The rate of change has never been greater — or faster — for the footwear industry, with new challenges popping up every day in nearly all corners of the business, from navigating cash crunches and supply chain issues to understanding the latest technological advances. In its “Ask An Expert” series, FN asks industry leaders — all solutions-based providers — to take on some of the most timely topics.
Consumers have more brand choices than ever and their shopping behavior is changing, presenting an opportunity for companies to capture a new audience. But one of the biggest changes that brands and retailers must reckon with is their growing interest in brand identity and authenticity. For businesses to succeed in attracting new customers, they must accurately communicate their identity with shoppers. One way to do this is through content creation.
Joe Yakuel, founder & CEO of performance branding agency Within, spoke with FN about what makes for truly compelling brand content and how companies can produce their own right now.
FN: Why should creating new brand content be a priority right now, with so many other challenges to manage?
Joe Yakuel: It’s really important to create content that builds emotional connections with consumers (branding) and drives consumers down the path to conversion (performance). On Google, if you create a good ad that works really well, you don’t have a lot of pressure to reinvent it. Really great search ad copy will work just as well in a month from now as it does today.
The opposite is true on the major push platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok. Content goes stale every day it continues to air, from the minute it goes live. For the most part, the people who make up your audience are not changing in and out, meaning you’re reaching the same people over and over again. New content brings in new engagement and, since the audience remains similar, brands need to consistently reinvent the wheel. If the content is the same and oversaturating their feeds, the audience will get bored.
FN: Creating immersive, engaging video content is not always a natural process for brands who are used to static campaigns. What is critical to keep in mind?
JY: Today, most ad content is true video, not just hacky slideshows of static images. Why? Because consumer attention span has decreased to a point where the average time spent on an ad is only 1.7 seconds. It’s not enough to just make videos; you have to make videos that are fast-moving and compelling. According to Fors Marsh group tests, it takes only 0.25 seconds of exposure for people to recall mobile feed content at a statistically significant rate. You should be capturing the attention of the audience literally in the first second, or you will lose a huge portion of viewers.
Also, recognize that authenticity on social media platforms is incredibly important. Let’s say you removed your brand name or logo from the content you created: It should not make sense if you were to put your competitor’s logo on it instead. If your content is not unique to your brand, it’s not authentic.
FN: What do you find are the biggest challenges in creating strong brand content?
JY: Brands are typically thinking about content in two ways: branding or performance. This is a big problem because they have to be considered together. Branded content can be too high in the sky, with little to no value proposition or no tie back to the product. The problem with performance content is the opposite: focusing too much on what the sale or promotion is, without focusing on why they should care about your brand
If all of a brand’s content is traditional and safe, it will never be engaging. This can be where another challenge comes into play. A brand must step out of the box and talk to their audience in a real and authentic way, all while making sure it’s fresh and “with the times.” For many brands, this raw authenticity is uncomfortable, especially on social media platforms where people are commenting and publicly stating their own opinions. That said, authentic content doesn’t mean that you have to be insensitive. It just means that you’re not sticking to the same wheelhouse rhetoric you’ve used for the last 10 years.
FN: What are some creative ways that companies can navigate around current restrictions, whether logistical or financial, and still produce exciting brand material?
JY: A lot of brands don’t realize that their own customers are really great content creators. These homegrown brand ambassadors can be activated in an effective and cheap way to get user-generated content at scale. Use your organic channels, like social media and email, to reach out and announce a contest for content, where the winner gets free products or maybe has their content featured on the brand’s homepage. Practice this same methodology for influencers and build relationships with them, proactively reaching out to offer your product.
Consider too that sometimes this content already exists. Search through your brand’s hashtag or tagged photos. You may be able to buy or license content that’s already there as a quick and cost-effective method of getting authentic content for ads, social media, email marketing and any other channels.
FN: What metrics should companies be looking at to gauge the success of these brand productions?
JY: Performance branding isn’t a success unless it drives revenue. We can reach and serve impressions to people, but if the content doesn’t acquire customers — or drive long-term profit — what’s the point? We look at how the content performed in relation to the previous content that was running. If a client was using static imagery but is now working with user-generated content, is it performing better? Essentially, we want to use and meet classic performance criteria, while also living within the constraint of elevating the brand.