Field Guide to Functional Content Marketing  


Functional content marketing is ultimately about empowering your audience through brand messaging—and empowering yourself and your clients with an understanding of the impact of your marketing.

In the next several weeks, we'll cover our 13 lucky tactics for doing just that.

Don't Get Caught In the Wilderness

Download the full version of the Field Guide or receive a printed copy by mail: our treat.


Observation 1:
Nobody wants your cupcakes.



As marketers, we are already in a fragile relationship with our audience. We must deliver immediate value in a meaningful way. For every content component you create, ask yourself, “Does this impact their lives in a positive way, furthering their engagement with us?” 

Don’t give your audience cupcakes; they’re just empty calories. Essentially, this is meaningless content that looks pretty and tastes great on the first bite—and is often regretted if finished.

Observation 2:
I like my phone, but tomorrow, I’ll be excited about the electronic contact lens of the future sending signals directly to my brain.



Technology and how we engage with it is perpetually changing. So, rather than chase platforms, shift your thinking to design for habit. Yes, this still entails knowing how platforms and devices function. But designing for habit permeates your entire marketing strategy as you tailor your content to slip into your audience’s habits.

This takes continuous learning. Lots of it. Dive deep into their daily lives and discover the emotional, environmental and physical influences that impact their media habits. Find that sweet spot where you are meeting them where they want to be met—and add meaningful value to their day. But stay flexible so you can easily scale to their changing habits.

Observation 3:
Communication preferences are rooted in nostalgia.



Whether it’s a printed book or magazine, a website or a video game, your audiences’ preferences stem from personal, habitual experiences that were instilled in their youth. People over the age of 35 are quick to say, “Print is not dead.” Whether or not that is true, when print champions are hard-pressed for answers on why they feel that way, they always cite an emotional connection to a print product from their past.

Well, what if you grew up in today’s world, where magazines are not the primary or habitually relevant source of information, but instead it’s social media? Then in 20 years, when society has moved on to another source of information sharing, you’ll be waxing poetic on the simpler times of Twitter. Regardless, it’s important to analyze your audiences’ preferences with this in mind. Why do they love platform X so much? What emotional or habitual connection do they have with it? Rather than pushing another new—or your preferred—platform on them, leverage their connections.

Observation 4:
Browsing is Dead



The times of meandering through a video store, checking out the back of the box to read the summary, or browsing staff picks … all that is gone, right? Well the same goes for info searching. Patience is nil. We can now shout questions to little AI receivers that politely speak back our answers. Your audience wants answers now with as little effort as possible. Give the people what they want upfront. Consider each engagement as a first impression. If you deliver it in a way that adds value to their lives—without referring them somewhere else for the answer—they in turn will value you. 

To create value in your product, conduct audience research, get your audience involved in its creation and ultimately empower your audience with the content. You then create a magnetic experience, retaining their attention and attracting their sphere of influence.

Observation 5:
Loyalty in Marketing is an Imaginary Concept



You’re the world’s best brand … until the other guy beats you to the punch. It’s critically important to be the first to answer your audience’s need and answer it in a useful and memorable way. You must have meaning in the moment. It just comes down to not being afraid to deliver free information. Don’t just tell your audience where they can get information, but give them some of that information for free upfront. And if you’re doing your research right, you’ll know your audience’s needs before your competition does, giving you a head start on engagement.

More insights to come!

Stay tuned, or you can get the entire Field Guide via the link above!

About the Authors


Keith Kawasaki and Gene Bedell are vice presidents at iostudio, a marketing agency headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Both Keith and Gene have developed the marketing strategy for hundreds of branded publications, digital experiences and integrated campaigns for monolithic brands, microbrands and government agencies. They enjoy talking about marketing to anyone who will listen, and sometimes to folks who don’t.