The Case for Candid Content Marketing
To Be Relevant, You Have to Be Honest
At our recent Smart Social New York Summit, Chief Content Officer of Refinery29 Amy Emmerich made a bold, unsettling claim: “A lot of the content that we make is simply not vital to our audience,” Emmerich said. “It’s unfortunately tangential, it’s a little irrelevant, and it’s incidental, too.” In today’s bustling content landscape, your message has to cut through the noise, provide a service, and truly be relevant, or you quite simply will be ignored.
Throughout the day’s sessions, we heard discussion about how brands can achieve this relevancy. Increasingly, authentic connection is achieved through well-established trust. And one of the easiest ways to establish trust with someone? Be frank with them. We heard a trend surfacing—one that was also echoed at this year’s SXSW festival as well—about truly candid content marketing. Take your brand and ask: What can we share that’s transparent? How can we connect with our audience in a way that will actually resonate with their needs? “Straight talk” hasn’t traditionally been the M.O. of brands in advertising—but social media has changed all that. We’ve collected four examples of transparent, candid content marketing in hopes that your brand can draw inspiration from their bold moves.
One of the easiest ways to establish trust with someone is to be frank with them. — @jaimenetzer
EVERLANE: Share something real about your brand
A candid approach to clothing production and sales has made Everlane a huge hit. Transparency differentiates the high-quality basics clothing brand from their competitors and helps them build lasting customer loyalty. One salient example: each week on social, Everlane hosts a Q&A about transparency in pricing that covers topics from their factories to current job openings. With these Q&As, Everlane not only offers their audience an inside peek at the brand’s workings (who doesn’t love to feel like an insider?), they also offer information that helps bring one of their key missions (transparency) to life. By upholding the old “show-don’t-tell” adage, Everlane is an active participant in their brand-story creation.
Pro Tip: Be candid about aspects of your brand that you’re truly willing to share. Everlane has baked price transparency into the very foundation of their brand, so their social activations about the topic work well. Your brand might prefer to share other behind-the-scenes brand details about things like product development or content creation.
THE HONEST COMPANY: Partner with your audience
The Honest Company, the eco-friendly CPG company founded by actress Jessica Alba, embodies their moniker in a few key ways, but one that we are particularly drawn to is their audience inclusion. Their social feeds rely heavily on carefully curated user-generated content, to great brand benefit:
The Honest Co.’s inclusion of UGC helps them remain, well, honest. By featuring an adorably chubby baby who just so happens to be wearing one of the brand’s stylishly printed diapers, The Honest Co. is able to naturally highlight their diapers’ earth-friendly absorbent core while also fostering audience loyalty by amplifying a member’s photo.
Pro tip: Utilize UGC to your benefit (and brand enhancement) by amplifying the messages of true fans and framing the re-post as a partnership.
SEVENTH GENERATION: Find an influencer who is a natural fit
When Maya Rudolph sings an improvised vajingle (yes, you read that right: vajingle) about the glory of Seventh Generation’s chlorine-free, chemical-free, perfume-free tampons, and pads, she sounds like she truly means it, and because of that, she sounds trustworthy. Rudolph’s history as an improv comedian, a Saturday Night Live cast member, and her performance in irreverent comedies like Bridesmaids makes her passionate song about an intimate topic feel candid and honest. We can’t imagine just anyone could pull off a vajingle with the finesse and hilarity Rudolph displays, and that’s why Seventh Generation’s partnership with her for this campaign is such a natural fit.
Pro tip: If your brand is looking to partner with an influencer on a sensitive subject or a subject on which they’ll need to appear candid, make sure their persona is a fit with both your brand and—importantly—the specific message of the campaign.
PLUM ORGANICS: Position yourself on the same team as your audience
Parenting is nothing if not humbling, and Plum Organics’ embrace of genuinely candid parenting moments is, in our opinion, a port in the storm. With their #ParentingUnfiltered campaign, the organic baby food brand makes a strong case for openness with parental struggles, like this lovely video of the Dad Who Isn’t the Favorite (Right Now):
With this video and others like it, Plum Organics positions the brand on the same team as harried, tired-yet-loving parents who are just trying their best each day. Their food, they say, is meant to make the exhilarating and exhausting journey that is parenthood just a little bit easier—it’s meant to lighten the load a little so that parents can focus on what really matters: their kids. Being candid about parenthood offers Plum Organics a natural in with parents: here, they say, we can help, while also celebrating the messy, unfiltered and beautiful journey you’re on.
Pro tip: If you can authentically put yourself on the same team as your audience while also offering them something (ahem, your product or service) that can lighten their load or smooth their journey, you’re golden.
Emmerich also said, "We cannot create content that is incidental to [consumers'] experiences, we must be additive to it. So that's the challenge, as content creators, as marketers: how do you show the world what you really care about?" It's a tough question and one worth mulling over with your team, but we think being frank and candid is a great start on the way to an answer. As you set about planning your social campaigns, refer to our social campaign planning checklist to help guide your team through, step-by-step, toward making relevant content that wins your audience's trust.