Psst! D’you wanna hear a secret? Don’t tell anyone, but …
Actually it’s not the world’s best-kept secret. It’s been around for a century or three. It’s got a new identity, though: content marketing.
It’s all about making you human, making your products understandable, making your customers and potential customers love you and take an informed interest in you. It’s about making you the first person they think of when they need a product like yours. Not your competitor, not the company with the largest ad budget: you. Because you’ve become real to them, whereas your competitors are hiding behind the shiny paper of the magazine they advertise in, or the Photoshopped model up on a billboard somewhere. You’re a person and your product is going to be better because it’s made by someone they “know” (even though they’ve probably never met you).
Hollywood’s been using the method for years: stars give interview after interview to promote films, revealing all sorts of things about their private lives so you get to “know” them, start calling them by their first names, associate yourself with them and their film – and rush off to the box office.
Ads used to do it too. The wallpaper in my bathroom is a collage of ads from around 1900-1920, and they’re full of text. (My favourite ad is for the ‘Invigorator Corset’; it’s so gloriously improbable. But I digress…) “Your grocer is our distributor and your friend,” says the ad for Shredded Wheat, personalising the impersonal. Your grocer is your friend, so he wants the best for you, so when he suggests you buy Shredded Wheat … Well, you’d probably at least give it a try, wouldn’t you?
Of course, the other part of the “best-kept secret” is that you can’t just do it occasionally. Hollywood stars don’t just promote themselves when they’ve got a film coming out. They get themselves snapped at premieres and parties – they have spreads in the gossip mags when they get married, have a baby or re-decorate – they tweet and pin interesting stuff on Pinterest. They keep themselves in the public eye. Or, more often, they get their publicist to do it for them. Someone who know how the system works and has time to do it because that’s what s/he does for a living.
Would you do it yourself or use a publicist (and, whichever you choose, what made you choose it)? Or do you think the whole thing’s unnecessary? Tell me below!