I think we’re in need of a quick dose of apple pie here.
My colleague in London, Aspectus Group Director Alastair Turner, went all sticky wicket on us recently with his treatise on cricket and brand engagement. While the parallels between the power of brand and Alastair’s youthful obsession with owning the same bat as his heroes came through loud and clear, I fear all the talk of Ashes and Lords and googlies may have muddled the message for those of us here in the States. Let me see what I can do about that.
While I’d love to draw similar parallels to the sport I love most – the all-American game of baseball – a more appropriate State-side parallel can be found in basketball. In the late 80s and through the 90s, everything was Michael Jordan. He was the greatest athlete I’d ever seen up to that point in my young life. And yes, I was naively convinced that if I managed to get those precious Nike Air Jordans on my feet, I too could soar from the free throw line and dunk over everyone. Or at least make a few more jump shots.
I’m a natural skeptic. I like to think I don’t typically buy into brands. But good content – something that really pulls me in – will keep my attention and earn my respect. And leave me wanting more. Nike did this well in the early 90s.
When I was a kid, it was a series of exceptional commercials featuring a young, aspiring filmmaker named Spike Lee shouting, “it’s gotta be the shoes!” over and over again in response to clips of Jordan’s airborne acrobatics. But I didn’t know it was Spike Lee. To me, and most everyone else, that was a character named Mars Blackmon. He was funny. He was brash. He was loud. And he was friends with Michael Jordan. A friend who just happened to be selling shoes.
I bought those shoes. Everyone I knew bought those shoes. And it was the combination of Michael Jordan on the court, Mars Blackmon in front of the camera and Nike’s ad men in the board room that spurred me (or rather, my reluctant parents) on to the purchase point. Bottom line: It was all about the content. Or, as Mars Blackmon would say, “it’s gotta be the content!”
Now, is it fair to compare the 90s heyday of NBA basketball to the world of financial services and technology that Aspectus excels at? Maybe not. But in many ways, the same principles hold true. I bought plenty of other sneakers when I was a kid, ones that were hocked by much lesser players than Jordan. Why? Because they were sold to me in clever, unique and engaging ways.
Is selling risk valuation technologies and reference data products the same as selling sneakers? No, of course not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t borrow from that world. In today’s world, smart, engaging content doesn’t need to be limited to the consumer realm. Fact of the matter is, today’s enterprise software buyer prefers to consume content in a very similar way to yesterday’s sneaker buyer.
The content you put into the market needs to provide value. It needs to educate, but it also needs to entertain and engage. It needs to add value. It’s a noisy world we operate in, and breaking through that noise is no easy task.
How do you break through that noise and demonstrate your firm’s expertise around, for example, a particular regulatory initiative? How do you get 7,000 views (and more than two dozen qualified leads) over a two-week period from content focused on a relatively dry regulation? You call us.
And that content better be Google smart. It better be infused with all the right words and optimized for search so that it can be found by the right people – your target audience – at the right time. Today’s progressive communications agencies produce quality content constructed in a way that ensures your potential buyers see it. This is what we understand at Aspectus. This is what we do.
The MTV generation – those with short attention spans – are now your buyers. So you better grab them fast, lest they move on to the next link in the search results. Just as retail consumers spend an ample amount of time online researching cars and homes and, heck, even shoes before ever reaching out to a human being, so too do buyers of enterprise software solutions. So you best be sure you’re hitting them with information that speaks directly to their needs.
And don’t be afraid to have fun. The Internet has given us access to everything, so have fun with your content. The tech industry knows this, and does it well. Finance? Not so much. Let personality seep into your marketing efforts, even in the staid world of finance. Yes, these are very serious subjects, but if you want to get attention are you going to put out another technical white paper? Or do you take the same content and turn it into an infographic?
You’re answer better be the latter because that 14-page white paper you just spent six months on? Nobody’s going to read it. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s all about breaking through the noise. And coming up big on search. Get them at the Google box, then nurture them to the point that they pick up the phone or click the “request more info” button on your website. That’s the bottom line. We all want leads, don’t we?
We do that very well here at Aspectus. And we still wear Air Jordans, at least in the New York office.