We’ve all heard it before. “Content is King”. The famous phrase was first mentioned
by the one and only Bill Gates in an essay published in January 1996 rightly called “Content is
King”. Today, almost 25 years later, this is more true than ever. Among the most valued metrics
measure the success of content marketing is Engagement, hence why it is so crucial to understand how
audiences react to our content in order to maximize it.
No two pieces of content are alike, just like no two industries are the same. Users react differently
to content generated by different categories of companies, especially if it is posted by
either hedonic or utilitarian brands.
Whenever we see a study on digital content it most likely is about hedonic
brands, such as fashion, food and alcoholic beverages. Hedonic
brands are purchased mostly for their emotive and sensorial
aspects. Affection towards hedonic brands is at the centre of
customers buy them, hence engagement is an expected result on their content marketing
On the other hand, utilitarian brands, such as banking and batteries for
are, by definition, lacking any meaning and emotion. This is because they are
mostly perceived as having very functional benefits, meaning little
to no passion is involved in the purchasing decision process. As a rule of thumb,
applying any past experiences and learnings from hedonic brands to utilitarian brands is
not recommended given the extreme difference between their perceived emotional
investment. This means that less engagement overall should be expected.
Content Engineering Studies like this are essential to utilitarian
brands, such as the ones in banking and financial services, to understanding
way users consume social media content and how they react to different ways of presenting
messages. This is especially true after the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 and
increment of online financial scams; banks are using more and more social media platforms
to build trust and to strengthen their relationship with their customers.
With all the previous considerations, we found it worth researching how the banking
landscape looks like in Malaysia and to extract some initial findings
it. The following is an exploratory study for content engineering based
social media content collected from banks in Malaysia during a 1 month period.
For this study we analysed the Facebook content of 5 Malaysian banks. The banks are as follows:
A Content Analysis was performed to obtain information about the content
strategy of the aforementioned banks. This methodology has proven extremely useful to
the creative strategies of brands in social media. Data was collected between a 1 month
period (from 22/10/2020 to 22/11/2020), including all owned content posts with their respective
engagement. A total of 264 posts were analyzed.
To better understand how persuasive messages in the content are, we included in our analysis
of the Persuasive Communication Theory such as type of
its format and the source of the information.
The applied research framework is taken from the Elaboration Likelihood Model
(ELM) which explains how attitudes are modelled, formed and reinforced by
persuasive arguments. The basic idea is that when someone is presented with any
information, some level of “elaboration” must happen. Elaboration, in this
context, means the effort somebody makes to evaluate, remember and accept (or reject) a
The model suggests that people make a certain level of effort to elaborate, be it high or low, when
they receive a persuasive message. The level of elaboration determines the route of processing that
message will take: a Central Route or a Peripheral
A message that has taken a Central Route of processing is an indicator
that the audience cares about it. They will pay more attention in order to
analyse the quality and strength of the argument. A person who shows a high level of interest in a
message is known as a High-Involvement Person.
On the other hand, a message that has taken a Peripheral Route of
means it has only reached a superficial level. In this case, attention to
core message is being paid less attention than other secondary factors such as the source, appearance,
presentation, etc. A person who keeps their interest in a message at a superficial level is known as
a Low-Involvement Person.
Another dimension we analysed is the Type of Content. In this case, the
of content can be divided into two categories: Informative and Persuasive.
Informative Content tries to change the beliefs about a product or its price
directly. This type of content includes explicit information about the
product/service/company and its offer via the Central Route to persuasion.
In contrast, Persuasive Content does not seek to promote the company or
products directly. However, it looks to create positive sentiment and build
stronger relationships with its customers. This is done by using the Peripheral
Route to persuasion.
The content Format was divided in 3 categories: Text, Image
Video. Each one of them has a different visual impact hence the different effect on
individuals process the messages.
The variable Content Source was divided into 2
categories: Company-Derived Content and Third-Party Content. This is
we needed to determine if the Malaysian consumer prefers content generated by the
bank or if they cared more about content generated by others.
When talking about Engagement, we divided it into two
categories: Passive Engagement and Active Engagement. The former
takes less analysis effort, that’s why Likes and Shares
fall into this category, while the latter needs more analysis
effort making Comments the right fit for this category.
Facebook posts were categorized on 3 dimensions using the following
Informative: If it included information about products, promotions,
price and product-related aspects that could be used to optimize a purchase decision. This is
into whether if it's about a product, an incentive or general information and further categorized into
more detailed sub categories.
Persuasive: Includes a wider range of purposes, such as humour, emotional
casual banter or information on the brand’s philanthropic outreach. These messages are not
specifically about the company’s offerings but are shared to modify customers’ overall
beliefs, values and attitudes and to create liking, trust and relationships with the company/brand.
Three subcategories can be found in this dimension: Pathos, Logos and Seasonal, with their respective
All 5 analysed banks in this study were active on Facebook during the observation period. However,
results vastly differ.
Out of the 5 banks, Maybank put the most effort on its Facebook content, achieving better results in
engagement vs the rest. The correlation coefficient shows that, as publications become
frequent, engagement increases.
In Malaysia, Persuasive Content leads to more Passive Engagement (likes), but less Active Engagement
(comments) than Informative Content.
Publications with videos generated more active engagement (comments), while pictures helped to
Data indicates that Malaysian consumers show more interest in content generated by the banks rather
than content written by third parties.
The 3 types of content that are more engaging are the Persuasive/Pathos.
Malaysian users showed special interest in inspirational stories,
philanthropic activities and in the Seasonal Greetings. This was evident when looking at the average
engagement per post.
Conclusions and recommendations
Leaving aside the fact that this is an exploratory analysis using only 1 month worth of data, we can
already extract some useful information regarding the way the Malaysian market reacts to messages
by the Banking Industry in Facebook.
Although other studies usually show that the key to generate Engagement for Hedonic brands
is basing their strategies on Persuasive Content, this exploratory study shows
that for the Banking sector in Malaysia, the quintessential Utilitarian
Content generates more Passive Engagement (likes) while Informative content generates more Active
This can be explained by the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). The Banking Industry
provides highly intangible and complex offers. Conversions tend to be
high-risk and usually have a long-term impact. This is why the perceived value is mostly
functional in nature, with a mix of emotions and a social aspect for good measure.
the users seeking clear and direct Central Route information about
services and reacting better to logical arguments, which is a
characteristic of Informative Messages. The recommendation in these cases is to
use content that needs a high cognitive effort when dealing with high-involvement
customers (like users deeply interested in banking products) and
emotional, easy to digest content for low-involvement customers (users not
yet interested in baking products).
Results show that the content that includes photos generates more passive engagement (likes), while
video content generates more active engagement (comments). This suggests that videos are
great way to communicate complex banking information in an easy to understand way. On
the other hand, pictures generate more indirect and superficial reactions since, apparently, those
don’t like watching the totality of the videos.
In spite of the fact that, in general, content generated by the companies themselves generates
when compared to content created by third parties, the Malaysian market reacts favourably
to the content generated by the banks. This suggests that users like to get informed
entertained by their Persuasive Content and appreciate their efforts to produce original and creative
In the end of the day, it doesn't matter what kind of content and the tone and manner banks decide to
use as long as they understand the implications each has on the reaction of the social
media users. Studies like this are essential to shed some light into the ever changing
social media landscape in order to build effective content strategies.
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