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Why Content Should be a S-E-R-V-I-C-E

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Though content marketing is hardly a new idea (Michelin introduced its now-famous guide to help early motorists find their way back in 1900!), the ascent of social media has propelled content to the top of most marketers’ to-do lists. A recent gathering of practitioners in Chicago at the Incite Content Marketing Summit, however, revealed that mastery of content marketing is more challenging than expected and works better when it is a S-E-R-V-I-C-E, as spelled out below.

S is for Short and Shareable
Keeping your content short is especially important if you’re targeting millennials and their successors, Gen Z. This isn’t just because they have five devices open at a time, but as Patti Girardi, vice president of marketing at Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, reports, “This generation communicates in snack-size portions (when it does take the time to read).”  Girardi also advises, “If Gen Z isn’t sharing your brand, you don’t exist.”

E is for Education  
Charlie Breit, vice president of marketing at SurePayroll, notes a significant shift in their approach to content as a “way that we can help all of our customers learn about taxes, payroll and running a business.”  Importantly, Breit adds, “We no longer chase keywords and search traffic, but instead look to use content to improve the value that we deliver our customers and increase the usefulness/utility that we provide.”

R is for Relevance
It shouldn’t be surprising that your content must be relevant to the target consumer. What you may not have considered, however, is that the type of content you create and the channels on which you deploy it also need to be relevant. Explains Amy Weisenbach, vice president of marketing at Wilson Sporting Goods, “Young people are consuming an extraordinary amount of digital content each day, and if we want to be relevant and top of mind with them, we have to be in the mix of what they’re consuming.”

V is for Vivacity
While intuitively we understand the appeal of happy endings and positivity, it turns out that women are 70% more likely to respond to good news online than to negative news. One publisher that capitalizes on this fact with exclusively uplifting content is, and as a result, they attract nearly 50 million unique visitors per month. “I like to think of each piece of our content as individually wrapped presents,” Chief Operating Officer Gretchen Tibbits quips.

I is for Integrate
Kim Atkinson, director of content for InterContinental Hotels Group, has built up a sizeable in-house team to develop highly engaging content for brands as diverse as Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo and InterContinental. Atkinson attributes her team’s success to its ability to identify unique ideas via social listening and then execute across multiple channels, as the team did with the Pancake Selfie Express ― a process enabled by the integration of both the digital team (media and e-commerce) and the content team.

C is for Connect
Hu-Friedy is not exactly a household name, unless your household happens to include a dentist or hygienist.  Patrick Bernardi, chief marketing officer at Hu-Friedy, has made it his business to connect with these professionals via content.  For dentists, Hu-Friedy created a “university” to help prepare them for complicated procedures they used to send elsewhere.  For hygienists, they conducted a study and produced an uplifting e-book called How to be a Happy Hygienist.

E is for Employee
Not all content need be focused on external targets in order attract broad engagement.  Steven Handmaker, CMO of Assurance, a fast growing Chicago-based insurance agency, believes employees are his most powerful weapons in the content wars. Under Assurance’s “Happy Employees = Happy Customers” campaign umbrella, not only are employees a key source for content but also they are very good at spreading the word and thereby extending the reach.

For my complete interviews with Charlie Breit, Patti Girardi, Amy Weisenbach, Gretchen Tibbits, Patrick Bernardi and Steven Handmaker, be sure to visit

Drew Neisser is the CEO of Renegade and the author of the soon-to-be-released book The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, which features interviews with 64 marketing luminaries. Social Customer Service is one “element” covered in the book, as is the critical importance of building a customer-centric culture.