Stop Making Your Content All About Your Brand

Stefani Forster

Stefani Forster

Stefani is a multimedia content strategist with experience at some of Canada's top agencies and publications. She worked at Touché! Media and PHD Canada on various national brand campaigns before moving to the content side, serving as an editor and content manager at The Huffington Post Canada, Hello! Canada magazine and Corus Entertainment, writing articles, producing videos, and spearheading social growth.

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“I like this content. But can we tie it back to the brand somehow?”

– Literally every client, ever.

As a writer and content strategist, I dread hearing this from a client. Why? Because nobody cares about your brand.

People really only care about one thing: Themselves. Your job is to make your customers care about your brand by offering them content they already want.

Make no mistake, a recognizable and loved brand is one of the most valuable assets you can have. But heavily branded content appeals to a very small number of followers who are already loyal to you. Sure, it’s great to keep them engaged, but it won’t attract new customers. This is even truer if you’re new to the market.

If you focus solely on your brand, your product, yourself and your own needs, what you’re essentially saying is, “screw the customer.” Good content informs, listens and responds, tells a story, entertains and enhances your customers’ lives. Bad content, like bad wine, leaves a nasty aftertaste.

Here are a few more tips to distance yourself from brand narcissism and focus on what matters most: your customers.

Find out what your audience is sharing and engaging with

If you’re creating content without first knowing who your audience is, you risk wasting your resources and possibly even alienating the very people you’re trying to appeal to. Remember, great audience insights are less about the “what” and more about “why.” They include attitudes and behaviors, needs, wants and goals, life stages, other brands they follow, interests and motivations.

A successful content strategy always starts with these insights, so do your research to find out what kind of content your audience craves. Dive into analytics and research tools available to you, engage in social listening and see which topics, questions, and themes crop up the most.

Have you listened enough to understand your audience’s needs? What will connect with them? Generally speaking, people love content that’s funny, relevant, and shareable. If it’s useful, relatable or emotional, your audience will feel compelled to engage.

Again, “useful” and “relatable” mean different things to different kinds of people, so (I can’t stress this enough), KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

Focus on telling great stories

According to this AdWeek piece penned by Molly DeWolf Swenson, “If a story is moving, no one is going to care that it’s brought to you by a brand. Rather, they’re going to be happy the brand brought it to them.”

Storytelling needs to be at the forefront of your content. RedBull is an excellent example of a brand doing this right. Their customer-centric strategy means they consistently create content they know their audience will love, focusing on personal achievement, awe-inspiring feats, and athlete’s journeys. Instead of creating content from the standpoint of “What can I write about to best sell my product or service?”, create content around topics your audience wants to read about. Focus on telling incredible stories—ones that are educational, entertaining, moving, thought-provoking, visually stunning, etc. etc — and you’ll get their attention.

If your brand plug doesn’t enhance or add to the story, get rid of it

People use social media to be social. They read articles or watch videos because they want to be entertained and informed. What they don’t want is to be subjected to random call-to-actions, inauthentic plugs and other forms of “branded content” that, ironically, don’t build brand affinity whatsoever.

The company name drop, the shameless product plug—even “subtle” mentions of your brand actually make a bad impression when they’re only there for the sake of promotion and aren’t there to help educate the reader.

There’s a time and place for old-fashioned, call-to-action advertising, but content usually isn’t it. Don’t try to shove a sales pitch where it doesn’t belong. (Hint: It usually doesn’t.) In general, try to avoid all mentions of your brand that don’t enhance your reader’s understanding of the message you’re trying to convey. The same goes for shameless linking to your company’s product or service; it’s fine to link back to previous blog posts that build on the information, but it should be extremely relevant and help give the reader more context.

When it comes to creating great content, it’s important to shift from the “me” mentality to prioritizing what’s best for your customers. Ask yourself: Do I know my audience? Does my voice resonate with them? Do I have something to share that is interesting, unique, entertaining and informative? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” you’re well on your way. When in doubt, always go with what will give your readers the most value.

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