Content marketing secrets

Going for growth: Why unicorn companies rely on exceptional content to stay ahead of the pack

By 12th August 2019 No Comments
unicorn companies

In a world saturated with digital content, compelling stories play a key role in developing ultra-high growth brands or ‘unicorns’. Ben Hargreaves explains more.

Unicorns are extremely rare: if you’re fortunate enough to see one, you’ll be destined for great things and blessed with riches and life-long happiness.

That’s one story.

Here’s another: in this narrative, unicorns are everywhere but so commonplace that we barely notice them. One such example is Deliveroo – a privately owned-company worth more than a billion dollars.

At one point, Deliveroo was just a pie-in-the-sky idea – a concept that was yet to be plucked from the ether and turned into a business. There was no brand and no narrative – just a founder called Will Shu who was looking for better takeaway options in London.

In six years, the business has grown to the point where it generates sales of £140 million a year and operates in 200 cities around the world. Shu’s unicorn and its many riders are now a familiar part of city life.

But what’s that got to do with content marketing?

Well, everything.

Building meaningful connections

In a saturated digital marketplace, cutting through takes effort and imagination.

But companies may struggle to make meaningful connections. It’s individuals – online stars such as Swedish comedian and gamer PewDiePie, sportspeople and celebrities – who rule the roost when it comes to engagement on Facebook and YouTube, not brands. In fact, this is something that Douglas Holt pointed out in the Harvard Business Review back in 2016.

This is a lesson that Deliveroo has taken to heart when it comes to its own content marketing: use an influencer with a greater social media presence than your own brand to do the hard work for you.

Deliveroo’s Foodscene blog, for example, sees prominent Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert (who boasts 129k followers on Instagram) pitching the (arguably oxymoronic) notion of the ‘healthy takeaway’ to web users. Lambert – or ‘Rhitrition’ – enjoys an influence on Instagram that outdoes that of Deliveroo-distributed brands like Wagamama (98k followers), Pizza Express (51k), Yo! Sushi (42k) and even Deliveroo itself (46k).

If content marketing is partly a numbers game, here’s where turning to an influencer adds up.

Giving your audience a reason to care

Fast-growing brands need both a big idea and a way of telling a story that’s compelling in the digital age. The critical Generation Y audience wants to know, well, ‘why?’ For millennials, the stories a brand tells are more significant than the product or service it offers.

The founder of Digital Press Nicolas Cole Mather puts it this way:

“A great example of how to sell in today’s economy is to not tell someone: ‘Go buy this’, but instead, to share something of value and then say: ‘And by the way, it’s here if you want it’.”

Uber, another ubiquitous unicorn business, features this type of marketing on its blog. Why just promote ride services when you can celebrate International Women’s Day with video interviews with London-based female entrepreneurs, and encourage readers to submit nominations of inspiring women to English Heritage?

The future unicorns of this world need compelling stories to fuel their exponential growth. The best stories should become ‘content marketing unicorns’ themselves – pieces of outstanding content that punch far above their weight, generating disproportionately large volumes of traffic, leads and sales.

Let’s go unicorn hunting

Hunting for unicorns means looking for those rare, big ideas that no-one else can see. What’s the secret gemstone already hidden within the fabric of your business, and how can you best communicate it?

There are no ‘silver bullets’ when it comes to finding unicorn ideas. Some of the companies that boast the most spectacular growth rely on the simplest of concepts – just look at Uber. Or Deliveroo itself.

Searching for the next unicorn, the next big idea, the next great story, is a challenge. There are just 30 unicorn businesses in Britain. But persevering in finding the special ideas – and developing the content that goes with them – could mean creating another. Happy hunting!

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