, making it a good secondary measure for brand affinity.
Your goal should be to steadily increase this number; the best way to do so is through brand affinity marketing.
There are many types of regular users and not all of them are proof of brand affinity. The idea is to find out how many of them are engaged, regular users. To get a better idea, it would help to track individual pages, their dwell times, and bounce rates.
You can compare your blog page, gallery page, or any other content-heavy page with the rest of your website. You can compare visitors, dwell time, bounce rate, number of clicks, and heatmaps among other things. The number of regular users on your content-heavy pages will be the ones that count towards your brand affinity metrics.
Social Media Sentiment
Social media is a great indicator of brand affinity because it is opinion-based. It usually has true reflections of what people think about your brand. This means that if you get mentions on social media that have positive sentiment, you have a good brand affinity.
However, it isn’t as binary as it seems. You have to run sentiment analyses, scrutinize the mentions further, and check every mention to get a proper idea. Everything from likes, shares, recommendations, check-ins, and complaints are part of this analysis.
Content Consumed Per User
If you have a solid understanding of your CRM and Google Analytics, you can add specific filters and qualifiers. These can help you narrow down your data.
These filters can be something like ‘watched the entire video without skipping’. It’s usually calculated by comparing the time of the video with the user’s dwell time on the page. Or you can put in a filter for ‘reading 50% of blog posts’. Or even for ‘clicking on graphics to zoom in on them’.
All of this will tell you whether the user is consuming your content or not which lets you ‘score’ them. You can check individual users and their activities and can build personas based on that data. Creating these personas will help you create better and more relevant content that contributes to your brand affinity.
Other Ways to Measure Brand Affinity
The aforementioned metrics can be used to effectively measure brand affinity. You can get to the point where you know what you need to do to move forward. To try out a few other (simpler) ways, you can try these two ways.
- Promotion Statistics – While promotions may seem more value-driven than affinity-driven, they can still tell you a lot. When you run a promotion, the most important job is to monitor, record, and analyze the statistics. They tell you how successful the promotion was but more importantly, tells you what part of the promotion worked best. If you can narrow down the content that had the greatest impact, you can measure and improve brand affinity.
- First-Hand Research – You can either develop your process to research your consumers like it was done by MeasuringU. Or, you can simply go for the direct questionnaires and focus groups to get your data.
No matter how much data you have and can analyze, you can never be 100% sure about your results. Mainly because we are dealing with an emotional factor. However, the more thorough you, the more likely you’re right about your level of brand affinity.
Metrics to Avoid When Measuring Brand Affinity
Contrary to popular belief, the more data you have wouldn’t mean greater accuracy in your results. This is because some brand metrics aren’t as accurate when measuring brand affinity. That is why it’s best to avoid them.
Applause Rates, Amplification, and Conversation
These are just fancy words for likes, shares, and replies/comments. While all of these are proof of engagement in some way, they aren’t necessarily useful in measuring brand affinity. The typical process is to record these metrics and then make historical comparisons and competitor analyses.
The reason this doesn’t work in the case of brand affinity is simple; social media engagement isn’t directly correlated to an increase in brand affinity. Let us explain; while these metrics would mean you have good social media activity; it doesn’t mean that all the activity is positive or that the consumers care about your brand.
Causation does not imply correlation and vice versa. If an insurance company posts pictures of cute animals, they will notice a surge in their social media engagement. Does this mean people suddenly care about insurance companies? No. People liked, shared, and commented because of the animals.
In essence, there was never any personal connection hence, no brand affinity. It’s why companies in such industries tend to opt for marketing campaigns, social media posts, and activities that improve engagement. They tend to avoid focusing on improving their connection with their consumers. It works, just not in the way a company would want in the long term. This is why according to HubSpot, 96% of people talking about different brands on social media platforms don’t follow them.
While these metrics are useful when measuring engagement, customer satisfaction, and marketing ROI, they’re not useful when measuring brand affinity.
Views and Impressions
When we’re calculating something like ‘reach’, views and impressions are extremely important. They tell you how many people saw your content, how many times, and what they did after doing so. Traditionally speaking, views on a video were considered impressions. However, you now have ad saturation, ad blockers, and the option to skip ads. There is no way of knowing whether the consumer was exposed to the ad or content or not.
Currently, only 23% of people can say without a doubt that they have a good relationship with a brand. The 23% that do have an emotional connection with a brand tend to have a lifetime value that’s three times higher than other people.
These numbers are enough to make a point that brand affinity marketing works. But, what exactly is brand affinity marketing? Here’s a simple definition.
Brand Affinity Marketing is a strategic marketing approach that leverages high-quality content to instill positive sentiment and value, thus, creating an emotional connection between a brand and its consumers.
It’s important to reiterate that such content cannot be created for the sole purpose of views and impressions. Primarily because those aren’t brand affinity metrics. While such content increases engagement, it doesn’t build a connection.
Content marketing in its essence is about providing value to the customer so that they can resonate with your brand. Thus, brand affinity marketing is all about providing content to the consumer with only one goal. To help them and provide value to consumers’ lives.
The quality over quantity argument doesn’t even need to be brought up. Although, there is one important thing to keep in mind, targeting. When you’re generating high-quality content, there’s a good chance that it’s not perceived in the same way by the masses. That is why you should focus on one specific niche and build your content strategy around it.
The delivery of this content can be done in any number of ways. This can include blogs, videos, e-books, graphics, podcasts, and mini-games among other things.
What to Do After Creating the Right Content
After you’re done creating binge-worthy content, you then need to promote it. Contrary to popular belief, promoting content doesn’t have to cost anything and is easier than people think it is. You can promote your content for free by doing the following:
- Make shorter versions of your blogs so you can post them on major publications, Medium, and on social media.
- Create short snippet versions of your content to put on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other major social network sites.
- If you have graphics and videos, post them on sites like Dribble, Pinterest, Shutterstock, etc.
- Create featured snippets for your high-quality long-form blogs so they can be shown in Google results.
- Contact other industry influencers to contribute to your content and give them credit. Then ask them to share it with their followers.
- Provide free resources along with your content. For example, provide a short e-book on design and video-making along with your graphics and video content. If you’re wondering how to make an e-book, check out this in-depth guide by Visme.
The following are just a few ways of promoting your content for free. You can use any of these ways to promote your content to the point where it reaches your entire audience.
After that, your job is to measure the effect of the content rather than its reach. Sure, after promotion, you may have thousands of views and impressions that don’t add to your brand affinity. This is why it’s important to distinguish these people from actual consumers of your content.
This is where brand affinity measuring metrics like time-watched (dwell time), subscribers, and brand search volume come into play. Using these metrics, you can find which people came for the content, consumed it, gained value, and applied it somewhere.
Expanding upon the brand affinity measurement metrics, it’s clear that building brand affinity requires creativity over raw effort. Content marketing lets you utilize creativity so you can churn out binge-worthy content that provides value.
We often hear the phrase, ‘Word of Mouth’ but not many people understand its implications and what it means. The point of WOM is the organic dissemination of a brand’s information. If you can make people talk about your brand on their own accord, you’ve achieved true WOM.
Doing this typically involves launching a well-strategized marketing campaign that includes activities, promotions, and outreach efforts. However, not every organization has the resources to do that. The next best way to increase WOM is to build brand affinity. If customers love your brand and have feelings associated with it, they are bound to talk about it. They would even support and endorse it.
To build that brand affinity, you need to give your customers value creatively so it helps them. Thus, to leverage content marketing to provide value, you can use any of the following techniques.
Provide Educational Content
According to a study by Conductor, brands that provide educational content to their customers see a 131% increase in the likeliness of conversions.
Every industry is backed up by tons of technical research that drives the products being created in that industry. Not every person wants to know about all the research and development techniques that went into creating a product. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t need to learn about the implications.
For example, the pharmaceutical industry pours millions and sometimes billions of dollars into research and development. The new drugs they make have to go extensive testing, FDA approvals, and market approvals. While customers don’t necessarily need all that information, they might want a summary of the process and what it entails.
Explaining to customers how their drugs work may not only be educational content but can also be proof of transparency.
Similarly, other industries can provide content that educates the customer on their brand, their process, the industry itself. Providing content on various topics related to the product or service at hand also helps.
You are more likely to build trust with your customers and also find new potential audiences. This is because you are essentially providing answers to lingering questions that no one bothers to answer. Provide enough answers and you will build a reputation and positive sentiment towards your brand.
Time Delays and Time Filters
Time delays are used to send messages after something occurs. They are based on how much time has passed since the event.
Alternatively, a time filter simply delays your message/s up until a specific date or time.
You might be thinking, what has this got to do with brand affinity or content marketing; this example might help. Let’s assume you are selling online payroll services and a customer just got your yearly package. Since the yearly fee is a hefty amount, you can’t automatically charge your customer in the coming year. They need to make the payment themselves.
Therefore, you would have to remind them about renewing their subscription nearing the end of their yearly access. Setting a time delay that sends a reminder exactly 9-11 months after they initially signed up is ideal.
Now, this reminder doesn’t need to be a simple email or text, it can be a customized content-heavy reminder. You can address each customer individually and provide them with ideas to improve upon their business with additional services. You can also provide them with high-quality blogs and infographics among other things.
This goes to show that you’re giving attention to each customer while trying to provide value to them. You can further develop a strategy around time delays and time filters by utilizing several mediums. You can use emails, SMSs, direct messaging, calls, app notifications, or even one-on-one conversations.
The point, in the end, is to leverage quality content to remind customers of your brand.
Time Delays in Feedback
It’s also important to understand that customers that consume your content may not be immediately impressed by it. At times, there is a time delay in generating positive feelings and trust too. This study by Conductor shows that only after reading educational content from a brand, 64% of consumers trusted the brand and 66% of people had positive feelings about the brand immediately after.
However, a week later, the trust percentage rose to 73% and the positive feelings percentage rose to 74%. This shows that a time delay when providing educational content is much more effective.
Leverage Social Media and Impactful Stories
Social media is single-handedly one of the biggest sources of information. At the end of 2019, Facebook alone has over 2.45 billion users worldwide; that’s almost one-third of the world’s population.
On average, 80% of young people engage in social networking online and for 2 hours on average which means that they talk, discuss, and share content daily. In the eyes of the marketer, this leads to hundreds of insights into real customers. This can be extracted by simply examining the social media activity of your audience.
One way of connecting with your customers would be to comb through this activity and find impactful stories. This would give you insight into what your customers care about. This will then help you create content based on those insights.
Therefore, you create content that your audience cares about. Once you have a decent following, you can start to add your brand values to your content too.
This would also show you how people perceive your brand generally. If you understand how your brand is perceived, you can build upon it considering it’s positive. However, if it’s negative, you need to develop content that negates any previous notions nudging the sentiments the other way.
After all, the aim is to develop content that resonates with your audiences. If successful, you develop content based on variations of all the content that has done well in the past.
Keep in mind that trends, stories, and topics people care about are always changing or evolving. Keeping up to date with it all will ensure that you can always connect with your customers and use social media as one of your most effective marketing tools.
Develop Buyer Personas
Buyer or user personas are when you profile a certain kind of consumer. You take the most common traits, buying patterns, and demographics and combine them to profile certain segments of the audience.
Once you have your buyer personas in place, you don’t have to take every individual into account. While this may seem counterintuitive, it saves a lot of time and resources. The point is to focus on the touch-points of the masses and then build your content marketing strategy around them.
Anyone can create amazing content and understand how to promote it. People forget that before doing all of that, you need to make sure the right people see it. If you’re developing high-quality content on computer coding, you can’t target insurance experts, car enthusiasts, or doctors for that matter. You’d have to target computer scientists, engineers, or even SEO experts & web developers.
The only way you can provide value to your audience is through the relevancy of information. Once you can make sure you’re providing content to the relevant parties, you focus on making high-quality content and promotion.
Furthermore, buyer personas help marketers visualize their customers; putting a face to audiences helps create more emotional content. If you can visualize whom you’re targeting, you can create conversational content for them knowing how to impress them.
When you develop such content, you can develop a deeper connection with the consumers. Even though you’re technically generalizing them to some extent.
While every individual is different, there will always be clusters of people who believe in the same things. They may have the same interests and care about the same things. Your job is to notice the similarities and build your personas and content around them.
Consistency of Values and Brand Experience
The values of a brand are what the brand would want to align itself with like green energy and solar power. The brand experience is everything you provide to the customer while staying true to your values.
The brand experience includes the product/service itself, any content you put forth, and any value-added activities that take place. It also includes little things like providing hand-written ‘Thank you’ notes to customers who buy your product. Practically, everything you do for your customer comes under the umbrella of the brand experience.
Anyone can create an amazing brand experience and user journey; the tricky part is being consistent with it. If you start strong with high-quality content, you are bound to get a lot of followers. If you don’t stay consistent with the same level of quality, you will lose your followers. Usually, you lose followers faster than you gain new ones.
What’s the Solution?
Technically, quality should improve over time. When we talk about consistency, better quality is a no-brainer. The actual consistency should be in your delivery, schedule, and process. For example, the first restaurant that started using robots to serve customers created a brand experience where the services were provided by robots. That restaurant could have improved the quality of their food all they wanted but if they stopped using robots, they would’ve lost their customers.
That is because your brand experience often trumps quality in some cases. After all, that’s what makes you different. However, that doesn’t mean that you should compromise on quality to provide an amazing brand experience.
The goal is to find the perfect mix and then be consistent with it. In these cases, consumers often don’t like change if they’re happy with the way things are. This might seem like we’re going into circles but it’s important to also understand that consistency does not equal a lack of evolution. For example, this case study provides reasons for the downfall of Orkut (a social media platform like Facebook) and it can be summarized into one line; Orkut simply did not evolve according to the needs of the people.
The primary objective is still to provide value to the consumer and if being consistent is reducing the value you are providing to your consumers; you need an overhaul. But when you are up to date, the objective is back to being consistent.
Reward Customer Loyalty and Talk About It
Customer loyalty isn’t hard to achieve as 48% of consumers say that the first interaction is the ideal time to earn their loyalty so providing a good first experience is all you need to do to get loyal customers. However, retaining this loyalty can be hard. This is because loyalty is often achieved after customers have an affinity with your brand which means that they will choose your brand over competitors every single time.
The reason can be a unique product or service offering, exceptional service, consistency, or the fact that the consumer feels a connection with your brand. Whatever the reason is, you should prioritize rewarding these customers for their loyalty.
After all, they ignore every competitor just to come back to your brand, and that too without any marketing efforts. Loyal customers jump right to the end of the sales funnel and generate more word of mouth than everyone else.
Loyalty Goes Both Ways
Maintaining this loyalty, however, is a two-way street. If a consumer is loyal to you, they will expect something in return. Now you can either do that by providing better products and services every single time but at one point, you won’t be able to. Hence, at this point, you’ll have to provide some sort of reward back to the consumer.
The reward can be anything that provides value to the customer. The most common reward is a discount followed by special offers and mini gifts. The reward can be anything from financial to physical, tangible or intangible, big or small.
What’s more important than providing these rewards is that you need to talk about them. You need to market them in a way that it even seems to provide value to people who would otherwise ignore them. Using a content strategy, you can plan out these awards along with other marketing efforts to make the most out of your strategy.
Highest Quality Products and Services
Quality, consistency, and content marketing are not mutually exclusive. All of them play their part in building brand affinity. Doing anything alone won’t get you anywhere which is why it’s important to understand each factor’s importance.
High-quality products may win you some loyalty because it makes a great first impression but to retain that loyalty, you need to do more. Just like people post their negative experiences, you need to make sure they post their positive experiences too.
Use these reviews and feedback to develop your content around your strong points. Providing high-quality products and services always create positive word of mouth especially if you exceed your customer’s expectations. Therefore, if and when you do that, you need to capitalize on it immediately.
While all your other content efforts are just as necessary, you ultimately need to devote some content resources to your products. You need to show the people that your products and services are a priority for you and to do that, you need to generate content that complements those products and services.
Keep Your Customers in the Loop
An important part of brand affinity is that customers need to know what the company is up to and where it’s headed. Providing your customers with regular updates on the company’s status, vision, and projects is a great way to include them.
For example, companies usually send financial reports and company updates to their shareholders. Imagine if they did the same with all their customers. For the company, there’s just a little more time and effort involved but the effect it would have will be exponential.
If your customers feel that they’re an active part of the company, they’re only going to feel stronger towards your brand and company.
More and more companies have started to realize the importance of content marketing which is why you’ll see some companies have greater brand loyalty than others. These are the companies that have built their brand affinity using consistent content marketing efforts.
These are some examples of companies that successfully boosted their brand affinity with their audiences.
1. DocuSign: Individualized Content
DocuSign was started to make the lives of real estate agents easier by simplifying the process of closing deals and getting signatures. Initially, the brand started small but has now become a leading expert in digital transaction management.
Typically, any person that could sign a document was a potential customer for the company but they still followed a very targeted approach. Slowly and gradually, they used that targeted approach to create buyer personas, develop a brand experience, and stayed consistent with their values which helped them expand their offerings and become an enterprise.
Their success is attributed to the fact that they stayed true to their promise of creating lasting relationships with their customers.
In 2012 alone, DocuSign doubled its pipeline and shortened its sales cycle, and reached its goal of 127% growth within the first 6 months of the year.
They used and still use long-form content, white papers, case studies, customer video testimonials, and webinars among other things. They then focus on engagement through these mediums with a well-placed content strategy with only one goal in mind, to provide value to their customers.
2. Amex: Targeted Approach
American Express has been in operation for a long time launching the world’s first credit card (as it was named) in 1958. Soon other companies like the Diner’s Club, MasterCard, and Discover launched their cards, and competition increased.
Initially, Amex’s aimed to target everyone but when the competition surged, they decided to mainly focus on profitable customers. This helped them create more meaningful relationships with the people who already like Amex. This essentially created generational brand loyalty in the long term.
When the concept of credit rewards became famous, Amex started to target people who were good at accumulating points. They launched their Rewards Gold Card in 1994 with better rewards but a higher annual fee. Amex’s selective targeting helped them make certain groups of people loyal to the point where all the transactions were made through Amex channels.
Amex’s content marketing strategy revolves around understanding its community and its ability to adapt to its audience. The company has a mission that focuses on creating content for highlighted customers so they can keep making a deeper connection with them. This ultimately leads them to tell stories that those people want to read and feel.
This has helped Amex develop one of the most loyal customer bases in the industry. This is true to the point that according to a study conducted by Amex, 81% of Americans say that companies are either meeting or exceeding their expectations, including Amex.
3. Caltex: Reactive Content
Caltex recently approached content marketing from a new perspective when they hosted interactive quizzes and viral comics on Tumblr for their mobile-first audience. Their objective was to build brand awareness and create an affinity in the process and reinforce it with existing customers in the Singapore market.
The plan was to build awareness, boost visibility, and increase sales in the Singaporean auto industry through custom mobile ad units. The campaign also included custom tips for car owners regarding engine health, fuel efficiency, and vehicle servicing among other things.
Caltex went on to host entertaining content on a custom Tumblr site that was easily consumable while also aiming to educate the consumers on Caltex’s products and services (especially their Techron technology and loyalty program). Subsequently, Oath sites were used to post native ads that drove traffic to the site.
Ultimately, Caltex saw a 20% increase in brand awareness and a 10% increase in the brand perception of Caltex and its ‘great’ loyalty program. This meant that at the very least, there was a 10% increase in brand affinity.
Caltex won the 2018 Brandblazers for this campaign and was celebrated for the user-intent-based innovative approach to digital advertising.
4. Tesla: Cybertruck Launch
Elon Musk recently hosted the reveal for Tesla’s new pickup truck, the Cybertruck. It’s one of the most revolutionary vehicles in the modern auto industry and built to be faster, stronger, and more reliable than any other pickup truck in the industry.
The comparison made in the presentation used Ford’s F150, however, the claims of the Cybertruck go beyond that.
The features of the car, however, are not what’s to be praised. During the presentation, Musk claimed that the windows of the vehicle are bulletproof but when a ball bearing was thrown at it, the window cracked. Contrary to popular belief, bulletproof windows work exactly like that. Musk, however, took this opportunity to act like that wasn’t supposed to happen.
That alone gave the Cybertruck more publicity than it ever could’ve gotten with paid marketing efforts. Now content marketing can be utilized in many ways and this is one of the smartest ways you can go about it.
Using Unique Strategies for Marketing Success
First of all, Musk has built his company’s brand and his personal brand parallel to each other so you automatically associate one with the other. So if you love Tesla, you love Elon Musk and vice versa. Secondly, Musk utilized the live event launches like Apple does so the world can have something to talk about.
Thirdly, polarizing your brand is one of the smartest ways to make people love it. The design for the Cybertruck is so unique and polarizing that most people either hate it or love it. The common thing among them, however, is that both parties are talking about it.
Moreover, Musk has developed a sell first, build later philosophy where the launch presentation is made way before production starts. The Cybertruck doesn’t go into production until 2021 but Tesla has already received over 200,000 preorders. That’s around $10 billion and more than enough money to produce all those trucks and then some.
Lastly, Musk has a business model where he sells the premium product first at a lower volume. This allows him to have the money to make medium-volume models at lower prices and then ultimately, an affordable high-volume car.
Nowadays, every industry has so many competitors that it can be hard to differentiate yourself. Especially when massive conglomerates are backing their products with almost unlimited resources. To stand out in such a market, things like brand affinity are what set you apart.
For example, the smartphone market is dominated by Samsung and Apple because they are considered reliable due to their brand names. Even if there are other smartphones in the market at much lower prices with better specifications.
To penetrate such an oligarchic market, you’d either have to provide cutting-edge technology in your smartphones or work on your brand affinity. Brands like Huawei and OnePlus are following this route; providing both better technology at affordable prices and efforts to build brand affinity.
This is why these companies now have a loyal customer base. At this point, even if these companies release expensive phones, they will still be successful.
Why Is That?
Building brand affinity assures you have customers who love your brand and would choose it over others despite their claims.
As previously mentioned, this provides companies with organic word of mouth and the kind of reach that wouldn’t be possible through conventional means.
Moreover, brand affinity is a great driver of sales, probably more so than any other way. Inbound sales and other sales methodologies tend to work but they require a lot of time and effort. Building brand affinity essentially eliminates the need for any sales team if it’s done right.
You can not only make people make repeat purchases but also bring in new customers. Bringing in new customers isn’t hard when you use content marketing to build your brand affinity. This is because almost all content efforts aim to create value for customers and potential customers.
Generate enough of the right content and you will get a new lead. The only catch is to understand user intent and then create value around it.
The Bottom Line for Brand Affinity
The role of content marketing in brand affinity is more important than people make it out to be. It’s one of the cheapest ways of building brand affinity which, in turn, is one of the easiest ways to gain customer loyalty and drive sales.
Brand affinity is hard to build so it’s equally as important to maintain it. Some people believe and you should follow the Pareto rule and focus 80% of your efforts on maintaining your current brand affinity and 20% efforts on building it further.
Today and in the future, being a successful brand requires you to build binge-worthy high-quality content based on user intent with the primary aim of providing value to the consumer.
Companies and brands that understand that and devote the necessary time and resources to it are bound to build brand affinity and be successful.
Other companies would have to rely on traditional marketing efforts, market gaps, and innovations.
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