I think it is fair to say that marketers have unleashed some pretty horrible things on the world over the years. New Coke, plug-in air fresheners, negative option billing, scent strips, greeting cards that make noise and those little family icons on the backs of cars come immediately to mind.
It’s time, I believe, we added content to that list. Content is a monster. It wasn’t always a monster; it was once upon a time a peaceful and useful part of the marketing arsenal. It closed deals, it explained complicated things, it educated, it built credibility. Sure, it killed a few trees, but it kept the writers and the designers off the streets, and placated the P-Cubers.
Then along came a new creature. It was called “Experiences”. Marketers shunned the quiet strength of Content in favour of delivering Meaningful Experiences. Forcing customers to watch a video on their websites, inviting them to play an online game with whimsical creatures, QR codes on tissue boxes, animated holiday cards with penguins throwing snowballs, free ringtones and special clubs where customers could swap stories about the life-changing properties of lip gloss.
Somehow, that wasn’t enough, especially in B2B Land. The people wanted substance. The people wanted information. The people wanted differentiation. The people wanted Content. But Content had become bitter in its exile. The writers and designers had left it for the bright lights of Twitter and self-published daily newsfeeds. It was tended now by interns named Skippy and agency flacks who yearned for the simple days of interrupting people with 15 seconds of bad copy and a ten percent discount.
Content decided to fight back. It began an aggressive breeding program and allowed things like executive blog posts and infographics to join its growing army. Soon, the few writers and designers who hadn’t been killed off during the Experience Dynasty, were overwhelmed, and Skippy was cranking out video scripts and trying to remember how to use commas. Agencies were besieged by anxious clients wanting more whitepapers, more infographics, more Pinterest boards. “Give us all of the Content”, they shouted.
And Content was pleased. It was everywhere. It was being syndicated into Inboxes, aggregated into LinkedIn Groups, shamelessly tweeted, retweeted, shared and commented upon. It was herded into e-books, it was optimized for search. It worked on mobile thingies. It was downloaded, gated, tracked and measured. Once in a while it was even proofread. Trees began to fall again to its service. Pretentious home furnishing companies started shipping 17-pound catalogues to their customers*. Content was, indeed, king.
Out in the forest, however, there was a growing unrest. Sales Squirrels were found to be using only a small percentage of Content’s output. Marketers were beginning to curl their lips at the thought of another gruelling cycle of drafts, legal reviews and production. The Keebler Elves were nervous as the costs began to creep up. Website managers were exhausted with the unending stream of PDFs, MP4s, JPGs and other files spilling onto their desks begging to be released to the Internet.
Inevitably, even the people began to weary of Content.
“It’s too much”, they cried.
“My Inbox is full”, they wailed.
“I don’t have time to read it all”, they complained.
“It’s not actually very good”, they observed.
“It’s a waste of time”, they suggested.
“It’s all marketing crap”, they concluded.
They were right.
Lords and Ladies of the Spin Cycle, I think it’s time we tamed the Content Monster.
*Here is the amazing Green Theatre performance Restoration Hardware delivers with its 17-pounds of catalogue.
BizMarketer is Elizabeth Williams
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