You're standing in the freezer section of your grocery store after a long week at work. Your cart is parked right in front of the Ben and Jerry's case. You want to grab a pint of your all-time favorite Chunky Monkey. But, as you reach for the door, your eyes wander to the generic brand chocolate chip.

Not the same, you think, but it is cheaper. And it's ice cream, right? Or maybe you should skip the pint and pick up the half gallon. It's more economical, after all.

As you contemplate which frozen friend you want to spend your Friday night with, an equally tired-looking woman in a pantsuit determinedly walks up and reaches into the very case you're standing in front of, grabs the nearest Chunky Monkey pint, drops it in her basket, and makes a beeline to the checkout lane.

That woman is brand-attached.

The Journey to Brand Attachment

The path to brand attachment is long, winding, and challenging. And you can't skip ahead or take shortcuts. You get there by passing through the preceding stages.

  1. Brand Awareness: Consumer is familiar with the brand's qualities or image but has never had a personal interaction with it
  2. Brand Familiarity: Consumer has developed a social consciousness of the brand either through personal interaction with it or via others
  3. Brand Affinity: Consumer has purchased the brand and considers it for future purchases but still considers and buys alternatives
  4. Brand Loyalty: Consumer purchases the brand consistently over others, to the point of developing a rational habit
  5. Brand Attachment: Consumer forms an emotional connection with the brand that is difficult to break and strongly prefers the brand even when presented with better alternatives

So how does a brand shake obscurity to earn emotionally attached consumers?

Part of the equation involves content marketing, where we can offer the right types of content to the right audiences at the right time to help them progress along the path to brand attachment.

Five Content Marketing Strategies for Earning Brand Attachment

1. Learn how your audience thinks, acts, and feels

Do you know your audience? I mean truly know? Understand their passions, desires, and tendencies?

Audience personas aren't just a box to check off on your content marketing strategy to-do list. Persona development is your chance to get acquainted with your audience.

Take the time to understand who they are, where they spend their time online and offline, what content they like to consume. Their hobbies, their values, their hopes and dreams, their fears and worries. Your content and brand will be better for it.

Now take everything you've learned about your audience and compare it with your brand's purpose. How can you connect the two in a meaningful, authentic way? That's the sweet spot for building an emotional connection with your brand.

2. Develop channel-specific content

The same video that works for TV commercials won't hold up as a Facebook ad: wrong message, wrong audience, wrong medium.

Take what you learned about your audience's values, habits, and content consumption preferences to find the best paid and earned media opportunities available. Then, create dedicated content for each channel, ensuring that content is relevant to the values and needs of each audience segment.

Carefully matching content strategy to audience and channel will ensure you don't waste money on irrelevant messaging—or, perhaps worse, alienate anyone.

3. Invest in content strategy along the entire customer journey

You'll never earn brand attachment if you focus your content only on the top of the funnel. Developing content specific both to the channel and the sales funnel stage will help you meet your audience's expectations and emotions at a specific point in time.

By delivering relevant content at all points of the buying journey, you'll earn top-of-mind awareness and, over time, build a brand with staying power and raving fans.

One effective way for smaller brands to earn audiences is to build connections with more established brands that already have an audience similar to the one the smaller brand wishes to attract.

Consumers feel first and think second, so build your brand on your audience's emotions; that's the way to make lasting connections.

Think B2B brands don't need to market with emotion? B2B decision-makers are people, and they complete 50-70% of their decision-making process before reaching out to a company. They, too, need to feel emotionally invested in your brand.

4. Stay on brand

Though content should be specific to the channel it appears in, the stage in the buying journey, and the target audience, it should never stray from your main message or theme.

Here's a challenge for you: Pull up a few of your brand's assets—your website homepage, a video, an image ad, and a brochure. Now cover up your logo and name. Can you tell that the assets are all from the same company? Well, you probably can, because you created them.

Try it with another brand of your choice. The great ones will have a certain level of thematic consistency, allowing for easy identification across channels and assets.

You don't have to go as far as creating one concrete design template to be used for each channel, but be aware of the need to make your brand voice heard clearly in everything you create.

An easy way to start is by repurposing a great piece of content into different formats for as many channels as makes sense, so your main message can really sink in.

5. Test and measure

Before you begin creating content, agree on a measurement framework so you can judge success. Come to an agreement with your internal team, your C-level executives, your client, or whoever will be labeling your work a hit or a flop. Get it in writing. Seriously.

Brand loyalty and attachment are notoriously "squishy" things to measure, but you have to identify some quantifiable data to measure value along with your qualitative insights.

Creating a solid measurement framework will allow your team to create freely, optimize strategically, and improve content strategy relentlessly without having to continually justify your spend or value to the organization.

More Resources on Content Strategy

Five Tips for a More Personalized B2B Content Strategy in 2021

Optimize Content Strategy With Insights From a New Study: NetLine's David Fortino on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

How to Create a Content Strategy for COVID-19 (or Other Crises) in Five Steps

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image of Brian Shilling

Brian Shilling is branding and digital marketing director at Clarity Quest Marketing, a full-service agency for healthcare and technology companies.

LinkedIn: Brian Shilling

Twitter: @Shilling_Brian