One morning, the Nafas app on my phone sent a notification saying that the air quality in my neighbourhood was at a good level. True enough, I was able to see the mountain from my apartment window — a rare sight for the normally polluted city of Jakarta. I thought to myself that the app’s concept was interesting, but it’s also likely a hard thing to market.
“The air quality space is a completely new thing to think about in Indonesia,” says Piotr Jakubowski, co-founder and chief growth officer at Nafas. “You can’t see air quality, and if you can, then it’s far worse than it should be.”
Jakubowski is a familiar name among marketing veterans in Southeast Asia. He was the CMO of super app gojek from 2016 to 2018, where he helped build the brand into a household name. During his two and a half year stint at the now decacorn, gojek saw staggering business growth from five million monthly orders to more than 100 million.
Jakubowski shares three common content marketing pitfalls that practitioners today should try to avoid.
Pitfall #1: targeting “everyone” from the get-go
Jakubowski believes that marketers should prioritise targeting a specific group of people rather than a broad audience, especially when the company is still at an early stage such as Nafas. He explains, “Regardless of what you create, there is a community there — people who are either highly obsessed with the category or with the brand itself.”
The founder stresses the importance of understanding a brand’s early core audience. Even before discussing budget and strategy, marketers need to figure out who the core users are and then try to map their idiosyncratic behaviours. Eg: Athletes can use Nafas to check the current air quality level before exercising outdoors
He mentions that big companies first need to do things that don’t scale to reach their first 1,000 users. This will help marketers figure out a brand’s ideal target community and potential future champions. Then, marketers need to continuously add value to the lives of those in this community.
“Air quality affects everybody, but our target market at Nafas isn’t everybody. We have to start somewhere,” Jakubowski explains. According to him, Nafas provides the biggest value to those who spend a lot of time outdoors and eventually figured out that its early core users are in fact athletes and people who exercise regularly.
It’s a similar story with other tech companies. Facebook and Tinder, for example, started out by focusing on university students before offering access to the public. Likewise, Lyft and Uber targeted startup offices as their early core users.
Pitfall #2: publishing a large quantity of content with very little value
Content marketing as a discipline is fundamentally misunderstood. Jakubowski sees many people creating a bunch of different types of content and then trying to just see what delivers immediate results (e.g. just throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks). Some marketers even publish content just for the sake of routine.
A good content marketing strategy is about creating content that truly adds value to the customer’s life. “If it looks like it’s written by someone who does very basic research on Google, then you’re not really adding value to the audience’s lives,” says Jakubowski.
For this reason, Nafas takes its content section seriously. The team hired an experienced journalist to write an in-depth report about air quality in Jakarta. He fondly remembered that some people thought the initiative was crazy, as no one was likely to read a 93-page report.Nafas collaborated with Adinda Sukardi, the Under Armour Global Ambassador, for the launch of its report
“On the one hand, sure it’s crazy. On another, the report was geared toward athletes and people who take a great deal of data into consideration when trying to become a better athlete. So access to data falls into the habits that they already have. We’re not introducing anything completely new to them,” explains Jakubowski.
Nafas is on a mission to raise awareness around air quality in the archipelago. “In order for our mission around education to be successful, we need to publish data. But data without a story or context is meaningless,” he adds.
The report – titled Does exercising in Jakarta’s air pollution impact our health?– discovered one interesting piece of information. It turns out that Jakarta’s worst air quality happens between 4 AM to 9 AM. This is counterintuitive, as people in the city tend to exercise early in the morning to avoid pollution.
The Nafas team then unpacked the issue further by combining other research papers about the health risks of exercising in highly polluted areas.
Nafas launched the report via an online webinar. The team invited a prominent local athlete to help attract interest from the app’s target community.
The online launch helped the team garner media coverage and made sure the story reached the right target group. But the report’s biggest success came a week later via Twitter.
Jakubowski broke down the content into digestible tweets, and they went on to receive more than 1,600 retweets and a few hundred thousand impressions. Because of this, the app’s user growth tripled over the course of a single week.
Pitfall #3: underestimating the power of social impact
Jakubowski believes it’s important to build a brand that stands for something. Looking back at his time with gojek in 2016, the team was establishing itself as the people’s champion in Indonesia.
“There’s a very fine line between ‘Pick me because I’m Indonesian,’ versus ‘Hey, I’m dedicated to the future of this country,’” he explains. “Today’s consumers want quality. They need to have a strong reason to buy or join your team apart from the fact that you’re from this country.”
According to a recent Deloitte report, customers indeed care about a company’s social mission. Nineteen per cent of respondents say that it has strongly influenced their purchasing decisions. In gojek’s case, consumers aren’t just buying the firm’s product, but also helping the app do something bigger for the nation.
But Jakubowski warns that marketing social impact is also a tricky thing to do. In a highly globalised world, consumers can filter through the bullshit a lot faster. As such, it’s all the more important to create real and authentic content.
In 2016, gojek held a nationwide video competition that attracted 800 submissions. These videos showcased gojek’s social impact on people’s daily lives. This is why gojek focused on producing a variety of patriotic content during its early years. It was not as simple as showcasing that the brand was a local company.
Jakubowski’s content marketing efforts were focused on how Gojek was opening new economic opportunities for all kinds of people, be it drivers, store owners, customers, and those in cities outside of Jakarta. The key message then was (and still is today): gojek is a business that has the interest of Indonesian people at its core.