MPUME NGOBESE

CO-MANAGING DIRECTOR, JOE PUBLIC JOHANNESBURG

"CONTEXT SETS BRAND STORIES APART."

- MPUME NGOBESE, CO-MANAGING DIRECTOR, JOE PUBLIC JOHANNESBURG

With digital media usage higher than ever, more than 38 million people in South Africa are active on the internet, and 27-million consume social media content by liking, sharing, posting and commenting on everything from politics and the pandemic, to funnies and pictures of ‘fur babies’. Consumers have so many platforms and content at their fingertips that marketers need to stand out to be heard. Not merely to create a buzz around a brand, or by bombarding consumers with messaging, but by telling stories that solve real problems and activate growth – and with meaning that delivers the ROI that the client deserves. Growth has a ripple effect: it affects the growth of clients, which ultimately contributes towards the growth of the country.

What’s the message?
A current trend in marketing is fast dethroning content marketing, driven by the glut of messaging that does not relate to audiences: context marketing. It aims to deliver the right message, to the right audience, at the right moment. Some stories are so content-heavy or filled with marketing gumf that they leave the audience feeling overloaded and wondering, “so what”?

The truth is, context, not content, sets a brand storynapart because it tells the audience what the information means, why they should care and what purpose or goal it serves. Whether it is to educate, answer a question, elicit a laugh or tell a familiar story in a novel way, context, not content, drives engagement. Well told and rooted in context, even the most mundane stories will grab an audience’s attention:

Take for example the runaway success of 23-year-old Grace Wells, who turned her hobby of creating fake adverts into a career, producing ads for big-name brands in the US. Wells, who started out on TikTok in April last year during quarantine to hone her videographic skills and possibly find an appreciative audience, launched a series of fake adverts called ‘Making Epic Commercials For Random Objects’ which made even the most ordinary products – dirt, loo paper and a single maize kernel – seem appealing.

The TikTok sensation’s 15-second series, which could be mistaken for real adverts, has become a massive hit on TikTok, with 1,3 million followers and 55 million views. Soon, brands approached her to create real ads. How did these ‘ads’ become so popular?

Context: Wells’ behind-the-scenes narrative accompanies each piece of work. She told AdWeek,“If I were just to post these commercials without any context, I don’t think any of them would perform as well.

“The key ingredient to all of this is showing my process. Having that kind of narrative and glimpse into your life and who you are as a person, opposed to just what you’re making, is really important.”

How does a storyteller take content and imbue a deeper meaning? And how does a story stimulate growth?

Telling a familiar brand story
South Africa’s secrets and lies have been exposed for the world to see – the fallout of the Arms Deal, embarrassing confessions at the State Capture Commission and those wasted Zupta years. But there’s one secret that South Africans don’t like to talk about and that is their dismal poor savings culture.

If I had to take a leaf out of our own agency’s work, we explored the country’s poor savings culture, turning the taboo around money savings issue into one of the most talked about in the country. So, we created a South African first: a campaign for Nedbank disguised as a movie trailer, an unbranded movie about ordinary people and their money secrets. ‘More taboo than sex’, the film encouraged South Africa to talk about money and was a wake-up call for a country plagued by poor cash flow management, some of the highest debt levels in the world, inadequate retirement planning, and corrupt investment schemes.

The ‘Secrets’ campaign trended organically, with an accumulative 79 million views. It trended on social media within an hour of its launch, attracted 89 million campaign impressions, and a top ranking for Nedbank in the 2019 Brands Eye Banking Sentiment Index.

Traditional, interruptive advertising strategies that allow brands to push their products or services to a large and undefined audience, no longer cuts it. Consumers are inundated with messages without any meaning. To stand out in a crowded content space, marketers need to set themselves apart by telling stories that stand apart.

To add value in a space dominated by so much clutter, provide context for content to make it worth a view, a like or a comment. Because the golden rule of writing remains, to show and not to tell.

It’s said, “content is king”, but without context, content simply adds to the ‘noise’.

JOE PUBLIC UNITED

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