Three powerful (and under used) digital marketing techniques PART 3: NICHE CONTENT MARKETING

We’ve arrived at the final of our series! Don’t let my title mislead you. I know EVERYONE has been talking about content marketing for several years, but what I’m referring to today is a lot harder—and from early reports, a lot more effective. 

In the future of marketing, it may very well be all about the slice. Make that the sliver.

In the future of marketing, it may very well be all about the slice. Make that the sliver.


Mark Addicks, the CMO for General Mills (and someone I saw at the recent Ad Age Digital Conference) once had an awesome comment on content marketing:

“Too many brands are targeted to women, ages 18-49, with a pulse.”

I love that. And he’s right.

Our lives, driven by technology, are becoming more customized and focused every day. I recently wrote about how I sold some old accordions on Craigslist, and I couldn’t believe how many people answered the ad. There are accordion clubs… orchestras… schools and more. My big lesson from that? There’s a community for everything.

Consequently, we are living in a world dominated more and more by niches. I personally think that this explains, in part, why there’s so much division in our society. For example, whether you’re liberal, conservative, or independent, you can isolate yourself online to a quantum amount of highly targeted, narrow news and information. It’s difficult, under that kind of exposure, not to harden in your beliefs. But I digress, as usual.

All of this makes Mr. Addicks’ point all the more apropos. And that’s why a small but growing number of marketers are not just doing content marketing, but niche content marketing.

Niche content marketing is exactly what it sounds like: Content geared toward a very specific audience. In some cases, that audience may only be a few hundred or less.

So we’re not just talking about moms with families, but perhaps single Hispanic moms, living in cities, with children up to age 16. If that’s a segment that buys what you sell, then perhaps reaching out to them, in particular, makes sense.

Niche marketing, though, has a hefty cost of admission:

> You need to really know the audience, their pains and the category as a whole. Seriously, if you’re not an expert, find one to create the content for you. People will smell it if you’re a fake. Some brands are turning to their audiences to create content for exactly this reason.

> You must offer something of value to them, consistently. As famed art director Alex Bogusky once said, make things that are “beautiful, entertaining or useful.” I’d add one phrase: to this specific audience.

I can share a great example of niche content marketing with you, from my own very nichey life…

I’m a jazz drummer. I have been nearly all my life. I love the drums, and I adore music.

Last year, on Facebook, I discovered some posts by a company called Vic Firth. They make, primarily, drumsticks. From a marketing perspective, I would categorize them as a premium brand. They’re pricier, but an excellent stick that has been around a long time. I liked them on Facebook.

I soon discovered just how incredibly awesome and creative Vic Firth is at niche content marketing. I mean, it’s astonishing. This is a drumstick company, folks. Drumsticks.

Here’s just a small sampling of what they do, weekly, for this audience of drumset players:

  • A website with performance videos from leading drummers, artist spotlights and interviews, how-to videos and articles (we’re talking DOZENS).
  • An app that teaches drum rudiments by famous drummers with video, sound clips and visual learning modules. It’s incredibly well designed—and completely free.
  • An interactive video series called The History of the Drumset. To drummers like me, it was truly fascinating. It features high-production-quality video, an image gallery, a downloadable free poster, product history and lots of other stuff.

The Vic Firth marketing team creates/directs the vast majority of this original and fantastic niche content, from what I see. And they produce a ton of it.

“Fun with used sticks” is just one of many social media campaigns drumstick manufacturer Vic Firth does, to great effect.

“Fun with used sticks” is just one of many social media campaigns drumstick manufacturer Vic Firth does, to great effect.

You can tell it’s very niche, too, by the numbers this content reaches. As far as branding goes, the numbers are small, but very targeted:

  • Their YouTube channel has about 80,000 subscribers
  • Just over 600,000 likes on Facebook
  • Most posts have anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 views

Keep in mind, this is worldwide.

Does niche content marketing work? It’s a little early to tell from an industry standpoint. But I also think that this kind of marketing touches on some very basic, and powerful, marketing principles:

The Reciprocity Rule – This is from Bob Cialdini’s classic, Persuasion. I’ve written about this before. Cialdini says that when someone does you a favor, most cultures call on us to reciprocate in some way—to give something back in appreciation. He warns, however, that this concept of obligation often gets distorted, and people end up paying back far out of proportion to the original favor. Could heaps of niche content marketing spawn an audience that feels perpetually obligated to a brand?

They get me – OR – I’m part of somethingAs I wrote about a while back, social media has accelerated human being’s natural tendency to be in tribes. Niche content marketing only enhances this deep sense of community.

Creating loyalty – If you’re giving someone a steady diet of beautiful, entertaining or useful stuff, wouldn’t loyalty be a logical byproduct of that?

To me, when niche content marketing is done well, as Vic Firth does it, how could it miss? I’ve spent hours with this content. HOURS. And I’m a guy who works long days, has a family, and a lot of commitments. I somehow manage to squeeze them in.

Keep in mind, as a marketer, I’m aware when I’m being worked. I know what Vic Firth is doing. I’m aware of my reaction to it. Yet, when I was at the music store last week to pick up some drumsticks, I had a choice. There were five or six brands in the display. Which one do you think I went for?

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group.

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