Nobody wants to be sold to. That’s a universal truth that never ceases to make our lives – those of us in the business of selling – ever more difficult. It’s also a major reason why our strategies are increasingly putting content at their core.
The old adage ‘copy sells, content tells’ might be grossly inaccurate, but it does highlight the main thrust of what good content needs to do: tell a story – and promote a conversation, not necessarily a brand. And unbranded content makes sense for doing just that.
Content is not king.
Here’s another phrase we’d challenge: content is king. Because it’s not. It’s more an elected adjunct to the head of state, if we were to take another wildly misleading metaphor. What is king, is the conversation. The dialogue between a brand and a customer that needs to go beyond ‘buy our product’, into the realms of ‘how can we make your life better?’ And what unbranded content does best is shifting that dialogue away from products, towards problems.
Unbranded content has been treated with something approaching caution in the past. Is it transparent? Truthful? Ethical? Cutting to the end of a long debate, we’d say yes. If you, as a brand, are honestly using a content piece or platform to tackle an important customer issue, or in even the smallest way make customers’ lives better, you’re doing the right thing. You don’t need a logo to do that, just a pin-sharp focus on the story – a problem or pain point – and an openness to dealing with it. By not selling and, instead, creating a different angle to the wider conversation, your unbranded content can spark that invaluable social commodity: curiosity.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Of course, the best way to evoke curiosity is through intrigue and mystery. And unbranded content is ALL about intrigue and mystery. It could be an off-the-wall film celebrating a certain oddity of human nature. It could be an open forum airing the long-unsaid gripes about your industry. In any case, your unbranded content should tell a story that resonates emotionally and sparks curiosity.
The natural extension of that curiosity is: who’s behind this? Unbranded means unbranded. Don’t mention your products. Deemphasise your logo. If you really must mention your name, do it once. This technique is common in the US, in healthcare and pharmaceutical spheres, like Pfizer’s Quitter’s Circle, or Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.
Ultimately, reaching once again into our terrible bag of tortured metaphors, unbranded content should be a lockpick, not a battering ram. It should tease the audience, and make them wonder about you, the brand behind the curtain – sparking the curiosity to continue the conversation.
Keep the conversation going.
A solid content strategy isn’t about single hits. It’s about building a content base that keeps conversation flowing; that engages your audience without selling to them. So, keep your unbranded content fresh – don’t be afraid to take risks to make the story worthy of conversation. Make sure it’s always adding something to your customers’ lives. As we’ve said before, emotion needs to play a big role – even the stuffiest sector needs to feel something occasionally.
Above all, keep it interesting: explore niches that could open your audience’s eyes, and build momentum to ensure your unbranded content becomes their go-to community for insightful, provocative, fresh thinking. Nobody wants to be sold to – so stop selling and start talking. And no, the logo doesn’t need to be bigger.