Five years after content marketing took off it has reached an early phase of maturity.
The innovators and early adopters moved from “try to make it work” to “maximize the impact on business results”. Whilst the content marketing train for brands, products and services is rushing by, many corporate communicators seem to struggle with finding a handle to hold on to. But there is a hook you might not know yet.
Google Trends: Content Marketing (blue) is on the rise while Corporate Communication decreases
Professionalising content marketing has been until now mainly focused on driving upselling and brand awareness. Neither is a primary objective for most corporate communication departments whose efforts are often focused on servicing journalists, protecting reputation or employer branding.
At the adidas Group, we decided to step up the game and utilise content marketing as an advocacy funnel for our corporate brand, putting “culture” at the heart of our strategy.
We do so because ultimately it’s the compatibility of ideas, attitudes and behaviours (=culture) which make or break the deal of people liking, supporting or even advocating each other.
Sport 24/7: tackling work life with an athlete’s heart
At the adidas Group, we believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives. This core belief unites all employees around the globe. Sport helps us to be confident, collaborative and creative in everything we do – everyday. This is why we created www.GamePlan-A.com, a platform which promotes tackling work life with an athlete’s heart. This hub takes the central role in our digital ecosystem for internal and external communications.
Our vision with GamePlan-A.com is to make work life better, more inspiring and fun – be it at the adidas Group or anywhere else. Therefore, we want to inspire, motivate and educate as many like-minded people as possible to join this movement.
This focus comes with a very practical advantage.
A joint culture reduces target group complexity
Looking at common ideas, values, attitudes and behaviours, which are compatible to our own, allows us to reduce target group complexity. Instead of trying to use content marketing to address employees, (potential) candidates and corporate brand advocates etc. separately, we decided to look at what unites all of them and us.
“We truly want to be a genuine part of our target audience.”
This approach of ‘cultural commonality’, makes us more targeted, creates efficiencies and enables us to increase our publishing frequency, content relevancy and content quality – which are all key success factors in content marketing.
Furthermore addressing our internal and external target groups, to a large extent, through the same channels allows us to interconnect both, fostering even more transparency, open-mindedness and trust.
Building a clubhouse
To allow for this close link and to achieve the goal of building a community around our shared culture, we needed a place for everyone to meet and connect. In our case we found that the GamePlan A target audience is scattered around the globe. It was both surprising and motivating to us that this tribe doesn’t have a “clubhouse” yet and it was up to us to build one.
We want GamePlan-A.com to unify our target audience by becoming the place for this community to meet and draw knowledge, motivation and inspiration from.
Digital goes print: using a hardcopy teaser magazine to generate awareness for the new platform
Be interesting and show genuine interest
As we wanted to take an incubator role for ‘our’ community, we started the conversation by activating our own colleagues, partners and athletes. They can now share their experiences of mixing their athletic lifestyles with their creative and entrepreneurial ambitions.
Ultimately, it’s about getting to know, understanding and inspiring each other. Strong relationships are built on showing genuine interest in the other person and sharing stuff about yourself, too. With content marketing in general, and GamePlan-A.com in particular, the same applies.
Beyond this, the adidas Group’s editorial team also curates content relavant to GamePlan A from other publishing platforms to GamePlan-A.com – be it adidas Group related or not.
But most importantly, GamePlan A is an invitation to any other member of the target audience to get active, engage and contribute to the platform’s content, too. We know we’ll benefit most, if we don’t focus too much on our own company messages and agenda.
It is about the community, not us.
Culture is not a game
However, we are not doing this only out of the goodness of our hearts. We truly want to be a genuine part of our target audience. If our intentions are sincere, we’ll be able to add genuine value to our community’s lives. It’s the only way to ultimately achieve corporate brand advocacy and to:
- build relationships with like-minded people who are genuinely interested in what we have to say.
- attract talent who fit with the culture of our company.
- fuel employee pride.
- nourish our own culture through intensifying the connection between our external and internal target groups.
Creating trust and advocacy through content that strikes a chord with people with an athlete’s heart certainly isn’t something to be achieved in the short-term or half-heartedly. But it will be worth the effort. Because for most people, culture is not a game. For most, it’s the Game. And that is why content marketing is such a valuable tool that goes far beyond upselling, creating pure brand awareness or thought leadership.