December 17, 2019

Even if you’re unsure what “content marketing” means, you’ve definitely seen it. Projects as diverse as Mailchimp’s podcast The Jump, the Hubspot marketing blog, and The Lego Movie fall under its umbrella. Even this blog post is an example! Not to mention Twofivesix’s own podcast and newsletter. Content marketing is all over the place, once you know how to look for it. But what is it?

Let’s start off with an overarching definition. Content marketing focuses on the development and distribution of valuable content to reach a target audience and aims to promote and sell products and services.

The key to effective content marketing is to solve issues for your prospective clients or customers by providing relevant and useful content. This approach is less direct than pitching your company’s offerings in an advertisement but can build stronger, more lasting relationships with potential business leads.

While we’re on the topic, it might be helpful to also define what content marketing is not. A traditional ad, like this spot for the Xbox One edition of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, is considered “paid media.” “Earned media” is a second type of media channel that a brand may utilize to reach consumers. It is comprised of user-generated content like consumers’ social media posts or press coverage. Companies must combine all three for coherent brand messaging. 

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In contrast, content marketing is “owned media” —  digital marketing channels that a company owns and operates, such as a company website, blog, or social media posts. 

At Twofivesix, we typically work with brands on developing strategy and content for their owned media, which means content channels that a company has complete control over. For example, for a game studio, an owned media channel could be their Discord community. Since the brand owns this media type, it involves no media buy, unlike advertising.

Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy 

In addition to “content marketing,” you might also have heard the term “content strategy,” which also merits some explanation since these terms are often mistaken for each other. While distinct, these practices are still related.

We agree with this succinct definition by Kristina Halvorson, founder of the content marketing agency Brain Traffic: Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

Ultimately, content strategy sets up effective frameworks and processes for content creation, including planning and guiding the execution of content marketing. If done well, content strategy should result in content that supports meaningful interactions with potential customers.

Here at Twofivesix, we offer both services. This is how we differentiate the two:

Content Strategy: Want to make the jump into the world of games and play? We devise the brand, audience, and content approach to power your communications.

Content Marketing: Not sure what to make when you get there? We create world-class editorial, video, and social campaigns in every medium imaginable.

As you can tell from this language, developing a content strategy should always come first, since it’s the foundation for content marketing. In our process, our strategists assess a client’s business goal(s), define the needs of their audiences, then create a framework that aligns the two.

If we are also hired to execute a client’s content strategy, the strategy team will then hand off the project to the creative team, who is responsible for producing the actual content. But the relationship between content strategy and content marketing doesn’t stop there.

As we like to say, any strategy is a hypothesis. Our strategy team works in tandem with the creative team to ensure that the pitching process fits our client’s goal. Strategists will then regularly audit and assess key performance metrics for content and provide guidance on how to adjust and tweak the strategy. This can take the form of regular data reporting, full content audits, and SEO performance assessments.

The Necessity of Content Strategy

Content strategy separates successful content marketing efforts from unsuccessful ones. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) reported findings supporting this assertion:

– 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 14% of the least successful.

– 73% say it keeps their teams focused on established content priorities.

– 68% say it helps their team allocate resources to optimize desired results.

Here’s another way to think of it: Making something worthwhile requires planning. Twofivesix works with a client to understand their objectives and needs. We unearth key data and insights on current trends through competitor audits, ethnographic surveys, key feedback from industry friends and leaders, and social listening and platform trends, which then culminate in strategic and creative concepts.

Determining a comprehensive strategy contains several layers, but here are the four main questions we keep in mind:

– Who are your people?

– What are their needs?

– Where can we find their audience?

– What should we say?

Once we’ve sufficiently answered those questions, the next stage is content development, or content marketing.

Our Approach to Content Marketing

We focus on video games and interactivity because games need an ambassador. For folks outside of the games space, merely understanding what happens there is in itself a service. While at the Wall Street Journal, our CEO Jamin Warren discovered game makers had a hard time describing what they do to “the outside world.” Games were a commercial medium, but they still needed advocates outside of the space. 

For folks inside the game space, there is a world of content marketing best practices that are being ignored. Despite its economic force, many video game ecosystem brands lean heavily on channel marketing, experiential, and PR to drive their stories. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is unbalanced. As games become always-on, community-driven experiences, it’s essential to grow long-term content programs in video, editorial, and social.

Recognizing the unbelievable variety of media available, we stay content-agnostic so we can deliver the right content format to the right audience. Here are some projects that we’re particularly proud of that might help you understand content marketing better: 

Intel, Gaming Hub

Intel is continuing to grow its gaming-specific content offerings on the Intel Gaming Hub to be a guiding partner for PC gamers in their customer journey. The Hub is a centralized knowledge center for how-tos and evergreen educational content that provides guidance for players’ hardware questions from selecting a CPU to how to become an esports professional. The Gaming Hub’s business goal was to increase traffic to the website.

To bring the content on the Intel.com site higher visibility, we focused on common pain-points and questions around gaming PCs while developing search engine-optimized content to grab more organic search volume.

New York Excelsior, Content and Strategy

The New York Excelsior (NYXL) is one of the Overwatch League’s leading teams. NYXL hired us to produce a content strategy and engaging editorial to be distributed through their own site and their social media channels.

We developed a plan that paid equal attention to esports analysis, updates on New York’s esports scene, and insights into the players’ personalities and inner lives on the NYXL website. As a result, NYXL garnered upwards of 200k unique pageviews across all content, as well as over 40k referrals from social channels over the course of a few months.

Google Play, First Person” Mini-Documentary Series

The goal was to build a strategy for a new social presence for Google Play. Mobile games are the biggest market on the planet by a long-shot, but the game makers behind some of the most popular titles are often unknown.

So, we co-developed a content series that engaged important creators in the mobile gaming world with the aim of helping Google Play claim authority in the space. First Person is a mini-documentary series that focuses on one subject—a developer, a voice actor, or an artist per episode. By creating original, authentic video content that told new stories, Google Play could continue to build its voice in the space of mobile play.

As you can see from these projects, content marketing involves identifying what a brand’s audience cares about then providing them with something valuable and unique. High-quality content can help you establish your company as a credible resource to customers, build trust, and strengthen your consumer relationships.

Our multi-disciplinary team tackles all types of content production, from videos to editorial. If you’re interested in more compelling insights into the intersection of gaming and marketing, subscribe to our newsletter and listen to our podcast