What Can Disney Teach Manufacturers About Marketing?

Walt Disney opened his popular Sunday night television show in 1955 by telling viewers young and old about his vision of an enchanting new amusement park. He showed pictures of the construction site and sketches of such wonders as the Magic Kingdom and the Jungle Cruise. 

"This is a great early example of content marketing. It made me want to go to Disneyland," said Steve Miller in a recent webinar. Miller is a marketing consultant and has worked with a number of manufacturing businesses, including Caterpillar, Kodak, and Boeing.

He said that Disney wasn't selling tickets to viewers; the entertainment legend was informing them about his new attraction. And that's essentially the heart of content marketing, Miller said: offering information as a way to build a brand.

"Content marketing isn't new," he said. "It's the new buzzphrase that marketers have put together. It's not new, it's just that there are a bunch of new tools you can use."

The tools include blogs and other forms of online publishing, as well as social media. But at marketers' disposal are also such platforms as journal and op-ed articles, news releases, white papers, and videos.

"This is not advertising. This is publishing content, and content is not product," Miller said. "This is one of the most powerful tools that any business should be using today."

Advertisements, email blasts, television commercials, and infomercials are "interruption marketing" that is easily dismissed. "That's why we have spam filters and put our names on do-not-call lists," Miller said. "Content marketing is a welcome guest. It's information we want to get."

Miller contends that content marketing is particularly effective in a B2B context. A company can build trust, credibility, and a brand by providing useful information to potential customers or clients, he said.

Miller advises content marketers to create avatars of their target prospects. For example, if the target is machine shops, learn about the problems or challenge these businesses face in acquiring precision parts or components, he said. Research and offer solutions as content, in a DVD presentation that can be mailed to company decision-makers, he suggested. An envelope containing a DVD is vastly more effective than sending an email with a link to an online video, he said.

Miller said he's a proponent of the "10 x 10 x 10" strategy of content marketing:

  • Write down the 10 most frequently asked questions from your customers (include the questions that are unrelated to goods or services your business provides).
  • Create 10 pieces of media (videos, white papers, podcasts, etc.) that respond to those questions.
  • Share this information in 10 different ways, such as speaking engagements, webinars, and e-books.

The strategy can be an inexpensive marketing tool, Miller added. A simple act like forwarding an interesting article to a potential client is sharing content that costs the marketer nothing, he said.

"There's no trickery. It's not disguised as an infomercial," he said.

A common goal of content marketing is to establish "thought leadership," according to a white paper published by ThomasNet. "People want to be affiliated with thought leaders. They want to have business relationships with them."

Miller notes that this type of leadership is being developed by entrepreneurs who appear as guest speakers at trade shows, conventions, and such venues as the increasingly popular TED talks.

The goal is to "capture and convert," Miller said. Capture the trust of the audience and convert your credibility into a list of client names, email addresses, and other pertinent information, he said. "That is content marketing in a nutshell."

Miller confessed that his own webinar is content marketing for his marketing and innovation consulting company, The Adventure.


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