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How Content Marketing Builds Community For New Customer Relationships


What is content marketing? Is it content creation or marketing? Well — it’s both. Content marketing encompasses the creation, editing, and distribution of content to help a specific target customer along in their journey toward a business. It’s marketing that simply looks like content. And that’s why it’s a secret weapon every marketer must have.

In an increasingly savvy world where most people don’t like being sold to and can see an advertisement coming from a mile away, content marketing is more important than ever. Content marketing allows marketers to couch their message in meaningful contexts — in short, to give before they get.

Marketing isn’t about selling — it’s about the relationship you create with your target customer. Like in any good relationship, marketers need to first forge a connection, and they do this through creating and distributing content that potential customers want to consume, use, and/or share. The idea is that the consumption of content signals an interest that marketers can develop into more meaningful interactions — including sales and increased brand loyalty. It’s like giving someone a single chocolate to make them want the whole box.

Content marketing can look like a blog with tips, content hubs with engaging and useful content, white papers, calculators (e.g., car payment or calorie-counting calculators), podcasts, videos, a Facebook Live Q&A, or even a mobile app.

Content Marketing in Action

L’Oréal uses high-quality content and partnerships with beauty influencers to address the needs of its audience at The site covers beauty trends, features makeup tutorials, and offers expert advice without ever blatantly asking the audience to buy anything.

The grooming-product company Dollar Shave Club takes a similar approach with its online publication MEL Magazine. The site targets DSC’s male customers and features articles that keep with the brand’s humorous tone, with headlines like “Our Google Searches Reveal We’re All Insecure Weirdos About Sex, Bodies.”

Content marketing is not just for business-to-consumer (B2C) initiatives. It’s very effective for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, too. For example, Square, a credit card reader for small businesses, has a website called SquareUp with valuable resources for small- to medium-sized businesses. Content pieces include research on how to set prices and how to engage Generation Z.

But content hubs are not the only way to do content marketing. Interactive content can help educate and establish expertise. Like Goldman Sachs’ dynamic visual exposition of blockchain technology.

Images can get your audience talking and feel a part of the conversation. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art does a great job of this through Snapchat, through which you’ll see photos of famous artworks in the museum’s collection with pop-culture-referencing captions. For example, a photo of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Shade was captioned, “All the single ladies,” a reference to the popular Beyoncé song.

Even music can create a connection you can leverage, like when Hamburger Helper released Watch the Stove, a five-track hip-hop mixtape on Soundcloud. The songs have solid beats and catchy hooks with lyrics that incorporate the brand. The songs were played over 4 million times and resulted in over 400 million social impressions. Yep — you read that right. This type of engagement happens when your audience doesn’t feel like it’s being sold to, but rather feels a part of a community. In this case, the people who get the hip-hop references feel spoken to. Is there anything more powerful than that?

Finally, what all these examples have in common is that:

  1. They created content audiences want.
  2. They publish new content regularly.
  3. The content is authentic to their brand and related to their marketing objectives.

Content Marketing at General Assembly

Learn how to do the same for your company or cause. At General Assembly, we cover content marketing as part of our 1-week or evening Digital Marketing course. Students conduct content audits for their clients, map content ideas to their customers’ journeys, and practice repurposing and curating content. The compelling subject matter sparks conversation and creativity.

Digital marketing skills not only help you achieve your objectives — from raising the profile of your company or cause to acquiring customers — but also help you become a more discerning customer. GA’s focus on active learning provides students with the experience they need to put their skills to work.

Meet Our Expert

Alicia Morga is a serial entrepreneur and digital marketing expert who has helped clients like Best Buy and Ford acquire customers. She teaches General Assembly’s 10-week Digital Marketing course in San Francisco. She holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School and a B.A. from Stanford University.

“In an increasingly savvy world where most people don’t like being sold to and can see an advertisement coming from a mile away, content marketing is more important than ever.”

Alicia Morga, Digital Marketing Instructor, General Assembly San Francisco

Branding: 6 Ways to Classify Your Image to Build Authentic Connection


When Instagram updated its logo in 2016, did you notice? Did it change the way you thought of the app? If so, you wouldn’t be alone — the company’s transition from a tiny toy camera to a bold, gradient icon generated heated debates from social media all the way to Forbes.

The reactions surprised Instagram’s team. The company had just spent the first quarter of 2016 rolling out a controversial new feed algorithm, something that actually changed the way the app functioned, and it caused some minor outcry, but nothing that threatened to permanently affect the app’s user base. But when the new logo went live that May, the pitchforks came out. Users took to Twitter to express their feelings of abandonment, leading some to question whether they actually enjoyed using the product at all.

Instagram New Logo

Brands as Consumer Connections

A brand is much more than a name and a logo — it’s the emotional and cognitive connection a company or product has with the rest of the world. As Entrepreneur writer John Williams says, “Your brand is your promise to your customer.”

Before May of 2016, Instagram’s promise to its users was surprisingly tied to that little toy camera: The app took simple photos with classic filters, appealing to users who were nostalgic for a more analog time (whether they lived through it or not). Its new logo, on the other hand, seemed like a reversal of what made Instagram cool to begin with. It was an attempt to be modern, hip, and current — the exact opposite of the long-extinct cameras it emulated. It raised the question: How did Instagram picture itself, and why did that differ so greatly from how the rest of us did?

6 Ways to Classify a Brand

Jean-Noël Kapferer, brand expert and author of the book Strategic Brand Management, poses a simple question to steer this conversation: “If your brand was a person, who would you compare them with?”

Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism highlights six categories that work equally well for classifying a brand, as well as a person:

  1. Physique: What does the brand look like? Is it strong and bulky, or maybe sleek and agile?
  2. Personality: What attitudes and characteristics does your brand have? Does it have a sense of humor, or can you count on it to always respond seriously?
  3. Relationship: How does your brand mingle among consumers, and other brands? Would it win homecoming king, or is it a dark horse in terms of popularity?
  4. Culture: What core beliefs comprise your brand? Does it believe in giving back to certain communities or causes? Are there cultural touch points strongly tied to its identity, like specific types of music or fashion?
  5. Reflection: How would the people who know your brand describe it? Is it trustworthy and honest, or maybe vapid and superficial?
  6. Self-image: What does your brand see when it looks in the mirror? And, most importantly, is it the same thing the rest of us see?

If we were to apply this treatment to Instagram, what kind of person would it produce? Before May of 2016, you might have come up with something like a twee hipster nerd — at least, that’s the way it was personified in this 2013 video by Cracked.

Finding Brand Authenticity

What Instagram failed to recognize was that, while it had every right to change the appearance of its brand, its perception had already been determined and heavily rooted by the public. The new logo felt incongruent with the current perception, making it feel forced and fake. It’s reminiscent of Garth Brooks’ attempt to create an alternate rocker persona, “Chris Gaines,” in the late ’90s. His brooding, soul-patched, fictional counterpart was such a departure from Brooks’ rugged cowboy look that his fans were embarrassed — even if the same style worked perfectly for a musician like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. In both cases, it came down to what fans had come to expect.

Consumers are gifted at smelling inauthenticity. As a result, when a brand decides it’s time to pivot, that movement must come from a genuine place, answering to an equally genuine opportunity. These opportunities can’t be invented, only discovered. There are a number of tools available for this. For instance, a user experience (UX) researcher might perform a competitive analysis to find gaps in competing products that they can fill. This exactly what Old Spice did in 2010, and the results produced one of the most memorable ad campaigns of the decade.

At the time, Old Spice was struggling to keep its head above water in the competitive field of men’s deodorant and body wash. Axe Body Spray had completely captured the 18-24-year-old market with trendy, youthful packaging and a series of raunchy commercials that suggested women would be magnetically drawn to anyone wearing its scent. Old Spice, once the gold standard of male grooming, had become the brand associated with your grandfather. Even the introduction of more youthful scents and washes did little to move it into the present. That is, until the now-infamous “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad campaign created by the Portland-based agency Wieden+Kennedy.

As it turns out, Axe was ignoring a very large portion of its market: women. Old Spice found that in many households, women were the true power-brokers of what men smelled like. While Axe held a youthful image that managed to be masculine without reminding consumers of their older family members, the brand also embodied the aspects of masculinity most problematic to their female demographic. To these consumers, a deodorant that promised to send dozens of scantily clad models after your husband couldn’t be further from a value proposition.

Old Spice managed to capture the positive perceptions of masculinity held by both men and women, all thanks to one man: Isaiah Mustafa. The handsome, muscular actor spends the entire 30-second spot speaking directly to women, while exemplifying the strong confidence that young male viewers aspired to. If Axe made Old Spice look like an old man, the new Old Spice made Axe look like an immature little boy. What follows is one of the most interesting branding faceoffs of the decade — one that competed not just for deodorant sales, but for which of two distinct ideals would become the modern definition of masculinity.

Branding at General Assembly

Branding isn’t a science; it’s an art that requires both a wide collection of tools and a discerning perspective to effectively steer. At General Assembly, in our part-time Digital Marketing course and full-time User Experience Design Immersive program, we explore these nuances using case studies and skills like user research, competitive analysis, and visual design. You can also learn branding fundamentals through short-form, expert-led workshops and events across our global campuses. We believe in a holistic approach to our work, inviting students to collaborate with seasoned designers and marketers to better understand their role in the success of their clients. We look at the stumbling blocks other companies have faced in order to better avoid them, as well as the successes that fuel the kind of work we love to do.

Meet Our Expert

Nick Anderson is a Denver-based developer, designer, and writer. He’s created digital solutions for Bacardi, Angry Birds, and dozens of other brands in more than eight years of working for various agencies and startups. Currently, he teaches the full-time Web Development Immersive at General Assembly’s Denver campus. His go-to karaoke song is “I Wish” by Skee-lo.

“Digital technology makes it easy for people with ideas to establish themselves or their business as a brand. There’s high demand for those who can take someone’s vision, and create a strategy to propel it into success.”

– Nick Anderson, Web Development Immersive Instructor, GA Denver

Developing Your Social Media Marketing Campaign for Success


When you hear the term digital marketing, a few examples may come to mind. Perhaps you can remember a viral campaign on Facebook, sponsored ad on Instagram, or popular YouTube personality acting as a spokesperson for a certain product. These are all common forms of social media marketing — which most of us see every day.

In recent years, social media platforms have emerged as a popular — and essential — channel for digital marketers to reach their target audiences. With 2.46 billion people worldwide using social networks today, according to the statistics site Statista, this is a huge online audience that marketers can’t ignore.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have developed many advanced features that allow marketers to target different user segments based on their demographics, geographic locations, languages, interests, online behaviors, and more. Ad formats may include sponsored posts and various types of banner and video ads.

With so many platforms, though, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones to utilize, and how best to leverage a particular platform’s features to reach specific segments of users.

Before carrying out a social media marketing campaign, you must first ask yourself the following three questions:

1. What is the objective of your campaign?

Marketers launch campaigns for various reasons, including building brand awareness, generating sales, strengthening customer relationships, or acquiring new customers. By answering this question, you’ll know what KPIs (key performance indicators) to set and who you want to target. For example, if you want to acquire new customers, your target audience would be people who fit into your customer profiles, or personas, but are not yet your customers. Your KPIs could be the number of new potential customer email addresses you want to collect, and how many new buying customers you want to acquire through the campaign.

2. Which social media platforms does your target audience use?

Find out about the demographics, geographic coverage (i.e., where the platform’s users are based), user interests, and behaviors for each social media platform you’re considering using. This will help you track down and reach out to the target audience that you have defined based on your campaign objectives.

3. What is the mindset and intention of users on different social networks?

On a professional network such as LinkedIn, users want to display their professional competency, improve themselves professionally, and connect with business associates or authoritative people within certain industries. On personal networks like Facebook and Instagram, users look to display their lifestyle and beliefs, entertain themselves, and connect with family and friends.

Therefore, a user may be more receptive to a software promotion ad on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Similarly, a leisure travel ad might perform better on Instagram than LinkedIn. So, reach out to your audience where they are “tuned in” to your message.

In conclusion, choosing the appropriate social media platform — where your target audience is present, plus, tuned in with the right mindset to receive your type of marketing message — is already half the battle in creating a successful social media campaign.

Managing Your Social Media Marketing Assets

Once you’re on a social media platform, there are three types of marketing assets you’ll manage and leverage:

  • Owned: Company-created content, e.g., the company’s Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed, or YouTube channel.
  • Paid: Sponsored ad placements, including video ads, promoted Facebook events, or Instagram photo carousels.
  • Earned: Content published about your company that’s distributed or created by your fans or users, such as tweets, Facebook reviews, or Instagram photos of your product.

Marketers need to create a well-thought-out content calendar and publish high-quality, engaging, and relevant content on the owned social channels. The paid campaigns should amplify the messages on the owned channels, driving more users to the company’s owned assets. Well-managed owned and paid assets will help grow positive and high-quality earned assets generated by fans or users, and over time lead to increased cost-effectiveness and success of your social media campaigns.

Social Media Marketing at General Assembly

As part of General Assembly’s part-time Digital Marketing course, on campus or online, we look at emerging trends in social media marketing, including the market positioning, user base, and user profiles of various social media platforms. We also explore the pros and cons of collaboration with social media creators on content marketing and affiliate marketing. Students also learn about the various targeting capabilities and advertising formats offered by each platform, and have a chance to create sample social media campaigns for selected companies or a company of their choice.

Students complete class with an understanding of the social media landscape, trends, and ecosystem, so they can:

  • Integrate social media marketing as part of an overall marketing strategy.
  • Effectively evaluate and select the appropriate social media platforms for different campaign types.
  • Execute and measure the success of various social media marketing campaigns.

Meet Our Expert

Frances Chiu has over 17 years’ experience in IT and the internet industry. She has worked for leading companies including Apple, Yahoo!, eBay, and AT&T, and held Asia Pacific senior management roles in product management, marketing and PR, and channel management. Frances is currently an instructor at General Assembly in Hong Kong and a lecturer at Hong Kong University’s School of Professional & Continuing Education. She also runs her own management-consulting company, Solitude Productions Limited.

Frances was born in Hong Kong and lived in Sweden for 13 years. She holds a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering and management from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.

“In recent years, companies have started to realize the importance of digital marketing, as their target customers are spending more and more time online. Therefore, the demand for digital marketing skills has grown rapidly.”

Frances Chiu, Digital Marketing Instructor, General Assembly Hong Kong

Programmatic Advertising: 5 Successful Methods to Reach Your Audience


The first website banner ad ran on October 27, 1994, when Wired magazine launched its first website. It asked users an important question: “Have you ever clicked your mouse right HERE?” Online advertising quickly exploded, as banner ads revolutionized advertising by allowing brands to actually track how many times an ad was seen and show true user engagement.

Even with these exciting innovations, there certainly were challenges in the early days of buying online media, including:

  • Publishers had to negotiate rates with each individual website and developing contracts every time a new budget was added.
  • Marketers had to use average site audience as a proxy for whether a brand reached its target audience. This may sound fine in theory, but creates a lot of wasted media dollars in practice.
  • Agencies and clients entrusted publishers to optimize their campaigns with very little visibility into actions taken on brands’ websites.

But no more! Programmatic buying — the automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time using data and algorithms — allows media buyers to efficiently identify and target users who are more likely to love their brand, be interested in its message, and purchase its stuff. Using signals like geographic location, demographic information, browsing behavior, purchases made, and shows watched on streaming services, it’s easier than ever to serve the right message to the right user in real time.

Popular Methods of Programmatic Targeting

Programmatic buying allows marketers to use data to segment and target users based on their behavior. There are five major targeting types, which can be used separately, or combined to create a more complete audience picture.

Remarketing: Generally the best-known type of online targeting, remarketing allows brands to reach users who have previously visited their site. You may recognize some brands “following” you around the internet with the same ad — that’s remarketing. While poorly managed remarketing can become annoying, good remarketing works. According to the conversion rate optimization consultancy Invesp, website visitors who are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert than those that are not.

Audience: Audience targeting, also called demographic targeting, is reaching users based on their demographic information. This includes identifiers like income, education level, relationship status, and hundreds of other specific attributes.

Behavioral: This is generally used to reach users based on actions they’ve taken online, but can sometimes include offline behavior as well. Behavioral targeting allows advertisers to segment based on things like specific websites or types of websites visited, searches made, and purchase history. In a campaign for the Amanda Foundation, a nonprofit emergency animal rescue, this was used to reach users with an adoptable cat or dog that fit their lifestyle. For example, a user identified as athletic or outdoorsy would be served an ad for Mandy, an energetic and active pup with the phrase, “I love a good run, just like you.” Contrast that with the message for someone identified as a single reader: “I love curling up with a good book, just like you.”

Geotargeting: Using geotargeting, marketers can target users in specific locations or types of locations. Don’t worry, they can’t target anyone based on a specific address! But they can target types of places, like stadiums or gyms, or general areas by zip code or latitude/longitudinal address. This is often layered with other types of targeting to deliver specific messages in the right place at the right time.

Contextual: Similar to how marketers traditionally bought online media, contextual targeting reaches a user based on the website they are on. However, using programmatic, buyers are able to target not only specific sites, but also site categories and keywords, leading to increased efficiency and improved relevance.

We can start to see why programmatic targeting really changes the game and reaches the right user with the right message.

Programmatic Advertising at General Assembly

Programmatic advertising has changed the way marketers run digital advertising, from display to video, and even audio and out of home. Programmatic is constantly changing as new platforms and technologies continue to roll out. At General Assembly, all of our instructors are also practitioners of our craft, so we see and feel this change in our day-to-day lives.

We teach programmatic advertising in our part-time Digital Marketing course, across our campuses and online. For businesses, the skill is taught in our corporate training programs in formats ranging from one-day seminars to multi-day workshops. While programmatic education is certainly relevant to digital marketers, it can also help anyone in a company that practices digital media truly understand the landscape as dollars continue to shift. In our programs, we focus on making the theoretical real using hands-on exercises, real-world examples, and a collaborative approach to help each participant understand how programmatic approaches can help their team succeed.

Meet Our Expert

Veronica Ripson is an experienced digital marketer with a passion for developing full-funnel, data-driven solutions across programmatic and paid social channels. Currently an Associate Director of Optimization and Innovation at the Kepler Group, Veronica has worked with leading brands including Google, Barclays, Church and Dwight, Albertsons, and Harvard Business School Executive Education.

At General Assembly, Veronica is a member of the Enterprise Education team, developing customized in-person and online training for large-scale enterprise companies. She also teaches our 10-week Digital Marketing course in New York and contributes lessons to our online training programs for companies.

“Anyone in media will benefit from learning about programmatic, especially as more channels shift to programmatic buying. GA instructors hold day jobs in our fields, so we’re able to share real-world challenges and solutions.”

–Veronica Ripson, Digital Marketing Instructor, GA New York

The 5 Pillars of Your Brand’s Business Model



A marketing firm in Atlanta, Syrup Marketing, recently wrote a great article about how your brand is the “lead domino,” to quote Tim Ferris. What that means is that, once you create and solidify your brand, everything else tends to fall into place easily. One of those other dominoes that falls into place after you’ve created a fantastic branding strategy is the actual nuts and bolts of your business model.

Any business model is made up of many different moving parts, but they can be boiled down to these five pillars, on which you should build your business.

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5 Ways That Offline Marketing Is Still Critical For Startups



For many of us, planning and executing a flawless digital marketing strategy is mission critical when scaling a startup. With so much focus on acquiring new customers through mammoth channels such as search marketing, social media, and display advertising, advocating an offline marketing strategy can sometimes feel irrelevant or antiquated.

Don’t make the mistake that many entrepreneurs and marketers commit by leaving offline initiatives out of your go-to-market strategy. Not only is it more relevant than ever, but it can be the perfect complement to your online strategy. Read on for our favorite tips employed by some well-known once startups and noteworthy up and comers.

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7 Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn To Boost Your Personal Brand



With more than 275 million users, including executives of nearly every Fortune 500 Company, LinkedIn has become a powerful tool for defining your personal brand, establishing credibility, and networking with business connections. Are you making the most out of your presence within this network?

Getting setup on the platform is just step one—below are seven ways to ensure you are putting your best foot forward on this essential platform. To dive deeper into this subject, watch “Use LinkedIn to Land a Job in Digital Marketing” by our Outcomes & Alumni manager, Katie Hudson.

1. Headshot

Think of your headshot as your first impression for your future employer. You may love that beach pic from your vacation in Maui, or that one shot of you and your squad at the bar—but (most) employers aren’t looking for a buddy to go out with, they are looking for a sharp and reliable worker. Make sure to use a clean, professional image of yourself (and just yourself) that comes off as friendly and polished, focusing on just your head and shoulders.

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