Clare Riley

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Clare is a Brand and Content leader, with 15 years experience working with major consumer brands like HelloFresh and HCF Australia, as well as leading SaaS companies like SiteMinder and Hometime.

Clare has a special interest and specialisation in digital experience, brand communications, blogging, social media strategy, and content marketing management.

We’re delighted to host Clare on Gather’s Marketing Leaders publication.

Clare Riley on Brand and Content Marketing

Here we ask Clare, Head of Brand and Content at  Hometime, 3 key questions on Brand and Content Marketing.

In your experience, what elements contribute to a brand becoming the go-to brand?

For me, the elements that make a successful brand are personality, offering and difference. The best brands are watertight on who they are and how they look and sound. So I think having a strong identity is crucially important and even more so in today’s content-heavy world where carving out brand recognition is tougher than ever before. 

Offering defines the type of relationship you have with your customers and it’s vital to understand how deeply a consumer cares for your brand - marketers have a tendency to overestimate how much a customer thinks about them and their work, as upsetting as that might be! 

So let’s take Il Makiage (my quarterly make-up subscription) and a brand like Hometime (professional short-term rental management). Once a quarter, a beautifully presented delivery arrives from Il Makiage, usually with a surprise free gift, and it’s a lovely but momentary brand interaction. I don’t really think about it again until three months later when my next delivery comes around. I do love the makeup, but my reliance on the interaction we have is fairly low. Hometime is more of a partnership offering working with hosting partners on the ground in towns and suburbs across Australia and New Zealand. Because it’s a partnership, the offering goes much deeper. Hosting Partners rely on us to help them be successful and so we have to get to know them and their ongoing needs properly. Here the offering is centred on helpfulness and if we can be the brand that delivers on that in their day-to-day work, then that goes a long way to us being their first choice.

Lastly, great brands have identified their point of difference and tripled down on that. It’s typically a feeling like reassurance, trust or connection. Good marketers know what that feeling is because they’ve spent time with their customers and have ongoing conversations that are real. If you can figure out these three elements, it’ll be hard to go wrong!

What tools or methods do you use to gauge brand strength (either quantitatively or qualitatively)?

I’m not someone who has been heavy on tools when it comes to measuring success. My preferred approach is high-level, looking at sales and whether or not they’re going up, then adding in retention and whether or not people are staying. They’re very good indicators of how strong your brand is and keeping it simple rarely lets you down. Plus, we’re all working towards the same goal of happy customers and more of them! Of course, it’s important to have an idea of where success is coming from and, as marketers, we have so much data available to us. You can’t possibly analyse it all, especially in a small team, and I think it quickly becomes overwhelming. So keeping close to the front line of your brand - typically your sales and customer service teams - is the best benchmark for me. I am obsessed with talking to the customer, hearing their views and feelings and working out how we keep that up or do something better. You’ll never keep everyone 100% happy but I’m genuine about asking the questions and having honest conversations. The things you discover in the process that you can learn from and feed into your plans will always make your brand stronger. I think that’s more important than expensive tools that most marketers don’t have the time to use properly anyway!

Content Marketing has evolved over the last decade or so, where effectiveness of content strategies often differ between markets (e.g. B2B, B2C, DTC).  When it comes to the effectiveness of content strategy, what’s your take on some of the key differences between industries or market verticals?

I’ve run online lunch and learn sessions in the past called ‘How to simplify your content marketing strategy’ because this is another area that has become complicated and it frustrates me because it doesn’t need to be that way. All businesses, regardless of the industry or market vertical, have a story to tell and it usually centres around the problem you’re solving that affects your customers so much. That’s why I love working in B2B and I’ve spent much of my career in this space - it’s problem solving stuff but it can be applied anywhere. The tide does seem to be turning and the days of blogging 15 times a week and asking people to fill in forms to access your content are behind us. Insightful articles and helpful guides definitely have their place in content marketing, but I think the value is in making that content much more accessible than it used to be years ago. And if it’s worthy of someone’s attention, they’ll read it and come back to your brand. Content has moved on pretty quickly and businesses are taking a much more editorial approach, which I’ve always been a big advocate for. While SEO best practices are important, writing content purely for search engines has never been my approach and I think lots of content marketers feel this way too. Finding a way to get content done at scale has always been a bit overcomplicated. And it's probably why AI copywriters have become so fascinating to us because we love the idea of finding a silver bullet that can do it quicker. I'm curious about AI copy tools and how they can come together with human writers and editors. Where I think content is headed is more journalistic in its style and it’s exciting to watch the pivot. Brands that create content that is for people and not the self-serving benefits of the business will do well. It’s a long game, but worth it when people tell you how much they love it and you can see the impact it's having.

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