There is a tendency to see content marketing, including personalized content marketing, as a tool to lure in customers and gain profit. The end goal of all content marketing, in fact any kind of marketing is behavioral change.
Successful marketing, I believe, should create intrinsic motivation that leads to behavior and action and so does Jose Miguel Sokoloff who stated “I think about change, about how to change a behavior, how to change a perception. That’s the business we’re in. We’re in the business of changing minds.”
If marketing is the business of changing minds, than why should we only use marketing to sell products and gain profit? Why can’t we use marketing to spread ideas, to stop violence and war, and to create peace?
This is exactly what Jose Miguel Sokoloff had to do as an advertising executive with the mission of demobilizing as many FARC guerrilla rebel soldiers given from his client, the government of Colombia. Sokoloff used the power of content marketing to change the behavior of 17,000 guerrilla soldiers in 8 years.
Personalized Content Marketing
Sokoloff implemented personalized content marketing in various projects but I will only dive into two in this blog: Operation Christmas and Mothers’ Voices
The trees had signs that lit up when the soldiers walked by and said “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize. It’s Christmas. Everything is possible.” This alone demobilized 331 soldiers that Christmas.
For Mothers’ Voices(2012), the team found 37 willing mothers of active guerrilla soldiers to give up pictures of those soldiers when they were children. With these pictures, Sokoloff printed thousands posters with the message “Before you were a guerrilla, you were my child. Come back this Christmas. I’m waiting for you.” These posters were hung in towns that were passed through by the FARC and in trees throughout the jungle.
Personalized Content Marketing
The first rule of thumb that Sokoloff followed for creating personalized content was Empathy. The more you understand and know the needs of an individual, the better chance you have in changing the behavior of that individual. To understand the target audience and personalize your content your must rely on your 5 W’s.
1.Who’s Behavior are You Trying to Change?
To be able to personalize content, you need to know you audience! Sokoloff and his team was very much aware of who their target audience were. The guerrillas soldiers were isolated in the jungle and away from society, which meant that these soldiers were away from home and away from all traditions. Being in harsh conditions and away from their comfort zone, the team was certain that their target audience have nostalgic feelings towards home. This led to the consistent content messaging that was prevalent throughout all the projects: “Come Home”.
2.When is the Best Time?
With your target in mind, when is the time where there is the most impact? Having already assessed the goal of triggering nostalgia to bring the guerrilla fighters back home and having already focused on personalized content, the most appropriate time the team decided to expose their content was Christmas. Christmas is especially a very important holiday for family and tradition in Colombia and would be the perfect time to stir up hearts of coming back home.
3.What Content ?
For Operation Christmas and Mothers’ Voices, the team had assessed the needs and wants of the target audience through the who and when process. The ‘what’ chosen for Operation Christmas was the Christmas tree. The symbol of the Christmas tree is universal and brings nostalgia and personal memories. With the goal of targeting the weary fighters who want to spend Christmas at home, the Christmas tree was a beautiful and perfect sight to bring about personal memories for each individual.
The ‘what’ chosen for Mothers’ Voices was the photos of the soldiers when they were children. This is as personal as it can get! (without exposing the identity of the person in the photo). Who wouldn’t be moved after seeing a picture of themselves and their mother telling them to come back home?But furthermore, the content in the message is what brings about a change in behavior. The message all have a call to action. For operation Christmas it is “Everything is Possible.Come Home.” For Mothers’ Voices it is “Come Back this Christmas, I’m waiting for you.” After attracting the eye of the target with it’s beauty the message is what triggers the emotion which presents a call to action and later changing behavior.
Lastly how can we have our content be seen! Research! Find the most optimal place for your target to see your content!
Solokoff could have spread his content in TV or ads around the country, but he investigated and new that most of these soldiers were traveling on foot , scavenging towns, listening to the radio, and transporting through the river. Knowing this Solokoff catered his distributions exactly in these locations. For Operation Christmas, the team placed the Christmas trees in 9 strategic areas where all foot soldiers would pass, and the posters of Mothers’ Voices were dispersed in the towns that the guerrilla fighters were and the trees in the jungle. Solokoff also had put up various radio and created another project in the river. By knowing where the target audience is, he was able to reach many FARC members that later changed behavior to come home.
You can spend a lot of money in creating content, but the Mothers’ Voice Campaign and Operation Christmas proves that you don’t need to something huge and grandeur to move someone’s behavior and later change it. Only when you pay a little more attention to personalizing content, change becomes intrinsic, sustainable, and possible.