There is a Niagra-Falls-sized torrent of content inundating me every day. I know I can’t keep up with reading or watching even the content I’m interested in—so, as someone who creates content, it can feel like a fool’s errand to try to get anyone else’s attention. How do brands get attention and stay front and center in the mind of their consumers? The branding cognoscenti say “content marketing.”
“Content marketing” is clearly a buzzword today, but there are many definitions and interpretations. Brands are pumping out “content” ranging from adorable cat videos tagged with a brand logo to snarky tweets to insightful blogs and occasionally powerful videos. Much of it, however, is completely obvious, regurgitated from other sources, and I can’t believe anybody bothered to publish it. Clearly, I’m not the only one dismayed by the loose range of quality:
“We’ve become completely overwhelmed by crappy content.
Even as marketers, we hate most marketing.” – NewsCred
So what constitutes “content” and what constitutes “good content”? To satisfy my curiosity, I headed to the #ThinkContent Summit in New York. To my surprise, many in the large and impressive crowd of pedigreed marketers there were equally confused. What are the rules for creating good content? Best I can tell, there ain’t no stinkin’ rules… but I did come away with some helpful insights and advice. Here are 10 takeaways, in no particular order:
- “Ads are not cool.”[i] Ads with purpose, however, are.
- Content marketing is the opposite of interrupting your audience and forcing a brand-centric message on them. Content marketing is being cool and interesting enough that you’re invited to the party. Hopefully someone will ask what you’re all about and be intrigued enough to want to get into a relationship with you.
- Your brand is not too boring to have interesting content. There is no such thing as a “low-interest brand,” just “low-interest ideas.”
- Content marketing is the intersection between what brands produce and what audiences want. When these overlap, you get an authentic brand story that the audience is truly interested in.
- Should your content be a blog? A video? A tweet? A web series? An experience? With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, it’s not about the medium—it’s about the message. What works brilliantly for one brand and their audience can’t and shouldn’t be replicated for yours. Start with insights into the human truths that connect with your audience, figure out how your brand fulfills their fundamental need, and then work your way to the story and the medium or “channel.”
- “Don’t build your (brand) house on rented land.”[ii] Develop your own content, on your own branded site, with your own voice. Be disruptive, creative and original.[iii]
- Don’t sell. Serve a greater purpose. Make people laugh, cry, think, or feel. Create content that will make your customers feel empowered, inspired, motivated, and beautiful. Brands that connect emotionally in way that is authentic will succeed in selling to their audience.
- You can measure the effectiveness of content marketing—you just can’t expect it to perform like a campaign. Your brand regard, customer loyalty and sales will grow over time, but probably not overnight or even in 3 weeks. Even brands that win the internet with good content take time to see results.
- Focus on the customer experience, not the channel. Don’t make a video to have video on YouTube. Make a video to spark a conversation with your audience about something they care about.
- Content marketing is a paradigm shift in marketing and advertising, not a trend. It’s time to convince your leadership team that, yes, that funny, inspiring, or enlightening video on your YouTube channel is actually a business imperative, not a suggestion.
My advice? Quit worrying about chasing trends and focus on what is real to you and your audience. Figure out your brand truth. Figure out the human truth that drives your audience to seek products or services like yours. Speak in your authentic voice. Find your audience where they are and get invited to the party by being yourself. Keep telling great stories.
And make more content like this, because it makes me really happy.
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Laura Neitzel is the Director of Content and Planning at Alchemy at AMS. She has a black belt in English Literature and a PhD in Chardonnay.
[i] Andrew Essex, Droga 5
[ii] Michael Brenner, NewsCred
[iii] Says me. Easier said than done, I know.