Content marketing has become an increasingly significant component in the digital marketing mix. In a highly digitised world, marketers are confronted with the task of marketing to a Millennial demographic with unprecedented appetite for content consumption in a fragmented media environment.

While a handful of brands have seen success in establishing an audience that advocates on its behalf, most brands still struggle with lacklustre engagement, stagnating follower growth, and limited organic reach on social media channels.

The truth that many brands don’t realise is that content marketing is more about the content than the marketing. It’s about providing content that resonates with consumer interest. Content that is convoluted with product messages or laden with sale pitches rarely translates into a dedicated, engaged following.

The key to building an audience lies in the value exchange. People don’t mind consuming product content if it’s relevant, informative, insightful, or entertaining. This is where we can learn a thing or two from the veterans of publishing that have long mastered the delicate act of balancing readers’ and advertisers’ interest: magazines.

Magazine content is peppered with brand advertising, product reviews, and specifications. Contrary to readers being turned off by advertising content, the Advertising ROI Report by GfK* in 2014 found that women readers agreed that advertisements in magazines are trustworthy (58%) and a valuable source of information (61%).

In fact, the same study found magazine readers to be highly engaged with their title of choice with an average magazine reading time of 49 minutes; 50% read more than half the copy and 20% read the entire magazine.

The IPSOS Magazine Study 2012** revealed that each magazine issue is read an average of three times! That’s impressive considering the abundance of easily accessible content out there.

Here are three things that brands can learn from magazines:

  1. Define your target audience.

    Magazines have a defined target audience and keen understanding of the demographics and psychographics of their readers. Both editorial and advertising content are curated to align with readers’ preferences, ensuring high relevancy to their target audience.

    Brands are seldom so defined in their approach, typically adopting a catch-all approach with a broad target audience. The misconception of casting the net wide stems from the hope of appealing to audiences of all ages, but, in reality, results in generic content that lacks the requisite relevance or depth to appeal to any particular demographic.

  2. Find your voice.

    Magazines are viewed as the trend setters and taste makers within their industry. They review gadgets, critique celebrity fashion, dole out beauty tips, and earmark the next big thing. They are the voice of authority on what’s hot or what’s not. They don’t get there by mirroring someone else. They get there by having a distinct personality and opinion.

    Brands need to find their voices and offer a point of view in order to differentiate themselves amidst the cacophony. More often than not, brands recycle content from the Internet offering little or no perspective. There’s no reason for a reader to follow your brand to get content that is freely available elsewhere.

    There’s still a place for content curation but marketers should layer curated content with a unique point of view on why that piece of content matters to followers.

  3. Know your niche.

    For brands to produce content of value, a niche needs to be identified. Between your brand proposition and target audience needs, there will be a niche where your brand can credibly add value to consumers. Identify it and build your content strategy around it.

    With the plethora of available digital content, people are more discerning about the content they consume. In this digital age of rapid change, brands will continue to compete for consumers’ mindshare while navigating the volatile landscape of content channels and distribution.

    However, some truths still hold true: Content is king. More than half the battle is won if a brand has quality content production down pat. Experienced content creators are better poised to move fluidly across distribution platforms, be it print, Web, or mobile.

* Based on more than 3,500 women readers in Singapore across 10 magazine titles and 874 ads.

** Based on 800 female PMEBs aged 20-49 years old in Singapore who have read magazine(s) in the P3M.