Experienced the world over, the challenge of coming up with epic content is enough to keep creatives from their sleep – it hovers over us, like Eeyore’s little grey cloud. The challenge lies not in coming up with unique ideas (as creatives, we find stories everywhere) but with coming up with content ideas that are both relevant and engaging. After all, a million-dollar idea is not quite worth a million dollars if it does not generate the type of engagement that yields a profit.
As quickly as the concept of content marketing is evolving, we are scrambling to keep up. Our understanding of the concept has been defined by industry juggernauts who constantly redefine and chisel away at the definition, leaving creative armies clutching at whatever ideas suit the globally-accepted understanding. In essence, the idea of content marketing is to create epic content that is unique and relevant; however, the more creatives try to generate unique and relevant content, the more primordial the ideas become, leaving a stream of over-curated, regurgitated ideas and concepts that consumers have seen hundreds of times before.
Moving away from the type of content marketing that punts a specific product or brand, we’re told to focus on ‘people’, assuming that this will simplify our goal of finding content that makes an impression (cue nervous giggle). We’re taught that content marketing in the 21st century lies less in the loud-mouthed pushing of products, and more in the type of topics, stories and journeys that speak to human emotion. Truth be told, the way in which we spin this concept doesn’t matter – at the end of the day, marketing has one core purpose and that is to encourage consumers to talk about and spend money on a particular brand/product. Ultimately, whether you focus your marketing efforts on the plight of the rain forests or on washing powders, you are still insisting that the consumer focus on the identity of the brand. Yes, you can roll your eyes at me but unless you decide to produce a short film with limited ties to your brand, your product offering is all that consumers will remember.
In a world where high-class, reputable brands are becoming as influential as the temperatures of a changing season – yes, we’re serious; Hollywood treats Oliver Rousteing as their god and Balmain as their bible – we cannot escape the fact that content marketing can never exist in isolation. The symbiosis between a brand and its content, however spellbinding, is the driving force of consumerism. Although this might seem obvious, the real crux of exceptional content creation lies in generating ideas that tell a story, that offer up useful information and that encourage consumers to think in a more profound way – all the while, quietly and subtly, ensuring that the consumer knows to whom the content belongs.
Thankfully, when trying to figure out how exactly to generate ideas that speak to people, creatives can refer to the demographics of their target audience – age, income, gender and nationality all play a role in the way certain content is created and communicated. However, it cannot be what defines content creation. Take, for example, a piece of content that breaks down the characteristics of what marketers believe to be the definition of a certain audience, and caters to a truly global audience, irrespective of their age, the language that they speak, the colour of their skin and their profession. Not only does the visual content give viewers a glimpse of every type of person that has the opportunity to make use of the product, it also incorporates subtle brand identity. Alternatively, there are unique content campaigns that offer up helpful information, and those that force people to think a little deeper about the way in which they see themselves. This brings us to the common golden thread that is woven through each of these campaigns – the consumer is able to take something away.
However, global warming, multiculturalism, career advice and self-esteem are topics that are regularly used and abused (there really is only so much curation that we can do!) by marketers as they play on the heartstrings of men and women, young and old. These topics are discussed exhaustively in the form of blogs, videos, and photo journals, whose messages manifest in our reactions, both poignant and fleeting. Although different in some aspects, every campaign is approached with a different angle while the message remains the same. In the same breath, it is pointless to try to fight curation – history has taught us that our beloved fables and bedtime stories are merely a curation, an edited version of what they once were, that have been chiselled and remodelled to suit our environment. In saying this, content marketing agencies have all laid claim to various types of alternative content creation, each trying to outsmart, out-design and out-play the other. And so, while we cannot fight it, we can embrace it with the understanding that whatever we happen to curate (or recreate) requires an entirely fresh, exciting and colourful angle. Why not try our hands at one of the following?
If you’re looking for visual ways in which to assist your audience with solving problems, why not design a colourful infographic that is chock-full of punchy text that offers advice and provides your audience with answers to their most pressing questions.
Q & As
If you’re marketing products that require decision, why not create ‘question and answer’ posts that will help your audience to define their needs. For example, assist your audience in defining their skin type, the condition of their hair, or the colours that best suit their complexion.
Providing exhaustive information on various topics is one way in which to start a conversation with your audience. An interactive eBook that has impressive design elements and content is not only a great tool, but it also ensures that your audience will refer to your brand as one of authority when it comes to particular topics.
If you have the resources on hand, quizzes, charts, short stories and animated comic strips are also ideal as alternative means of content creation – the respective success of each type simply depends on the content that you use and the way in which you communicate the final product.
Alternative content creation, what creatives should be aiming for, is all about finding different ways in which to express an idea and engage with an audience. There are options that act as quick-reference guides for facts, statistics and how-to tutorials, there are content types that allow for conversation between a brand and an audience on topics chosen specifically by the audience, and then there are those that provide answers to questions that an audience might have. Whatever your choice, aim for something that will set your content apart or, at least, offers up an entirely dissimilar perspective. After all, it’s important to remember that (according to Buddy Scalera) ‘your customer is on a learning journey and your content must be necessary and relevant to each stage of that journey’.
Do you have a selection of alternative ideas for content creation? Share them in the comments section below.
For more information, visit the National Positions website.