Content Marketing Ramble AKA Don’t Just Engage; Entertain

Given my job, I spend a lot of time looking at brand social channels. And a lot of the time, what I find feels lazy. By this, I don’t mean poorly made – often the content is actually quite well designed. What I mean is creatively lazy, a bit like checking a tick box off a list. Too often we’re just seeing the same block and tackle basics given a slightly different skin. Customer service efforts, giveaways, tutorials – these are all fine and necessary to an extent (I mean, it didn’t become the block and tackle for nothing) but when this is the totality of brand activity, in aggregate it begins feeling a bit stale.

This may in part be due to brand managers and agency people realising that people don’t really want to be their friends. From epic trolling efforts to platforms reducing brand post reach to placate users, one clear message rings out – people just want to be left alone. This is accepted to the point that incentives are nearly always talked about in social promotions; the default assumption is we’re going to have to twist a few arms to get the message across. When it comes to regular programming, brands often resort primarily to functional programming (how to’s, for instance), the logic being that it’s actually wanted and thus the branding is less offensive.

Is any of that thinking wrong? No. But it sure is limiting and not representative of everything that brands produce. That’s because some people recognise that there are more opportunities. I think some marketers can’t fathom why a coffee company would invest in 20 random crazy GIFs, a pizza chain would make a 6-second video about wizards, or a telecom would build a haunted house. They look at it all and just say, “Uh, why?”

The simplest way to describe it is this: the logic is the same as producing functional content. It’s giving people what they want, but instead of satisfying a functional need, it skews fantastical.

As a brand, the goal of social media advertising should just be to engage in conversations with customers. The bigger win is fuelling and informing the conversations they have with one another when the brand’s not even in the room (so to speak). Creatives should be aspiring the create content for brands that’s good enough to draw eyeballs on its own, funny enough to be shared, insightful, poignant, bizarre. We should just be trying to make things that are great, independent of context.

In a way, this aim brings social media marketing back into the remit of traditional advertising – seeking to populate pop culture. But the critical difference is that, unlike a TV spot or press ad, creatives have to assume that people won’t have the content shoved in front of them. Hell, customers will be doing anything they can to avoid it. So how are you going to draw them in?

It’s a high bar, but definitely the standard agencies and brands should hold their content to. Do the basics brilliantly, but go beyond that. Send a dude free falling from space, prototype stoner food en masse, lead social commentary, make a breathtaking film. Compete not with other brands, but with cinematographers, comedians, artists and sign your work instead of live in the middle of it. As for ROI, what you get out of it, well, that bit’s actually pretty simple: fame, consideration, and either solidified or adjusted brand positioning. Just like you’d get with a TV ad, but potentially even more effective if the customer is pulled in.

It’s a challenging task, sure. But it’s one that many brands are already rising to. Can yours afford to be left behind?

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