Show, don’t tell: SA brands getting content marketing right

Show, don’t tell – a writing technique as old as Ernest Hemmingway – is an apt mantra for a more recent phenomenon: content marketing.

The key to content marketing is building a culture around an industry or a mindset without constant reference to a brand. Story making not telling, it’s building the world in which your product must live. It’s creating a market where one previously did not exist by creating a demand for a way of life that you can offer.

Here are some of our favourite examples of South African brands that get content marketing right.

Woolworths Taste Magazine

Woolworths tapped into the “foodie” culture as it was taking off in South Africa, capitalising on a mindset that saw them soaring above national grocers. Packaging vast collections of on-trend recipes, mouthwatering photography and an aspirational lifestyle, Taste magazine (published by New Media Publishing) positions the brand as a high-end, innovative and sustainable offering for the consumer of the future. And it does so without double-crossing you with too many W’s!

Virgin Active

Exercise is a hard sell. Yes, it’s good for you and the positive benefits are endless, but somehow we still need a lot of convincing to take the first step. Virgin Active’s unique blog and monthly emailers work hard at getting us to want to too.

Their content on health, fitness, diet and exercise gets a number of things right: It speaks to individuals while having mass appeal, it’s realistic about most people’s feelings on exercise, and it sells good health/fitness/general wellbeing in such a fun and accessible way that you end up looking forward to going to the gym. But not just any gym…

In a quirky, conversational way, their content works to promote the Virgin Active brand as one that is about feeling good, looking great, having fun, making friends and living your best life. Who doesn’t want that?

Robertsons Spices

Robertsons Spices have been around since 1924 and in those 90 years they have certainly become a South African kitchen staple. But never has the brand had the X-factor appeal it is currently enjoying.

Since Robertson got involved with the popular MasterChef South Africa TV series as headline sponsor, the Spice People’s brand has been flavoured in all kinds of ways.

They’re no longer just selling spices. They’re selling delicious, home-cooked meals with friends and family, gourmet cuisine, aspiration, good times and self-improvement.

While deep down we know that sponsored reality TV like MasterChef is the infomercial of the 21st century, what self-respecting couch potato has not spent hours watching reruns on PVR?

Through strategic alignment with a like-minded brand, Robertsons leverage the aura of a household name to claim their own special space in our pantries.

Oranjezicht City Farm

The Oranjezicht City Farm in Cape Town is a wonderful example of a passionate, oh-so-wholesome brand.

They’re serious about what they do and possibly even more serious about educating people about the benefits and possibilities of inner-city healthy eating.

Their Facebook page is regularly updated with useful, interesting and inspiring content about urban farming, organic produce, holistic living, ethical food considerations and more. Sometimes they talk about their weekly Saturday market.

But first and foremost they share the stories of others around the world that also have their passion for local food, culture and community. Follow them and you will be inspired to feel the same.

Plascon Spaces

On the surface paint might not be the most exciting topic (like watching paint dry??) but Plascon has pushed their product to the point where it enjoys the same status as some of the country’s foremost lifestyle and design brands.

Plascon cleverly uses various online and social media platforms to tell stories about living spaces, transformational design and the power of colour. They also share the ideas and resources that make it easy for anybody to attain the qualities the brand promotes. And buying paint does that for you. Clever.

Plascon’s Spaces magazine not only upholds the aspirational delight of individual expression and beautiful living but it gives you the tools to do it too.

Through the power of story each of these brands capture the core of content marketing: not loud-hailing (telling) the explicit benefits of a product or service but seamlessly demonstrating (showing) to potential customers why yours is a brand they want in their lives. By showing insight and interest in their world the brand gains loyalty and credibility that a hard sell just can’t.