At ad:tech San Francisco, Amazon described targeted digital content as core to brand discovery, prospect engagement and, ultimately, sales.

Ever since Google rolled out Search Plus Your World, marketers have been talking about the need to personalize their strategies to match the evolving search and social landscape, but the concept of relevant content is hardly new. At ad:tech San Francisco, Amazon’s vice president of global ad sales Lisa Utzschneider explained that content personalization has been core to the company since the 1990’s – and she offered insights on how marketers can build similar custom content marketing and creative ad campaigns for their brands.

The three main steps to developing content for a positive user experience include:

1. Listen. Utzschneider says it’s essential to use multiple web channels and in-store events to understand what customers are saying about your business, and (more broadly) what they want or need.

2. Innovate. Based on what customers are talking about, it’s a company’s role to fulfill and anticipate needs. Then, they can create relevant offerings and related campaigns.

3. Personalize. This is where strong content marketing and solid ad creative really come into play: It’s essential that businesses bring the right products and messages to the right prospects.

Digital content is a pillar of Amazon’s success, Utzschneider says. It’s essential for businesses to consider technical integrations in order to meet the growing demand for information accessible in multiple web formats and on multiple devices, but flashy tech tools won’t win customers. At the end of the day, she suggests custom content that delivers a brand message drives brand awareness and conversions.

“The technology should disappear because prospects and buyers get caught up in a brand story.”

As one of her colleagues pointed out, “The technology should disappear because prospects and buyers get caught up in a brand story.”

While Amazon ad partners frequently create interactive videos and visually stimulating display ads, Utzschneider suggests relevant brand stories are what deliver results. She highlighted a Lorax marketing campaign featured on Amazon that focused on content. Although the campaign used advanced technology (interactive video) to deliver its message, it successfully made users unconscious of the technology behind it by getting them involved in the story of the Lorax. The project resulted in a 25 percent increase in unaided awareness, and exposure drove a 50 percent increase in parents’ desires to take their kids to see the movie.

Digital content should put prospects and customers in conversation with brands, Utzschneider said.

The idea of creating branded content that will drive engagement and sales is rooted in the bigger idea of creating value for users. With this in mind, Utzschneider pointed to a quotation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos about how the internet is a game-changer for marketers:

“In the old world, businesses could put 30 percent of effort into building services and 70 percent into shouting about it. In the new world, with information transparency, that must reverse. Smart marketers focus on building the solid product and offerings.”

Companies must center their efforts on creating valuable user experiences, then marketers must figure out how to provide the most value through digital content, Utzschneider said. As a final tip, she encouraged brands to continually test and measure to discover the custom content that prospects connect with most.

Many marketers are already working toward campaign analysis and retargeting for maximum content returns. As Brafton has reported, two-thirds of marketers recognize that tests are critical to website content marketing success.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.